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By focusing on Smart City and Green Deal the city would connect local projects to reduce CO2 emissions

By focusing on Smart City and Green Deal the city would connect local projects to reduce CO2 emissions

An interview with Gertrud Maltz-Schwarzfischer, mayor of Regensburg, Germany

Gertrud Maltz-Schwarzfischer was elected mayor in 2020. She holds a MA Classical Archaeology degree from the University of Regensburg. She joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in 1995 and has remained a member ever since.

The Mayoress is a keen supporter of numerous organisations such as Regensburger Eltern e. V., Women’s Emergency Hotline, Regensburg Citizens’ Cultural Work Group, GRAZ Art Association, Art and Trade Association and State Society for Bird Protection, as member for many years.

Lord Mayoress Maltz-Schwarzfischer, how would you describe the city of Regensburg?

Regensburg is the fourth biggest city in Bavaria, Germany with approx. 170.000 inhabitants. Its three universities, a vibrant economy and great quality of living brought us a lively and prospering city with high standards in education, social services and culture. Its urban structures reflect 2000 years of architectural continuity, including our Gothic cathedral and the world famous medieval Stone Bridge, which make it a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.

As a newly elected mayor, what is the focus of your administration and what challenges did you face in the beginning?

In fact, the challenges started even before I was elected for mayor. In 2017, my predecessor Joachim Wolbergs was suspended from office while I was deputy mayor.

Overnight I had to take over his duties while still holding my initial position. That status did not change until March 2020 when I was officially elected for mayor and finally had the chance to fully focus on that job only.

You took office in times of global pandemic, how that affected the work of your administration and how is Regensburg facing the challenges of the Covid pandemic?

The election last year was already overshadowed by Covid restrictions. Just a few days later, we went into complete lockdown. What followed was a year of restrictions, limitations and challenges no one would have ever believed to happen to us in this lifetime. In fact, Regensburg did quite well in facing the pandemic despite our location close to the Austrian and Czech borders.

However, just like any other city we had issues with people who refused to wear masks, with young people who wanted to party no matter what and finally with getting enough vaccines. We are still far from over the pandemic, but I am beginning to see a silver lining on the horizon with getting more and more vaccines every week and thus being able to have finally vaccinated a great part of our oldest and most endangered population.

What are your plans for the city over the next 5 years?

Apart from the obvious, getting Regensburg out of the pandemic and facing the economic losses caused by the restrictions, there are two major topics I want to focus on: Smart City and the Green Deal. Regarding our Smart City ambitions, we are currently applying for a development plan by the federal government where we would like to participate as model commune.

Furthermore, we are working on turning former military barracks (‘Prinz-Leopold-Kaserne’) into a highly innovative living, working and shopping area with features such as intelligent parking lots, sustainable energy solutions and a distinctive mobility concept.

In order to participate in the European Green Deal, we are currently establishing a ‘Green Tech Cluster’ that connects various kinds of local projects focusing on the reduction of CO2 emissions.

Finally, is there a good practice or initiative from Regensburg that you would like to recommend to the other mayors in the European Union?

One topic very close to my heart is inclusion. Since 2016, we have a full-time representative for people with special needs.

Along with our inclusion advisory board, he is involved in various city planning projects where they strive to find solutions that serve accessibility for disabled people as well as the preservation of our historical cityscape. For example, they found a way to use our classical cobblestone pavement as orientation line for visually impaired people.

Furthermore, we are currently working on an App that guides people with various handicaps in various languages through the city while providing them with information on the accessibility of more than 500 institutions, restaurants, shops and sights. It also shows toilets for the disabled and features video tours of inaccessible historical buildings, thus making the city come alive to everybody. 

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