Archive for May, 2019

Unprecedented referendum makes Germany’s archconservative heartland a world pro-environment pioneer

One of the greatest electoral victories for the environment in recent history – perhaps without equal, anywhere – recently took place in the German state of Bavaria, and went nearly unmentioned in the English-language media: voters approved, by a landslide, an extraordinarily strong environmental protection referendum that beggars belief in both its regulatory power and its massive popular support.

It made the first step towards ratification in February, when 18% of all registered voters in the state, or 1.7 million, made a special trip to their town hall, within a two-week period, during business hours, to have their ID checked and then sign a petition in support – almost double the required minimum of 10%. Many voters had long waits in lines stretching down the street in freezing temperatures – more than 11,000 on the first day at Munich city hall alone. The mayor was the first in line.860x860

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Former Berlin planning commissioner sees “a new low for city planning in Berlin” as city turns national meeting point over to car traffic

After 26 years of hemming and hawing, the city of Berlin recently decided for good that the central focal point of the federal government district, where a “citizens’ forum” was supposed to built, will remain a street with car traffic and an empty span of concrete on either side. The original plans from the time of Germany’s reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall called for public spaces and buildings where citizens and government would interact, the governed and the governors, a democracy lab. This is a “new low for city planning in Berlin”, said a former Berlin Planning Commissioner in an interview. Innumerable media reports – I was unable to find even one in support of the idea – talk about betrayal of the people and abdication of responsibility. I will argue that the decision has the hallmarks of being fuel for hard-right racist populism.

The outlined square is the Berlin city council's idea of a cheerful and internationally-recognized icon of German democracy

The outlined square is the Berlin city council’s idea of a cheerful and internationally-recognized icon of German democracy

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