What are the key focus areas of D66’s election manifesto this year?
“Three things. We want more houses, particularly for young professionals and people on a middle income. We seek to make our economy cleaner and more environment-friendly. And we will work on proper education, so that all Rotterdammers will have equal opportunities and we will put an end to poverty and deprivation.”
A new memo on restaurants and cafés was published this year. We would like to hear how D66 feels about the new opening hours proposed in this memo.
“We want the city centre to be livelier, so we are in favour of a more open-minded and more flexible policy with regard to café and restaurant opening hours. D66 has been trying for years to make our city livelier and more fun. The rebirth of Witte de Withstraat and Meent are examples of things we have achieved. We offer entrepreneurs greater leeway, but that also means they have to accept greater responsibility. If they make a mistake, they will receive a greater fine or penalty, so they are more likely to assume responsibility.”
Rotterdam is considering conducting an experiment with vending machines selling weed. Is this going to be the next step in Dutch coffee shop policy?
“It’s a good thing we’ll be conducting that experiment and seeing if it works. What I find even more unique is that, thanks to D66, municipal governments will be granted the opportunity to grow their own weed. This will allow them to monitor the quality of the weed and remove the criminal aspect from it.”
Does that imply a legalisation of sorts?
“D66 has supported the legalisation of soft drugs for years. If we don’t legalise them, we will force them into criminal hands, which is exactly what we’ve been seeing in the last few years. In that respect, Dutch legislation is very strange. We are allowed to buy soft drugs, but we close our eyes to where they are produced. It’s high time we adjusted the regulations to the latest developments and to the requirements of our time.”
You recently voted in favour of the council’s motion that Rotterdam get rid of its coal transhipments. How does D66 feel about sustainability in general?
“Sustainable practices and the energy transition are some of the most important tasks to be undertaken by our city. D66 intends for Rotterdam to be climate-neutral by 2040. In order to achieve that goal, we wish to conclude a climate and energy agreement with Rotterdam-based organisations, companies, partner organisations and the city. We also wish to establish an innovation fund. In this way, Rotterdammers who have a good idea for a sustainable initiative may receive some financial support for the implementation of their initiative.”
Will those whose are responsible for high emissions pay as much as those whose emissions are low?
“I believe that the greatest polluters should bear the brunt of the financial burden, but I believe even more in rewarding good behaviour and providing incentives for it.”
Immigrants are a major theme in Rotterdam politics. What is your view on how to deal with immigrants?
“We prefer to speak of Rotterdammers rather than immigrants. As far as D66 is concerned, everyone who’s here is a Rotterdammer and is part of this society. As far as we’re concerned, where you are originally from does not matter; what matters is your willingness to contribute and join in. Pigeonholing people and ignoring them is not going to help us in any way. To make matters worse, people who are often referred to as ‘migrants’ have often been in the Netherlands for several generations. In short, intolerance and distrust between Rotterdammers are not going to help us. They are poor foundations for the future of our city. Actually, we should rely on all the talented people we have in our city.”
Which D66 achievement of the past four years are you most proud of?
“I’m particularly proud of what we have achieved in terms of sustainability. For instance, we introduced a lorry-free zone in the city centre. According to a recently published report, this will result in a 40 percent reduction in soot and a 15 percent reduction, give or take, in nitrogen dioxide emissions this year. This is important because to this day, many Rotterdammers die or fall ill due to the unhealthy air we breathe every day. In addition to the lorry-free zone, we have allocated a great deal of money to facilities for cyclists such as additional bike lanes, and we have ensured that the metro now also runs at night on the weekends, thus allowing Rotterdammers to go home more easily, more safely and more quickly after a night on the town.”
What have you achieved specifically for students?
“We have invested in student housing. Furthermore, through the Housing Vision policy scheme, we will ensure that people move up in the housing market, meaning there will also be room for affordable houses for students and recent graduates. In addition, we have given the city a better nightlife in streets such as Witte de Withstraat, Meent and Binnenrotte. We now have more cafés with outdoor seating areas, and larger outdoor seating areas, which have made the place livelier and more fun. And we have made sure the budget for cultural organisations was increased.”
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