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Manifesto - Better Quality of Life for Berlin-Mitte

10 Points for us in Mitte

Preamble

Liberal values also guide the actions of free democrats at the local level. Each resident, man or woman, young or old, ought to be able to grow in freedom and take advantage of his or her own opportunities. Our political actions, including our dealings with one another, are characterized by fairness, justice and responsibility.

We want the quality of life in Berlin-Mitte to improve for everybody: for all levels of income, for all generations, and for both single persons and families. Thus there is still much to be done in our district. Priorities will have to be set more clearly in the district council (Bezirksamt): “First things first” must be their motto. For us, this means, for example, good education in KiTas and schools that work well, a modern district council and decent neighbourhoods with well kept parks.

Future politics in Berlin-Mitte will become more liberal when free democrats are elected to the district parliament (BezirksVerordnetenVersammlung − BVV) of Berlin-Mitte. We want to work and shape the future, starting in the BVVs. We stand for politics that knows how to calculate. We promote education so that everyone has a chance to play a part in society and lead a free life.

We free democrats in Berlin-Mitte want to contribute to district politics in a pragmatic way and find solutions that are good for us all in Berlin-Mitte. For us, it is not primarily a question of political majorities, but of specific projects. It is not a question of ideology, but of how we can make our surroundings a little bit better.

 

EU Citizens May Vote in Berlin on Sunday, September 18, 2016

 

Each of Berlin’s 12 districts has its own parliament (BVV). Its members are elected from the lists proposed by various political parties, including the FDP. Each voter votes for one of these lists. The next election to these parliaments will be held on Sunday, September 18, 2016. If you are a citizen of an EU member state, are at least 16 years old, and have been registered with a “Bürgeramt” as a resident of Berlin since 18th June 2016, you may vote in the election for the parliament of your district. On September 18, 2016, citizens of Germany may also vote in the election for the Berlin state parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus).

1. Education and Families

Child Day Care Centres (“KiTas”)

Education starts with the very little ones. This is why child day care centres are so important. Improvements are urgently needed in Berlin as follows.

·         Instead of having to register each of their children directly with each KiTa that would be suitable for that child, parents should be able to register them through centrally managed online waiting lists. All KiTas which receive public funds would have to participate in this. Each KiTa would, of course, continue to decide which children it admits. Parents would be able to tell which place each of their children has on which list. When a KiTa place is assigned to a child, the child’s name would automatically vanish from all the lists. This would make the assignments of the available places more transparent and simplify the work of the KiTas.

·         KiTa fees: The quality of your child’s education and upbringing is far more important than the KiTa being free of charge. It costs money to train educators, and it costs even more money to pay them properly. However, KiTas must be affordable, so the fees have to be made dependent on the parents’ income.

·         KiTa opening hours must fit in with the schedules of the parents who work.

Grammar Schools

The FDP advocates a school system in Mitte that offers a variety of school types. Each child should be enrolled in the type of school most conducive to development of his or her abilities and talents. The FDP rejects approaches that favour one particular type of school. Funds must flow to where the children are. Consequently:

·         The FDP demands that the districts for elementary schools be abolished, meaning that parents and their children can select whichever school in Berlin they consider to be best suited for them.

·         Deployment of administrative personnel and the enrolment procedure must be designed so parents and schools can plan early and reliably. Private and parochial schools are to be included in the enrolment procedure accordingly.

Unfortunately, this has to be said because last year the elementary school places in Berlin-Mitte were not assigned until just before the summer vacation began, at which time it turned out that there was a shortage of hundreds of places. That, of course, was unreasonable for all parties concerned.

·         The district must consistently enforce compulsory school attendance, say through administrative fines which are already provided by law. Overburdened parents must receive more support from schools and social advisers so that they can better cope with the task of bringing up their children. Indeed, the number of dropouts and truants in Mitte is far too high.

·         We want to encourage the schools in Mitte to follow the fine example set by the Herbert‑Hoover School in Wedding. Parents, pupils and teachers have decided voluntarily and together that German shall be the only language that is spoken in the school courtyard. They understand that a good command of the German language is the key to professional success and social advancement. Such initiatives supplement our commitment to early language tests and maximum classroom size of 20 pupils in areas with large numbers of migrants.

  • The state must support private and parochial schools just as they support all other schools.

Clean, Renovated Schools

Renovation of the district’s schools has the highest priority for the FDP. The renovations desperately needed by Mitte’s schools will cost a good 100 million euros. Since clean, renovated schools are a prerequisite for learning, ...

  • The FDP supports the district’s ongoing school renovations programme, but considers that it must be speeded up. Hence we will find private investors who / which finance renovations projects in advance and are repaid by the district in rates (“lease payments”).
  • Mitte needs a school buildings inspection authority (“school TÜV”) so that disintegration of the fabric of school buildings is noticed and recorded early.
  • The contracts awarded through public tender procedures for cleaning schools must require compliance with strict quality standards.

Facilities of the Schools

·         Schools need more direct responsibility for planning and using the budget the district places at their disposal. It must be possible to form financial reserves at each individual school. Each school must be allowed to look for sponsors that support it. Hence even advertising ought not to be taboo at schools.

·         Schools need space. The requirements must be laid out in the school development plan on the basis of the enrolment figures once a year. Expansions that are necessary must be implemented promptly. Mobile constructs such as containers that accommodate a class can only be temporary expedients.

  • The district councils must be sufficiently well staffed for the schools to draw on the financial resources that special programmes (e.g. “SIWA funds”) have already provided;
  • the application procedures for such funds can and must be simplified so that they are less labour intensive;
  • The material resources available to each type of secondary school ought to be comparable in terms of resources per pupil. In particular, the FDP is opposed to providing fewer resources to the college preparatory schools (“Gymnasiums”) than to the other types.
  • Digitalization begins in one’s brain. We want to equip our schools accordingly.

Schools Directly Connected with the Real World

·         We encourage schools to establish sponsorships with companies, business associations, government administration and social funding bodies so that school children come into contact with the world of work and develop a positive attitude toward entrepreneurs early on during their education.

·         The curricula should include units designed to strengthen an entrepreneurial spirit. Network for Entrepreneurship could offer a solution.

Lifelong Learning

Education has no boundaries. The public offers for lifelong learning need to be improved.

  • The district libraries need longer opening hours and a better digital offer.
  • We want to safeguard the existence of the district’s music schools and develop them further. Private music teachers should have improved access to suitable rooms that are under the district’s control.

Families in Berlin-Mitte

Leisure time, athletic and cultural offers contribute to the attractiveness of our district. We also want families with children to settle in Mitte and experience our neighbourhoods as lively places in which it is worthwhile to live. Therefore,

  • The FDP Berlin-Mitte calls for implementation of an integrated, communal child and youths concept which bundles the competencies of the various authorities responsible, such as the youth, school, social and public order offices while maintaining a diversity of projects.
  • We also call for establishment of a single contact partner for families so that they are spared unnecessary trips. It must be possible for all applications that relate to family matters to be filed at a single location in the district council of Berlin-Mitte This should apply, for example, to registration of the birth of a child and applications for maternity and child benefits, child-raising allowances, child care subsidies, parental leave, support for single parents, KiTa vouchers, admission to a KiTa, and child passports. We shall also eliminate the necessity of having to submit the same documents to different authorities.
  • The list of in-home child carers (“Tagesmütter”) in all of Berlin should be posted in the Internet.

2. Modern Administration

Residents’ Office (“Bürgeramt”)

Berlin-Mitte’s administration must become far more functional and service oriented than it is today. This will not only benefit the residents of Berlin-Mitte, it will also improve Berlin as a place to do business. Indeed, a study commissioned by the Berlin Chamber of Handicrafts has issued the administration in Berlin a damning report card that says applications submitted by companies remain unprocessed for a long time, whence public funds for furthering the economy cannot be accessed and thus lie idle. Such deficient service weakens Berlin as a place to do business. Therefore,

  • We shall work on making the administration and most especially the Residents’ Office more digital. In particular:
  • We need appointments in the Residents’ Office on shorter notice. The current waiting times are not acceptable. It must also be possible for residents to take care of urgent matters without an appointment.
  • Applications must be simplified. This will make life easier for residents and reduce the workload of administrators.
  • It must be possible for companies and residents to process matters online. This means:
    • It must become possible to file online all applications that are to be submitted to the Residents’ Office. At least over the short term a legally valid submission (with proof of filing) should be made possible, for example, with the help of the Post-Ident procedure.
    • Faster processing of urgent applications from companies.
  • Personnel management must become more flexible altogether.
  • The Residents’ Office should make greater use of shared service centres; that is, merge equivalent administrative processes. This will lighten the workloads of its clerks. Document processing can be automated and error rates reduced.
  • The Residents’ Office should prefer in future to deploy full time employees under collective agreements rather than full‑fledged civil servants (“Beamte”).
  • When new IT is introduced, office staff must be taken along and supported. We call for change management that accompanies such changes. Staff should be kept up to date with advanced training on a regular basis, especially in cases of new tools, so that the quality of their work is increased. Participation in such training and certification thereof has to be taken into consideration when deciding on promotions and salary increases.

English in District Level Administration

We Free Democrats in Berlin-Mitte want to have English recognized as a supplementary lingua franca for use in all areas of administration that are generally of importance for residents who do not speak German. After all, Mitte is attractive for people from abroad. They move to Berlin to become part of a start-up or the creative economy. They come here to form a company or just to live in this great city for a little while. Those who speak English in business or as a universal language can manage just about any place in this city until they have to come in contact with the state.

  • Forms, applications and informational materials must be available in English.
  • We shall work on improving the English language skills of the persons employed by the district in the areas of importance for residents who do not speak German so that these employees can communicate with them in English.
  • The training types and amounts of training needed for these employees will be ascertained and the options available to them for improving their English language skills will be expanded accordingly.

We, the FDP-Mitte, have started to implement this where we have a say, and you, the reader, are hopefully pleased with the result.

Welcome Office

We would like to set up a “Welcome Office” in the Residents’ Office, following the example set by Hamburg. This office would be the first contact point for people who move to Berlin and help them to settle in. The basic, classical services for residents would be offered here too. These would include the services relevant for aliens as well as advice on having school certificates and diplomas from other countries recognized in Germany. The Welcome Office would also provide advice to companies on questions related to residency permits before they hire aliens.

The Aliens Authority (“Ausländerbehörde”) will have to have locations in the various districts because this will be easier on the residents who are affected and the links with the other services of the Residents’ Office will be simpler.

3. The Economy

Our objective is to encourage more people to start a business. Hence the bureaucracy associated with this must be simplified as much as possible. Mitte is attractive for many young entrepreneurs. Indeed, it is here, in Mitte, that the most start-ups are formed in all of Berlin. We appreciate the self-reliant commitment of these start-ups. We want to contribute to their economic success by removing bureaucratic hurdles which threaten their success unnecessarily:

 

·         Berlin-Mitte needs a Start‑Up Office as contact and networking point that supplies all information, including information about all relevant governmental programmes, as well as all other papers required to form a company. Institutes of higher education and research facilities will form an indispensable part of such a network.

 

·         The Start‑Up Office will explain and support the process of forming a company and also accept completed registration documents and pass them on to the appropriate government offices and courts.

 

·         The services of the Start‑Up Office will also be available online via the digital Residents’ Office (see section 2, “Modern Administration”) as far as possible

 

4. An Attractive Neighbourhood

Clean Streets and Parks, Well Kept Playgrounds

We advocate clean, well-kept streets and squares, open green spaces, and playgrounds. This is also important for families. Today, playgrounds are littered with trash, especially during the summer. In Mitte, this applies particularly to our Tiergarten Park. Utilization has risen sharply because there are more residents and tourists in our district than ever before. These areas can no longer be kept clean by the people who work for the “Green Spaces Office”. Therefore:

·         We insist on outsourcing the upkeep of green spaces by means of open competitive bidding; the BSR (Berlin City Cleaning) would be welcome to compete.

·         The green spaces ought be provided with larger trash cans.

·         Since this is one of the district’s core tasks, we will ensure that the financial resources that are set aside for it are equal to it. Last summer (2015), the budget of the Green Spaces Office was exhausted after just half a month!

·         The number of massive public events, such as events on the “Fanmeile” (which proceeds westward from the Brandenburg Gate along the “Straße des 17. Juni”) has to be managed better so that the parks and green spaces nearby are not affected so badly.

·         Since such events put Tiergarten Park under particularly great stress, this park requires special care, and this special care will, in turn, cost additional funds.

Gymnasiums and Swimming Pools

Athletic facilities are especially important in densely settled areas such as Berlin-Mitte. They are the basis for school and club sports and make an important contribution to the healthy development of the populace, especially of children and adolescents, and to the integration of immigrants into German society through athletic competition. The athletic facilities in Berlin-Mitte are currently in poor condition.

·         Our top priority goes to renovation of rundown gymnasiums, swimming pools and sports fields.

·         The Berlin Public Baths company (“Berliner Bäderbetriebe”) should reserve more usage time and lanes for the paying public (negative example: “Kombibad Seestraße – Halle”).

·         The plans for renovating Stadtbad Tiergarten (“Seydlitzbad” in Moabit) should be expanded to include an outdoor swimming pool.

·         Refugees should, if at all possible, not be accommodated in gymnasiums because this interferes with school and club sports.

·         Schools with insufficient space of their own for sports could rent space from private providers of sports (e.g. fitness and dance studios).

Open Spaces for Gastronomy and Shops

Much of life in Berlin-Mitte transpires on its streets. Residents and tourists alike enjoy restaurants, late night stores (“Spätis”) and outdoor air events such as open air cinemas and public viewing. Shopping in the neighbourhoods of Mitte is another significant location factor. Unfortunately, this is at odds with strict rules and imposed requirements.

Hence FDP Berlin Mitte demands:

·         More leeway and flexibility for gastronomers and individual solutions in agreements between operators and local residents, but not governmental authorities unless needed. Restaurants and pubs should be allowed to serve their customers outdoors until 23 hours (11 pm). Bars and pubs should again be allowed to decide whether / where smoking is allowed indoors.

·         The framework conditions must be further developed so that they encourage both the diversity of individual shops in one’s own neighbourhood and the experience of shopping in a special world (e.g. Potsdamer Platz).

·         Spätis ought to be allowed to be open when they want to be. They make up the authentic, lively atmosphere of Mitte. They are needed by those who live in Mitte but are often out at odd hours and want to stock up there.

·         Actually, the closing hours law does not fit in with an international, cosmopolitan city such as Berlin and should therefore be repealed.

River Bath Mitte

We would like to transform the historical core of Berlin into a place where people become acquainted and meet with one another and like to pass their time. Thus we welcome the initiative “Flussbad Berlin e.V.” and support it in its effort to improve the quality of the water in the Spree and the Spree canal. A river bath with natural water filter in the “Spreekanal am Lustgarten” would constitute a great gain for the attractiveness, quality of life and ecological sustainability in Mitte.

Mitte - in Good Order

The topic of safety is very important in a district with almost 360,000 inhabitants and numerous visitors. Safety is conducive to the feeling of being at home. Many residents feel insecure. They are concerned above all about the increases in frequency of burglaries, robberies, and physical attacks on pedestrians and shops.

This is why the existent security concepts need to be reviewed and improved. The police and the Public Order Office (“Ordnungsamt”) have to work together hand in hand in an organized partnership, fight crime, and deter potential offenders. We propose that the police meet regularly with residents and local clubs of the various neighbourhoods, for example at a “round table”, to share views on problems and look for joint solutions.

Malicious damage to property, such as destruction of shelters at bus and tram stops, graffiti, vandalism and arson (setting fires) has become an all too common sight and therefore ought to be combatted more effectively than it has been.

5. Road Traffic

The FDP advocates road traffic policies that are based on demand by the users and thus do not try to re-educate them. We need good transportation infrastructure that is continually renewed so that our district can continue to develop.

Pedestrians

Pedestrians need longer traffic light switching cycles at certain intersections, for example when crossing Invalidenstraße or Torstraße.

Bicycle Riders

·         Protecting bicycle riders is one of the pressing traffic safety tasks in our district. We know that there is no single solution that solves every problem. Hence we think pragmatic solutions should be found in each neighbourhood.

·         Existent bicycle paths must, where necessary, be renovated, and blind bends and other potential hazards must be eliminated. Bicycle lanes are best in many places. Cobble stone pavements must definitely be avoided.

·         A network of bicycle expressways parallel to S-Bahn lines would likewise be sensible. Therefore, we shall commission a feasibility study for Mitte and all of Berlin that will serve as the basis for developing such a network.

·         Bicycle riders need more parking spaces at S-Bahn stations in Mitte. This might also mean using parking garages and/or decks only for bicycles.

Parking

We advocate more parking options in Mitte. Mobility must also be possible for those who drive automobiles. Hence we need efficient parking space management.

·         Resident parking zones and parking spaces subject to a charge should exist only where this is absolutely necessary because of a lack of space.

·         One ought to be able to apply for and renew one’s resident parking permit online.

·         Additional parking space can be created in garages through clever planning of new buildings. Such spaces should be funded through private parties.

Car Sharing

While we are opposed to subsidizing car sharing, we do want to improve the framework conditions for car sharing and support the obvious change in the mobility behaviour of people. After all, car sharing supports city development on its way to more sustainability. Car sharing means fewer cars in the city and hence less space occupied by parked cars, fewer cars searching for parking spaces, less congestion and reduced emissions. Thus

·         We will make it possible for car sharing to access zones with limited parking space;

·         We want to invest proceeds from parking space management in additional parking space (local garages). In localities where this is not feasible, the residents should decide for themselves how this money is spent, e.g. for park benches, improving vegetation, supplies for KiTas, integration of refugees, etc.

·         In localities where the number of parking spaces cannot be increased, we want to create extra parking spaces for car sharing in close cooperation with the residents. This would ideally start with a locality development project which invites the residents to shape their life environment by themselves.

Smooth Traffic Flow

It is of great importance for those at the businesses that have settled here in Berlin-Mitte, and for the people who live here, that they are always easily able to get from one place to the next.

·         Hence we need a single road traffic concept for the entire district of Mitte, and not just partial concepts for neighbourhoods. Traffic routing must take greater account of problematic locations, constructions sites, traffic light switching and traffic circles (roundabouts). Smooth traffic flow is not only economically efficient, but also ecologically sensible. Automobile traffic must once again be directed through Berlin-Mitte faster than it has been recently. A negative example would be the reduced traffic flow at the north end of Friedrichstraße, where the street narrows at the intersection with Oranienburger Straße. Also, synchronized traffic lights should be introduced / reintroduced wherever possible, for example in Leipziger Straße and Wilhelmstraße, and extended as far as possible. To improve traffic flow, we also advocate more “green arrows” at intersections with traffic lights to indicate traffic may still turn right when the light is red; for example from Mollstraße into Otto-Braun-Straße.

  • Automobile traffic around the Tiergarten comes to a virtual standstill whenever the Straße des 17. Juni and the John-Foster-Dulles-Allee are closed for major events, as happens all the time. The “Straße des 17. Juni” must normally be available to automobile traffic.
  • Construction site management must pay more attention to making traffic routing more efficient. If nothing else works, then increase the staffing of Berlin Traffic Control. Construction administration and construction companies should agree on premiums for completing construction sites early.
  • There are not enough Park&Ride spaces at Hauptbahnhof and Bahnhof Gesundbrunnen. We want to change that together with investors and the Deutsche Bahn.
  • We think local round tables for traffic projects are a clever solution and will organize them more frequently.

Mass Transit

The FDP Berlin-Mitt e is basically in favour of expanding Berlin’s mass transit system. For example:

  • U-Bahn line U5 (currently “U55”) should be extended from U‑Bahnhof Hauptbahnhof to U‑Bahnhof Turmstraße.

However, the FDP Berlin-Mitte can support new tram lines only where these are installed in track beds of their own. Otherwise they would interfere with traffic flow and constitute a hazard to bicycle drivers and pedestrians. Consequently, the FDP Berlin-Mitte is opposed to installing tram lines in Leipziger Straße and Turmstraße.

6. Refugees in Berlin-Mitte

The past few months have shown that Berlin and its administration were completely overtaxed by the influx of refugees. The situation at the State Office for Health and Social Affairs (“LaGeSo”) was chaotic. The situation would have been catastrophic had it not been for the untiring commitment and generous support of innumerable volunteers at the LaGeSo in Moabit and the accommodations for the refugees.

 

We therefore advocate the following measures:

 

·         Bureaucratic hurdles must be reduced / set aside for refugees. Administrative forms should first be checked for utility and expedience before they are used. Full-time and volunteer specialists should assist refugees with trips to governmental offices. Quite apart from his or her status, each refugee needs a course in the German language. Digital offers can be helpful.

 

·         More places at KiTas and schools must be organized for child refugees.

 

·         Refugees have to be housed speedily and in quarters fit for human beings, preferable in small units. Collective accommodations have to meet clear minimal standards and should be used only as an emergency or initial solution. Persons in special need of protection, such as pregnant women and unaccompanied children, should not be placed in collective accommodations. Women without families have a right to be housed separately from men. The objective over the medium term should be accommodation in apartments (flats). Container villages are an acceptable intermediate solution when there is a shortage of flats. The FDP is opposed to setting up tent villages. When new accommodations are being planned, the neighbours should have a say.

 

·         Instead of assigning refugees to districts according to formulas based on population and other such parameters, we should just put them up wherever there happens to be space and the effort required to convert this space to living quarters is low; for example, in empty buildings that belong to the city.

 

·         Confiscations of privately owned flats, e.g. in order to accommodate refugees, are not at all justifiable, given that there are so many empty buildings that belong to the state. Each owner of a flat must have the right to dispose of his own property pretty much as he pleases.

 

7. More Living Space

We want to reduce the price pressure on the rents in our district by creating framework conditions which increase the supply of flats. We advocate a city development policy which considers the interests of newcomers and long-established residents just as much as it considers the interests of investors who create new living space.

 

Building Sooner and Building More

·        The procedures for issuing building permits have to be accelerated. For this we need a development plan offensive at the level of the Berlin Senate which is accompanied by each district in the form of a task force. This will make it possible for building permits to be issued.

·        There are parcels of land that are classified as commercial space but are no longer well-suited for this purpose due to the development of residential areas in the immediate vicinity. Such parcels should be reclassified as residential areas upon application of the owner, provided this is not disadvantageous for the neighbouring commercial use.

·        FDP Berlin-Mitte demands that fewer permits be issued for new, one-storey buildings for supermarkets because such buildings take up so much space.

·        One way to create more residential space quickly is to renovate the attics of and add storeys to existent buildings. The District Council of Mitte must give up its restrictive policy on permits for such construction work.

Affordable Living

·        Preservation of local colour should not be regulated by prohibitions, say of balconies, guest toilets and double wash basins, nor should it be forbidden to merge adjoining flats. The FDP Berlin-Mitte regards various social preservation ordinances pursuant to § 172 of the Federal Building Code as disproportionate dictation by the state to the owners. It would be far better for building permits for more than 20 flats for rent to be issued only under the condition that at least 10 percent of the living space will be for tenants with very low incomes.

·        We are opposed to a blanket “prohibition of use contrary to purpose” for holiday flats. We much prefer that private flats can be lent to third parties in the context of “home sharing”, insofar as such flats are not used solely as commercial holiday flats throughout the year. We think that a flat should not be converted to a holiday flat unless this has first been approved by a resolution passed by the community of owners of the land and buildings in question (Federal Condominium Act, WEG). We are also opposed to the provision of the “Act on Use Contrary to Purpose” by which third parties may report violators of the prohibitions of this act to the district council.

·        In order to create low priced housing and at the same time to maintain access to valuable real estate over the long term, the district should not sell real estate unless there is an urgent, exceptional need. Municipally owned real estate is of great importance for the long-term development of a municipality. Nevertheless, it is often sold with purely short-term considerations in mind. Low priced housing can be set up and the city can actively plan the housing demand for the upcoming generations by granting ground leasing rights, above all through communal companies and cooperatives.

·        In order to make low priced housing available to young families as soon as possible, the FDP Berlin-Mitte advocates formation of a Berlin programme for light-weight construction on some of the city’s land granted under ground lease.

·        The owners must have the right to decide by themselves on the extent of renovations of houses and flats. One must also take into account the owners’ economic capacities, and not just those of tenants, especially when it comes to costly energy-efficient renovations.

·        It must always be possible to convert flats into condominiums.

Urban Planning

·        With important construction projects, it is advisable to consult the residents too. We advocate use of the new media so that residents can be included in the planning early on and in an uncomplicated way.

·        The FDP Berlin-Mitte supports the concern of citizens’ initiatives that certain streets and areas in Mitte be upgraded. Thus we would like to contribute to Leipziger Straße being converted to an attractive shopping street. The green strip, which currently acts as a barrier to pedestrians, has to be redesigned.

·        In the context of the discussion “Old Mitte - New Love”, we advocate that the area between the TV tower and the Spree be developed in small sections in accordance with the historical layout. An architecture competition should be conducted for this.

·        The Art House Tacheles building in Mitte is also very well known outside Berlin. The FDP Berlin-Mitte supports all efforts to promote the dialog between investors and representatives of other interests (e.g. artists, local residents) regarding its future usage concept. Politics and government are citizens’ associations and therefore have only advisory powers. It is the investors who will have the last word because they alone will be bearing the financial risks.

·        Berlin-Mitte’s Friedrichswerder Church, a jewel of outstanding historical importance, served as a museum in 2012 when it was closed indefinitely because of structural damage due to nearby building activity. We of the FDP Berlin-Mitte cannot merely look on, as the Berlin Senate is doing. We wish to do justice to this church’s past by having nearby construction limited accordingly.

8. Better Quality of Life for the Elderly

The Free Democrats want to ensure that the members of all generations live together. Elderly persons, and disabled persons in general, should, for as long as possible, live in the surroundings and social environment to which they have become accustomed. This entails maximizing the area in which they can get around by themselves.

 

The biggest task thereby is that of making apartments and public spaces free of barriers to persons with restricted mobility. This includes barrier-free streets and squares, barrier-free public toilets, and barrier-free access to busses and trains.

 

Hence we advocate the following measures:

 

·         The District Council must maintain its own register of barrier-free apartments.

 

·         The District Council must provide more assistance to private initiatives that provide the elderly with work for which they are particularly well suited.

 

9. More Direct Democracy and Honorary Service

We would like to strengthen the direct influence of citizens on politics in the districts. The role of the district parliaments (BVV) as control bodies for district administration also has to be strengthened:

 

·         We demand that all citizens’ decisions be genuinely binding at the district level. Up to now, implementation of successful citizens’ requests and decisions has depended entirely on the beneficence of the district council s. We advocate that the results of citizens’ decisions be respected and implemented by the district councils and members of the district parliaments.

 

·         We demand a fundamental change in the procedure for selecting the members of the district council. The district council consists of the district mayor, deputy district mayor and other district councillors and ought to be the executive branch of government at the district level.

 

Today, the party with the greatest number of votes in the BVV election selects the district mayor, the party with the second greatest number of votes selects the deputy district mayor, and the remaining district councillor posts are filled so that each party’s share of posts in the district council roughly corresponds to its share of seats in the BVV. The bottom line is that the district councillors are political rivals who do not speak with one voice and have no joint strategy for Mitte, with the effect that the election campaign for the BVV continues in the Bezirksamt well past election day.

 

In the future, after each BVV election parties should form a coalition to gain the political majority in the BVV, which then votes for a real government of Mitte as its executive branch. The district councillors will be appointed by the ruling parties and thus have a common understanding of where they want to take the district, knowing they have the backing of the majority in the BVV.

 

·         Up to now, the members of the district parliaments have only been able to direct recommendations and requests to their district council; actual implementation has been left up to the district council. This manner of dealing with the representatives elected by the citizens has become unacceptable. We shall do what we can to ensure that the district parliaments are granted a general right of decision so that their decisions are binding on the relevant district councils.

 

The FDP Berlin-Mitte wants to reinforce honorary service by having it managed by the district council. This will take care of bureaucratic hurdles connected with questions of insurance, taxes and liability so that volunteers will be able to get on with their work. Clubs and citizens’ groups exert a great influence on social life in the neighbourhoods of Mitte. These groups assume a great responsibility for the quality of life in the various parts of the city. Society is very much dependent on them.

 

10. Use of Public Funds in Berlin-Mitte

·         The district budget must be described much more simply than it is today so that citizens are well able to follow and understand it.

 

·         We would like to share responsibility for preparing the district’s budget with the district’s citizens. We advocate a citizens’ budget at the district level in which citizens can contribute digitally and in live events with proposals for savings and expenditures. We would like citizens of all ages to participate in preparing our district budget.

 

·         The process of project planning has to be made more transparent in regard to the costs for which the taxpayers will have to foot the bill. For example, the taxpayers want to be sure each budget item is well worth what it will cost.

 

·         We want to offer private initiatives the tasks of renovating playgrounds, swimming pools and other public facilities, whereby these facilities would continue to be public property.

 

·         The district will have to improve its handling of accounts receivable so that open receivables such as fees and administrative fines that are due to it from companies and individuals are asserted much sooner than before.