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Westerpark to organise referendum

Rutger Groot Wassink*

9 February 2008 - The Westerpark District is to organise a referendum on the renovation of the Domela Nieuwenhuis park (at the beginning of the Spaarndammerstraat near the viaduct) on 16 April. On that day, residents of the Spaandammerbuurt and the Zeeheldenbuurt can express their opinion on the district council’s renovation decision of last November.

What was it all about again? Currently, the park is an overgrown, dark place that is seldom used. In the past, there have been plans for a landmark building, but these have never been executed.

Now, the responsible alderman, Rolf Steenwinkel, wants to renovate the park. The majority of the council agrees. The park can and should be safer, more beautiful and more accessible for the neighbourhood. Further, everybody wants to have a public building there (a teahouse for example). The debate in the district council focused on how to renovate and how to pay for it. A large majority of the council has no problem with twenty percent of the area being used for buildings, if the renovation can be paid for in this way.

As GroenLinks council members, we are content with the decision. Yes, we would rather have improved the park and kept it entirely green. But if that would mean that other projects (such as renovating a street) would come to a standstill because the budget would have to be used for the park, then that would not make us happy.

Through amendments, we have succeeded in adapting the plans in such a way that no tree will be cut and the total green area will remain the same or increase. Also, attention will be given to the person Domela Nieuwenhuis and his role in Dutch politics. The 20% of the area to be used for buildings is now covered in asphalt. Therefore, we call on our members to vote in favour of the plan.

Recently, the council debated the wording of the question to be put to the vote. This was a complicated issue, for a referendum only decides whether a council decision can be executed. If the decision is overturned, the matter will be returned to the council for a new discussion. Nothing more and nothing less. Therefore, it was complicated to come up with an appropriate question. In the end, the Referendum Chamber (an independent advisory board) has made a good proposal. The question is:

The Westerpark district council has decided to use at most 20% of the Domela Nieuwenhuis park area for buildings. Are you for or against that decision?

Various information meetings will be held, and there will even be a formal meeting to announce the results. The campaign has started!

*GroenLinks Westerpark council member. More on the referendum (in Dutch)


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