Will we be achieving our targets for 2050?
“As far as we’re concerned, Rotterdam will already be climate-neutral by 2030. This doesn’t mean that every home in the city has been made sustainable at that point; there’s still too much to be done for that – particularly in the case of our old housing stock. But any power that you do consume should come from a sustainable source. That’s when you get a climate-neutral city.”
Is that how you plan to increase sustainability?
“Well, it’s the short and sweet version. In addition, we need to make sure that people can really invest in clean energy. Too many entrepreneurs who want to invest in clean energy are forced to go abroad. In the Netherlands, it takes them too long to get a permit for wind turbines, for example. For the past 15 years, we’ve had a wishy-washy energy policy. While the energy transition could be quicker if you asked me; as a government, at least be consistent. For example, when you’re constructing a road or railway track, why wouldn’t you be allowed to add a row of wind turbines while you’re at it?”
Last year, we had a referendum about the ‘housing vision’. What’s GroenLinks’s take on this programme?
“There are a lot of good elements in the ‘housing vision’, like a section on sustainability, saying that whenever you renovate a building, you should make it sustainable as well. What we do see is that 20,000 of the low-quality units that are renovated or torn down are actually replaced with homes in a different price bracket; they resurface as middle and higher income homes. This means that the housing market has become less accessible for first-time buyers and renters. In other words, the ‘housing vision’ is being used to implement a certain income policy: rather than making things better for the entire city, the ‘housing vision’ is used to drive away specific, lower-income groups.”
How can we make education in Rotterdam future-proof?
“By working harder to prevent functional illiteracy: let’s really set to work to solve this problem. The situation has already improved compared to previous generations. However, you shouldn’t just improve education for the children – you also need to give their parents an opportunity to take a language course. It’s in the child’s interest that his or her parents also speak the language. With all due respect to what people speak at home – your native language is also valuable – it’s important for your future that you speak Dutch, so that you can make our democracy work for you too.”
Migrants are an important subject in today’s politics – rightly so?
“As a city, Rotterdam has always received a steady stream of new citizens. We already had migrant workers back in the 1960s. They came to help us rebuild the city, and we were very happy that they did. Recent global problems have led to an influx of asylum seekers. Our city has a population of 630,000 – meaning that we can definitely do our bit. At the time, nine out of ten parties in the Council voted for an asylum seekers’ centre – and they were right to do so.”
And the tenth party was?
“Leefbaar, and that’s a pity. I went over to Beverwaard – where they set up the asylum seekers’ centre – to talk with local residents. Ultimately, the residents weren’t so much concerned about the people who needed a place to stay – they were mainly worried that this influx of new people would lead to fewer jobs and longer waiting lists for a new home. Because a lot of Beverwaard residents are pretty hard up.”
Is this a realistic concern?
“At the moment, not enough Rotterdam citizens benefit from the economic recovery. In itself, this concern may not be realistic – but the underlying problems are real. One out of four children grows up in poverty; one out of five adults lives in poverty. Which means you need to make serious work of the poverty problem. Not the way Leefbaar does it: by first raising a big scare about the influx of asylum seekers, and then refusing to implement a solid anti-poverty policy. Housing, anti-poverty policy and good education and training for everyone – that’s what I want to focus on.”
What were your motives to enter into an alliance with SP, PvdA and NIDA?
“It’s our answer to fragmented politics. Right now, we have ten parties in the Council, each with its own story. People aren’t particularly interested in hearing all these different stories – they want to see you work together. We all have our own programme and ideals, but what our parties have in common is a desire to make Rotterdam a more social, sustainable and inclusive city. After four years of cold-hearted policies, with people being excluded and budget cuts in our anti-poverty programmes, Rotterdam should make a left turn again.”