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Mayor of Poznan on the development strategy for the city, citizen involvement, investment, hydrogen transport and budget cuts
Jacek Jaśkowiak has been Mayor of Poznań since 2015. He is a graduate in Law from Adam Mickiewicz University. He has extensive business experience with running his own company. He was re-elected in 2018 for a second term.
Mr Jaśkowiak, the City Development Strategy 2020+ envisages increasing the quality of life of all residents and the importance of Poznań on the international stage. To what extent have you succeeded with each of the two goals?
Paraphrasing Danish urban planner and architect Jan Gehl, the “Development Strategy for the City of Poznań 2020+” means the implementation of a vision of a city for the people and co-created by the people. To put it very simply, this means seeking to ensure a high quality of life for all residents irrespective of their age, material status, religion, sexual orientation or background.
The city is open for all people and – what is the most important – it is co-created by its residents. It involves and invites the residents to share the responsibility for ongoing developments. This is the vision of the city we attempt to implement in Poznań every day. We consult all significant projects with the residents, listen to their concerns and expectations, develop tools for direct civic participation.
To learn the needs and problems of the residents, I hold regular meetings with them in their local community. This allows us to implement not only the essential large infrastructural projects but also many smaller ones which shape the local public space and extend the offer of urban services. All of them contribute to enhancing the quality of life in Poznań.
Nevertheless, an important element of the quality of life is the position of Poznań at the international forum. The better a city is recognized globally, the more attractive it is for investors and tourists; the more international studies it offers, the more international conferences, fairs, cultural and sport events it hosts. This is of particular importance for the youth who find global contacts a natural and every-day thing.
We are happy that Poznań enjoys a high standing in international rankings and competitions. Last year alone Poznań held high positions in such prestigious rankings and competitions as European Best Destination, European Capitals of Smart Tourism, European Cities & Regions of the Future, EMEA Tech Cities, Globalization and World Cities.
What major steps are yet to be taken in the near future to pursue these goals?
The success of the City Development Strategy depends on the cooperation with residents. Therefore, while working on the Strategy we find it important that the residents should accept the strategy values and priorities. This is an open and social process with the use of multiple innovative social tools, e.g. crowdsourcing or Design Thinking. The document is not completed; should the residents find it necessary to update it or introduce new strategic actions, we will discuss that with them.
Poznan came first in the prestigious Forbes ranking for its openness to people as it successfully meets the needs of its inhabitants. How do you communicate and involve them in the decision-making process?
The openness should be understood as the freedom of conscience and action, seeking to create an honest community. These are the key values embedded in the Development Strategy for the City of Poznań 2020+. Prepared in cooperation with the residents and for the residents, the Strategy defines Poznań as a city which is really co-decided on by all the residents. We have already implemented many solutions to engage them in the life and development of the city.
Let me give you only a few examples: the Poznań Civic Budget in the amount of PLN 21 million now, which the residents may use to implement their own ideas concerning the city, the Centres of Local Initiatives which integrate the residents, the grant competition for non-governmental organizations.
We find it crucial to engage all groups of residents in the life of the city, including those threatened by exclusion and those in a poorer economic situation, e.g. seniors and the youth. To learn better their expectations and needs, we have appointed the Youth Council of the City of Poznań, the City Council for Seniors and the Social City Council for Persons with Disabilities. We are also working on adopting the “Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life”.
The city has been rewarded for its innovative senior policy, which offers diverse services like free taxi drives, discounts and privileged access to culture and healthcare. Would you say a few words about it and what is yet to be done in this direction?
The strategic vision depicts Poznań as a multigenerational community of people. Our actions for seniors correspond thereto. The Council of the City of Poznań has adopted the Seniors Policy and we belong to the Network of Age-Friendly Cities. Our aim is to keep seniors active as long as possible and to use their great potential for the city, to make them feel safe, valuable and to allow them to develop their internal aspirations.
Our flagship project is “Poznań Viva Senior”, the first senior package in Poland, which includes an increasing number of proposals for seniors. The content of the package is created in cooperation with seniors and attracts great interest. We are continuously working on its extension.
The most recent proposal is the Academy of Leaders for those seniors who wish to remain active and engage others to work. Another new proposal is the microgrant competition. Seniors will get an opportunity to apply for a grant to implement their ideas aimed at activating the community of seniors or at integrating different generations.
The urban Centre of Initiatives for Seniors, which is the first project of its kind in Poland, is an institution which integrates seniors in Poznań.
This summer the unemployment rate in Poznan reached the record-low level of 1.1%. What policies do you implement to attract employers and investment?
Poznań has recorded the lowest unemployment rate in Poland for many years. It is driven by a very good economic situation of the city, its strong and diversified local economy which is resistant to regular fluctuations in the global economy. The value of GDP per capita is double the national average, whereas Poznań is preceded only by Warsaw.
The city has attracted many global companies which create not only jobs but are also actively engaged in the life of the city and in social initiatives. The local labour market is also strengthened by the cooperation of the city, business and the academic community. We cooperate with local universities on a large scale while supporting their activities and implementing common projects. The city has pursued an active policy to attract external capital for many years, which creates new and attractive jobs. We offer land for new investments, support investors not only during the investment process but also by the launch and after the completion of their projects.
Our activities are rewarded in the prestigious ranking European Cities & Regions of the Future which places Poznań high in the category of business-friendly cities and of cities with the best strategy for attracting foreign investments.
Recently it has been made clear that the municipal budget for 2020 will be reduced by PLN 175 million, due to governmental actions. How do you plan to face this challenge and what budget lines will be affected the most? Will education suffer?
In 2020, finances will pose the greatest challenge to the majority of the self-government units, including Poznań. Due to the recent decisions of the Polish government – above all changes of PIT – the budget for the following year will be down by PLN 175 million.
This is the money of male and female residents of Poznań and they should be spent for investments they will use. However, it will be necessary to cut expenditures, which may be noticeable by the residents. Such a great cut in the city budget implies savings nearly in all areas.
It means less money for sport and culture, senior programmes, for co-financing nurseries, repairing roads and pavements, greeneries or the fight against smog. In this context, we may find it very difficult to maintain the current level of services for the residents and to implement investments which are essential for the city’s development.
Education remains a problem as well. The government transferred the costs of the reform of the education system onto the self-government. The self-government must finance any expenditures related to salary increases for teachers. The increasing costs are accompanied by a reduction of the education subsidy which is now too low to cover the salaries of teachers.
We have never encountered such a situation in the 30-year history of the self-government. Therefore, we have to expect savings in this area as well – e.g. by reducing the number of extra-curriculum classes.
Electric or hydrogen-powered buses, modern gamma trains, cheaper and simplified public transport system: there have been significant investments in sustainable mobility in Poznan. What are your ambitions in this area and what development can we expect in the near future?
A “green and mobile city” is one of the priorities of the Development Strategy for the City of Poznań 2020+. The sustainable mobility of the residents poses a serious challenge to the urban authorities and should continuously be enhanced by investing in public transport and in the differentiation of the means of transport. Poznań seeks to increase the attractiveness of public transport.
We construct new tramway lines, modernize the tramway fleet – we have recently purchased 50 new trams and 21 electric buses. New and passenger-friendly stops are constructed. We publish open data on timetables and on the location of tramways and buses. We treat the collective transport as a priority in traffic and extend the network of bus lanes.
The city supports the development of electromobility. In 2021, the first electric buses will be put into use. We also promote other green means of transport, including city bikes and vehicles, scooters which may be rented on a minute basis in the sharing systems.
We invest in the extension of roads and bicycle infrastructure. Bicycles account for 5% of the every-day journeys now; however, our plan is to double the percentage as a minimum within the upcoming 5 years.
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