First things first. I am, as you would have already guessed, running for city council again. However, I have not been posting in English either in this blog or on social media. Unfortunately, this is not an oversight, so here is why.
Last time, 4 years ago I tried to do plenty of campaigning bilingually and either translated things or made them specifically for an English-speaking audience. I feel that it increased the workload of campaigning quite a bit and looking back it’s hard to see if it helped me that much. It felt natural to do especially since one of my main themes was immigrants in Tampere. My interest and focus on that has not gone anywhere but as is usual with elections I picked different main themes this time around. I mean I did nicely for a first timer but not well enough to actually go through (I got 163 votes, around 190 would have been enough) so it made sense to switch up some things.
I still care deeply about immigration issues and will certainly keep all English information and sections on my site and social media updated but this will most likely be my only blog post in English regarding this election. I suspect most immigrants who vote in this election speak some amount of Finnish anyway so the possible audience that would only find me through my writings in English is likely very small. So, I am sorry, but simply for time management reasons I have to keep campaigning in Finnish.
That being said, I still wanted to write this post to summarize my themes and thoughts in case you who read this find it easier to approach this way. Or maybe you cannot yet vote yourself, but your friends or relatives can. If you find any of this appealing feel free to point them in my direction. I am also always happy to answer any questions.
Like last time I chose three main themes that I feel passionate about for this election. One of them is in dire need of fixing and the other two simply need plenty of attention in the future. I’ll try to be brief so as to not make this post the length of a light year.
Mental health services have been a matter of controversy in Tampere for some time. The last year (and a half, nearly) have really made me realize how bad the situation is. The pandemic is making it even worse and we are not even seeing the worst effects yet. In many cases – far too many – it takes too long to get an appointment, let alone appropriate treatment. When you finally get it, it is sometimes too short or inadequate and the consequences can be horrific. I recently read a post from a young adult (or late teen) who had to wait for 14 months before getting real help. Her friend who suffered from something similar committed suicide during that time. In fact, it is our young who are suffering the most since their safety networks are often not as good as with someone older. These issues need to be fixed quickly and this is my number one priority for the coming council term.
Rail transportation is the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to move lots of people around a city. We are finally getting the long-awaited tramway starting this coming summer. The first phase was approved just months before the previous election four years ago. Again, the expansion is a matter of debate and the result of this election can have big implications for the future. My view is that the tram network should be expanded quickly instead of waiting for the buses in the underserved routes to get even more packed. The tram is built for the long-term future, not for next month. The population of Tampere and surrounding towns will keep rising and we need to prepare for their needs. Another tool is local area trains that can use the existing network. All that needs to be built are some platforms that are much better described as ‘stops’ rather than ‘stations’. This is not a massive project but can bring massive benefits.
Building denser and higher makes for a far more efficient city center. Reducing the amount of cars in the core of the city has been a good first step but we need to go much further. The city center and surrounding areas can support a far larger population than currently lives there. Obviously the historic buildings and certain skylines and views must be preserved but there is plenty of room for expansion – upward. In my opinion no 1-2 story business building or wing has a place in the center unless it is in some way historic. Any lazy box from the 1960s or 1970s needs to go. In cases where the small building has value, we can build on top of it or perhaps just behind. There is plenty of room if we just use our imaginations. The center also needs to become more walkable. Hämeenkatu has turned out well but half-baked attempts at a pedestrian street such as Tuomiokirkonkatu need to be improved and new ones need to be created. All this will make the center more pedestrian friendly and lively and in the process support local businesses.
So that is my platform for the 2021 election. My views or passions have not changed from last time. I am just focusing on some different things. As noted, immigration is not one of those main things this time but is still, in general, one of the most important issues to me politically.
I hope you got something out of all this. If you think of any questions or have any feedback, don’t hesitate to contact me. The ‘In English’ section of this page has also been updated and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll certainly post in English if people happened to request it.
If you feel that my thought resonated with you and want to and can help out, you can make a campaign donation here by clicking "Lahjoita". Every small bit helps, I am doing all this with a very minimal budget.
If you read this far, thank you. And once again, please feel free to get in touch.
And once more into the fray.
(p.s. The title is another Babylon 5 reference because of course it is.)
(I figured I will just write this in English since I would have to do that anyway and everyone reading this probably reads English well, so why do it twice.)
163. That’s where I ended up, that’s how many wanted me to serve in the city council.
First of all, thank you. Really. That is a lot of people. Not enough to put me in the council but still a lot. I was left about 30 votes shy of a reserve position, so that was pretty close. An actual council seat would have needed more than twice as much so there is no “if” with that. Still, I can’t feel too bad. For a first timer that’s a good number of votes.
Also, I was close enough to getting a spot that I will most definitely get some sort of board position in city administration. A number of those always go outside the council members and reserves and I was the 5th one in our party. So there are some concrete results from this. Again, thank you.
But more importantly, there is something I have realised from this. The 163 people have sent a clear message that I cannot ignore. What I have said over the last few months has obviously resonated with people. They showed that by voting for me.
About 5 months ago I had not even decided if I would get into politics. On Sunday evening I was the 33rd (out of 100) green party candidate on the list with 163 votes. That does not make me a council member but it makes me a player in the game. If someone was thinking that I’m not fully invested or otherwise not necessary in the party since I came aboard so recently, no one is thinking that anymore.
When the results rolled in I felt a little disappointed. Mostly because I got so close. I have said over the last several weeks that I had no idea how well the campaign was going. I had nothing to compare it to. Well I do now.
Not that I ever got into this thinking that it would just be a one-time shot in the dark, but I really wasn’t sure what I would do with regard to politics if I didn’t go through. I knew it would take some time to figure that out. I guess it took about 30 seconds.
I have received 2 new likes on my Facebook page after the results came in. After they came in. That cannot be a show of support for the campaign, not anymore. Those people expect that page to still be there in the future. They expect me to keep working. Out of the current 150 those 2 likes may well be the most important. They force me to remember that I have work to do.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.
Maybe I wasn’t quite ready or maybe this wasn’t the time. But this certainly was the thing. I have felt tired, frustrated, scared, embarrassed and stupid during the past 4 months. But all of the time I have felt right.
There is another election coming in about 9 months. I think I just barely learned how to campaign in the last week and that still landed me 163 votes. I know I’m supposed to just relax now and be happy for our party’s success. I am, but that’s not enough. I’m not satisfied. 163 is not enough. There is work to be done. And I’ve never been one to shy away from a fight.
As Ernest Hemingway put it:
The shortest answer is doing the thing.
I am not done.
So, the election draws close. I wanted to take one more chance to write in English before we get to the big day. If for no other reason, at least to remind everyone one more time how important it is to vote. Only 20% of immigrants did so last time so if we could bump that number up, you might actually change the outcome dramatically. See my previous post about the subject here. I have no idea how many non-finns ever read this blog but I’m an optimist.
I had a great conversation about voting (and bicycles and traffic and education… but really mostly bicycles) with an American who has been living in Finland for a few years and now gets to vote for the first time. He had already lived in the Netherlands and Denmark (hence the bicycles) but was never able to vote in those countries. He was very clearly excited about getting to do it for the first time in years. I wish everyone felt that way about democracy. And he is the perfect example for immigrants. He didn’t know much about the issues in Tampere so he asked me about them. The important thing for him was simply the opportunity to vote. So please do follow his lead!
My big theme, students
My number one theme for this election is students and schools (and education in general is the key theme of the green party) but I only recently talked about it in this blog. So let’s summarize a little in English.
Students make up one sixth of the population of Tampere. International students make up a big proportion of students so I know I have a potential audience here. The student population lives with all the consequences of the decisions made in the city council, on top of which they have many needs that the general population does not. They are in many cases much more vulnerable than other low-income residents. So I really hope they show their strength in this election.
International students are eligible to vote under the same rules as anybody else. An EU-citizen can vote after having lived in the city for 51 days. People from outside EU need to have lived in Finland for two years. Doesn’t matter if it’s permanent or temporary as long as you fill that criteria. And many of the decisions made at city level will affect internationals. Anywhere from housing to transportation and medical services.
Even though it is a national level issue instead of a city one, I just want to mention that I strongly oppose any tuition fees for international students. Our free education is one of the great prides of the nordic welfare state and it needs to be free for everybody.
To keep this text at a reasonable length, here are some bullet points with regard to students:
That is a very quick overview of the things that I find important. There is of course much more depth to all of it. If you’re still undecided about your vote, you can always contact me for more. I would be delighted.
One more thing
I would feel wrong if I didn’t mention one last thing, even though it has nothing to do with the upcoming election. I am frustrated that this thing exists for me to have to talk about, but it does.
This week our nation displayed a level of petty politics and sad cowardice that I did not expect to have to witness. This week a plane full of Afghan men, women, boys and girls, families, left Helsinki for Kabul. For a place that they had fled in fear for their lives. A place torn in anarchy and suppressed in tyranny was decided to be safe for the people who left because they were afraid that they were going to die. Decided to be safe, not found to be. This week we sent families to their death.
There is this old saying in rural Finland that I remember being cited some months ago. It translates roughly to “we won’t send anyone into the night”. It comes from a time when travel was slow and it was not uncommon for someone to find themselves in need of a warm place for the night. So travelers might simply show up at the door of a farmhouse asking to spend the night.
The general rule – as far as I understand – was that during the day it was ok to turn them away. This was not about hospitality. But in the evening it was clear that the cold night might be dangerous. The travelers were generally accommodated for the night and left in the morning. They were strangers, not guests.
These people came to our door. Whatever their reason for leaving, they came. And they asked us for help. And we sent them into the night.
So for whatever it’s worth, I do not stand with my country’s leaders. I will not send anyone into the night. For any future reference, if coming times find me in a position of power, let me just say it as clearly as I can.
Not on my watch.
Not even once.
Tamperelainen toimittaja ja ehdokas kaupunginvaltuustoon kuntavaaleissa 2021.