On the 26th of May 2018 there will be a city council election in Reykjavik and all other municipalities in Iceland. If you are an Icelandic citizen ,18 years of age on ballot day, you are eligible to vote. You also have a vote if you are 18 or over on ballot day and a citizen of: Denmark, Finland, Sweden or Norway and you have had a legal residence in Iceland for the past three years. If you happen to be a citizen of another country not mentioned here, you are eligible to vote in the municipality elections after having your legal residence in Iceland for 5 years.
The role of the municipality
The municipalities have a role that is defined by government legislation.
- The largest of which is education at pre-school and primary education level. Around half of municipal expenditure goes to education.
- Facilities, safety and infrastructure. Parks, sewage, water, building permits, etc.
- Transportation. Roads, sidewalks, bicycle tracks, buses. Although major roads are shared responsibility between municipality and the state.
Reykjavik is by far the largest municipality in Iceland. We are the state capital, and most of government provided services are based here. This inherent advantage that most capitals have also comes with great responsibility. The other communities, all around the country, rely on access to services that are solely provided here in the city. This is why transportation infrastructure is so important for us, not only as city dwellers, but also because of our commitment to the nation.
The state of the community
Here come the politics. The city council has been poorly managed under present authority of mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson and his leftist counterparts. They have failed to fulfil most of their above-mentioned roles. In the same order as above:
- Education at a primary school level has failed. As OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has our schools ranked well below average in: math’s, reading, science and more. This despite us having one of the most expensive education systems in the world.
- Pre-School day care has failed in Reykjavik. As there are waiting lists up until year 3 of a child’s life to get access to pre-school services. We are short of up to 100 employees, and schools routinely need to be shut down when they are short on staff. This has families fleeing to neighboring municipalities to get easier access to services.
- Facilities have failed. Building permits are scarce (up until 2017), expensive and hard to get. Sewage systems have failed spectacularly, with feces pouring out into our beautiful coastline. And drinking water was said to have been contaminated with bacteria (which turned out to be somewhat of a false alarm).
- Transportation has failed and been abandoned. The Mayor of Reykjavik signed a contract with the State and Transportation authorities to NOT receive any more money from them to put into major road projects. This was a 10-year commitment to increase bus survive patronage. This plot has been proven to be a complete failure, after only 5 years into the agreement. Since the share in public transportation patronage has not increased. Meanwhile traffic congestion has worsened, with delays and accidents that ensue.
- Our responsibility to the nation as a capital is lacking. Access to services, like the national hospital is compromised due to congestion and emergency airport lane closure. And shortage of building permits in the city has driven mortgage rates and market prices of apartments to record heights all around the country.
Urban planning gone wrong
If we were to design Reykjavik from scratch, we would no doubt have the centre of town, the downtown area in a different location other than out on a narrow peninsula. As roads into and out of the city centre serve as a bottleneck for access to important services, like our national hospital (Lanspítali) and University (HÍ), during rush-hour. If, like me, you have lived in a large city, you may not think that Reykjavik is congested at all. You may not think that 30 minutes of extra travel time during peak hours is that big of an issue. But we are a small town in comparison to most cities of the world, and things don‘t need to be this way here.
Reykjavik officials have followed a dogmatic doctrine that the solution to everything wrong with urban planning will be fixed by more density. Therefore, they have been reluctant to hand out building permits outside of the city centre. The few permits sold have been too expensive for regular folks to buy for homemaking. So naturally they have gone to build hotels and Air BnB apartments, so that capital owners can cash in on the tourist bubble.
In accordance to the increased-density dogma the city council put on hold nearly every major road project leading into the city. For this commuters are suffering today.
The Centre-Party solution
Unlike both parties from the left and from the right, we at the Centre-Party want good ideas and good solutions from all directions. We are not stuck in cold-war rivalries between parties. We will listen to all ideas and most importantly we respect the will of the citizens. Our duty as politicians is to realize the will of the voter. It is not a politician’s duty to manipulate or disregard the will of the citizens. This is our proposition:
- We need to start expanding the city, quickly. We need more affordable apartments, not only promises. The only way to do this is to start building at a more rapid rate in suburbs.
- We need to face the fact that a large proportion of people are not willing or able to switch over to public transportation. And we cannot force them to do so.
- We need to put back on schedule all major road projects and make up for lost time. This is both a safety concern and to ensure better access to services.
- We need to consider moving major workplaces out from the city centre to decrease congestion. A perfect start would be to start building the new national hospital in a new location.
- We need to fix education. Not only by putting more money into an already expensive system, but by finding a way to put the money where it matters.
- We need to increase the number of spaces in pre-schools and fix the understaffing issue by paying better salaries and alleviating the demand for university education to serve on the workforce.
- We need to take better care of our infrastructures in accordance to the importance of the services they provide. No more holes in the roads!
- We need to make bus services more efficient. Without taking it out on other modes of transportation. This includes putting road projects back on schedule. Public transportation uses the same roads that have been neglected for years.
We want your advice!
There are so many issues that need attention, but these are the ones that have gotten progressively worse in recent years. Therefore we, the politicians, need you to come and have a chat with us. Our offices are open at Suðurlandsbraut 18. We can all influence how our community develops. We are all Icelanders. What makes us Icelandic is not where we are born, but our independent spirit and willingness to make a life for ourselves under harsh weather conditions. Use your vote. Use your voice.
Viðar Freyr Guðmundsson
Candidate in Reykjavík