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.)
English! It’s turned out to be so rare in this blog that it feels both great to finally do it and retarded that I haven’t. But a promise is a promise so I’ll at least try. Because I have been writing about a number of issues in Finnish and really none in English I figured I should put together a short summary of my thoughts on a few things.
Because, yes, I realize that immigrants care about things other than immigration issues. They – or you – are residents of this city and obviously care about what happens in it. Nothing is going to be in a particular order so pay no attention to that. This is just a collection of ramblings so that you can get a quick handle of what I think about stuff.
Traffic – trams and bikes
First things first, I support the tramway system that was approved in last november is just about to start construction. Of course it will be expensive but that money is not diverted away from anything else and the investment is projected to more than pay for itself. So by the time the initial debt is paid off the city may actually be on the plus side. The math isn’t obvious or simple but it has a lot to do with lower commute times, rising land values, lot sales and increasing demand. All in all it seems to be a good deal even financially.
There are very obvious parts too. Several of Tampere’s major bus lines serve primarily the same areas/routes, for example city center – Hervanta. A tram can fit 4 to 5 times more people per unit than a bus so replacing these routes with a tram gives us the same capacity with fewer drivers. Also, a tram unit has a service life expectancy of about 40 years as opposed to the 10-13 years of an average bus. Electricity costs vary but will in the long term certainly be lower than fossil fuels.
The tram does not pollute, is cost effective, is very accessible and with its high capacity it actually frees up more space for other vehicles on the road. What’s not to like?
My favorite mode of transportation, however, is bicycling. I have never owned a car in my life. I live in the center so if I’m not going far enough to need a bus, I either bike or walk. Usually bike because it’s faster. When I moved here 14 years ago Tampere was far from a biker friendly city. There is much work left but I’m delighted to say things have improved a lot.
The plans for the new Hämeenkatu (after the tram project gets done) are looking very good. Finally bike lanes (or bikeways, not sure about the terminology here) on the main street! This has been an abysmally bad place for biking forever. The 2-year experiment with bike lanes was ok but this will actually be good. Now we just need goog bike lanes all accross the city. They should be almost as abundant as roads for cars. In the very least they should connect the same areas.
There is also a proposal to introduce shared-use city bikes to Tampere. Similar attempts have mostly failed in the past in major Finnish cities but the latest endeavour in Helsinki has been a massive success. They are expanding their bike fleet to 1400 bikes and 140 stations next summer. It seems that the key was implementing a (low) fee to using the bikes and a easy-to-use technology for paying without the need for cash. A similar system might work just as well in Tampere and is definitely worth at least experimenting with.
Building and un-building
Those that know me well know that I am very much what you might call an urbanist (is that a word?). I prefer denser and taller cities and filling inefficiently used gaps in or near the city center. In short, I prefer something we don’t see in Finland almost at all. Ok, so I want Blade Runner style mile-high skyscrapers. How is that green?
The answer is two-fold. First, building denser and higher puts the same amount of people in a smaller land area, which means we require less extra space from outside the current city structure. Hence, nature gets saved. Second, building denser and higher puts the same amount of people in a smaller land area, which means shorter travel distances. When people live close to their jobs and services they either don’t (mostly) need to rely on their personal car for transportation or if they do they can drive it less. Nature wins again. And this is not even mentioning all the other benefits that a good population density affords.
This being said, there is the question of building new over old. As a general rule I have no problem here. Sometimes there is a good reason to demolish or otherwise significantly alter the existing building base. But othere times not. Finland has a grim history – mostly from the 1960s to the 1980s of demolishing beautiful old buildings in the name of progress and efficiency. We have mostly learned from these mistakes but sometimes the old habits raise their ugly head.
This very nice almost 100-year old building is about to get the hammer in the near future.
The reason is a mold/fungus infestation that is claimed to be too severe for removal. Now, I am not saying this is necessarily untrue. But with our history in mind it easily sounds more like too expensive for removal. I am all for adding extra floorspace to old city blocks like this. There is space in the middle of the block for a whole new building if parking goes underground or the building could even be raised by a few floors. This goes for many many blocks around and near the city center. So we should at least make really really sure if the building or its exterior walls can be saved before we put the hammer to it.
I could keep writing but I suppose this is as much as most readers are willing to handle at once. I’ll try to put at least one more of these together before the election gets too close. I know non-Finnish readers cannot possibly be satisfied with how little I’ve provided so far, so if any questions are raised or you just can’t seem to make up your mind about a candidate, please feel free to contact me.
Tamperelainen toimittaja ja ehdokas kaupunginvaltuustoon kuntavaaleissa 2021.