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ZuiderAmstel opposition walks out angry

28 March 2008 – Last Tuesday, the entire ZuiderAmstel opposition walked out of the council chamber in protest against residents' responses being ignored in a decision on renovating the Rijnstraat. Council members were also annoyed with district chairman Duco Adema who seemed to have accused council member Wanda Pelt (GroenLinks) of being involved in a conflict of interest.

Earlier this month, a study was published on council members who vote for subsidies for organisations they are themselves involved in. Partly in response to that study, Adema, in his capacity as spokesperson of all the districts, asked the municipal Integrity Office to devote more attention to issues relating to conflicts of interest.

“As an example, I referred to a council member who lives at the Rijnstraat and who wants to be open to residents’ comments on plans to renovate the street”, he explained to News from Amsterdam. He added that he was referring to a 'concrete example in the ZuiderAmstel district council'.

Apparently, there is only one ZuiderAmstel district council member who lives at the Rijnstraat: Wanda Pelt, who has on several occasions offered severe criticism of Adema. Local party ZuiderAmstel Sociaal therefore saw Adema's remarks as a 'serious and unacceptable accusation against council member Wanda Pelt here referred to, who is known to be a very respectable and trustworthy council member'.

Reportedly, Adema responded that his remarks had been purely hypothetical and that they did not refer to Pelt. Adema declined to respond to further questions from News from Amsterdam.

When a decision on the controversial renovation of the Rijnstraat had to be taken last Tuesday, Pelt announced that she would not participate in the vote as long as Adema's question to the Integrity Office remained unanswered.

She added: “I do live in the Rijnstraat, but near the Utrechtsebrug, some 700 metre from the part of the Rijnstraat we're talking about. I think there are council members who live closer”. She suggested these council members leave the council chamber as well.

Subsequently, the entire opposition walked out. They were spurred by Pelt's statement, but they were also irritated by the way in which the decision on the renovation was being pushed through. Only at the very last moment did the council members receive the response to a public enquiry, leaving them no time to discuss this information within their parties.

Residents and shop owners were taken by surprise by the swift decision as well. Ko de Ruiter of the shopkeepers' association is developing an alternative plan, with support from the Chamber of Commerce and the SME association. In the alternative plan, it will not be necessary to narrow the sidewalk. To achieve this, they sacrifice the bicycle path, which according to De Ruiter only provides an illusion of safety.

As a result of the district's sudden decision, their efforts now seem to be in vain, but De Ruiter is not giving up. He is critical of the fact that input from residents did not play a serious role. “They call this democratic decision making, but if this is how it's done, you might as well keep your mouth shut”.

Image: artist impression of the Rijnstraat renovation

UPDATE 29 March - Henk Dokter of local party Baas in Eigen Buurt says that the reason to walk out was not Pelt's statement, but the decision-making on the Rijnstraat renovation.


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