Videanu must go !

romanii il critica acid de cele mai multe ori pe primarul care s-a dovedit incompentent si mare afacerist doar pentru sine si „baietii lui destepti”, nu si pentru interesul cetatenilor bucuresteni

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State of the Nation

It’s time for Videanu to go

By Vivid writer: Mark Percival

Anyone who lives and works in Bucharest knows that it is a city in crisis. Mr Videanu says he is powerless and his hands are tied. Since he admits as much, then what use is a powerless mayor?

Posted: 02/11/2007

Bucharest is a hellish place to live, thanks largely to its mayor, Adriean Videanu.Bucharest is a hellish place to live, thanks largely to its mayor, Adriean Videanu.

In a hapless interview on the Turcescu show on 27th September, Bucharest’s mayor Adriean Videanu attempted to defend his record in the two and a half years he has been in office, after taking over from his fellow Democratic Party colleague Traian Basescu. Videanu used bureaucratic arguments to escape responsibility for many of the problems which the city faces. For example, he claimed that he was largely powerless to improve the quality of the metro system because this is controlled by the Ministry of Transport and not the town hall. He had little to offer in the way of concrete solutions to deal with the present free for all in the construction of buildings, which has led to protests, most notably over the construction of the office block next to St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral. Mr Videanu’s responses are an abdication of responsibility and are just not good enough. Anyone who lives and works in Bucharest knows that it is a city in crisis. Driving across the city routinely takes two hours or more. Conditions on the public transport system are miserable, in the peak hours at least, because of the appalling overcrowding. (A good example of this can be seen at Crangasi in the early morning, where it can often be completely impossible to board tram 41 in the direction of Piata Presei.) When it is possible, the trams run full to bursting, with passengers squashed against the doors. There are delays at every stop, as people force their way off and on, and then the drivers have to make several attempts to close the doors. As the delays build up, so does the overcrowding. The conditions on this route are just as bad as on public transport under Ceausescu. Tram 41 is also frequently suspended completely by power failures. Yet this so called „light metro” was inaugurated as a prestige project only a few years ago by the city’s then mayor, Traian Basescu. This and the limited extension of the metro to 1 mai, have been the only developments of the public transport system since 1989, in spite of the economic boom, and the huge increase in the number of cars on the roads.

Conditions on the metro are marginally better than on surface transport, but here too overcrowding is a serious problem, not only on trains themselves but also at the interchanges at Piata Unirii and Piata Victoriei. To pass through the passage at Unirii between the two metro lines or the steps at Victoriei, it is commonplace to have to stand in a queue, waiting for those ahead to get through, particularly when two trains have come in at once. The solution to this overcrowding in the stations and on trains is to increase frequencies. This should have been easy, as a golden opportunity was presented by the acquisition of new trains. The metro authority could simply have kept more of the old ones going, so that more trains could run in the peak periods. Instead, intervals of up to ten minutes even in rush hours are not uncommon, particularly on the Dristor-Republica route. Some improvements to frequencies have been promised soon, but it remains to be seen how this will work out in practice.

In major cities in the developed world, using public transport is the norm. In Bucharest, almost anybody who has a car uses it all the time, because the conditions on public transport are so poor. The only solution is radical improvement of the public transport system, so that conditions are civilised and journey times short. In the long term, the metro needs to be extended, and the much awaited connections to Baneasa and Otopeni in the north, as well as to Drumul Taberei in the west need to be completed.

However, the citizens of Bucharest should not have to wait five to ten years until new metro lines open for an improvement to the present chaos. So the bus system, still basically the same as under Ceausescu, needs to be redesigned, with dramatically increased frequencies (triple would be about right in the peak hours), new routes and improved coordination with the metro. Up to now, all that has happened is that new vehicles have been introduced, but this is pointless if buses are just as overcrowded as ever and the quality of the travel experience does not improve. Fares need to be heavily subsidised, and the cost of season tickets needs to be considerably reduced. One useful innovation would be to adopt the Prague system whereby one ticket is good for one and a half hours for as many changes as the user likes, and by any mode. Bus lanes on major arteries would make public transport faster and encourage people to leave their cars at home. Taxi use should also be encouraged, perhaps with taxis being allowed to use bus lanes. These measures would involve extra costs, but these would be more than outweighed by the enormous gains to the economy from reducing the amount of time currently wasted in traffic.

Mr Videanu claims political and bureaucratic difficulties impede him from implementing effective solutions to Bucharest’s problems. Most citizens are not impressed by such excuses, and have had enough of political infighting which is irrelevant to the real needs of Bucharest and the country as a whole. If he is so powerless, Mr Videanu is redundant and so should simply resign. In any event, he will have to face re-election in June 2008, when local elections will be held in most of Romania. It is unlikely that any of his challengers from other parties will have anything more to offer. So this election could present an excellent opportunity for citizens to take control of the city out of the hands of the present political class. The problems of Bucharest are serious, but they could be solved with a clear programme, to be implemented within a well defined time frame.

The next mayor should be a specialist in urban planning, with a particular knowledge of public transport, and should not be a politician. He or she could be not only Romanian, but also a citizen of any other EU member state, since EU law allows any EU national to stand for local government in the country where they are resident. Given the widespread public disillusionment with all the main political parties, such an independent candidate would have a very good chance of winning. The job would be challenging, and there would undoubtedly be obstructionism from the current political class. However, with a popular mandate, the program of an independent mayor would be difficult to resist, and he or she could always use the weapon of resigning and standing for re-election to renew that popular mandate whenever this was needed. Bucharest’s crisis demands action, and the present political class have proved incapable of delivering it, so alternatives must be found.

4 răspunsuri la „Videanu must go !

  1. „Hellish” may be overreacting, but how is the office of mayor described, if not as a leader and innovator? Is the job of mayor only to be considered „Paper Shuffler” or „Bureaucrat?” Or is it „Leader?”

    I do not presume to make any comment on Mr. Videanu one way or another, as I have no concept of what he faces. However, reflecting on what I see in most of the political process in the US, I am convinced that I would not be able to retain office more than one term, as I would have little patience with the compromise that seems to be required. That, of course, presumes I could be elected in the first place.

  2. This man is a to form negative as well as affirmative judgments but wenot need an embeddable negation of this person,because is incosistency ,and the fact can so easily be led into error conception of norms

  3. Salut,

    Numele meu este Sandoiu Dorin, am 30 de ani si vreau sa va intreb, daca stiti cumva in ce stare se afla cladirea care odinioara se numea Crucea de Piatra?
    Astept raspunsul dumneavoastra si doresc in functie de raspuns sa fac unele comentarii.
    Va multumesc.

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