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Commentary by Karel Holomek: Czech mayors' declaration is amateurish nonsense!

Brno, 26.2.2011 21:20, (http://blog.aktualne.centrum.cz))
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I am looking at the Mayors' Declaration of Nový Bydžov, dated 14 February. It is hard to believe this Declaration is the result of the efforts of some of the top leaders of our town halls, aided and abetted by representatives of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, and as it turns out, it was not written by those who really comprise the elite of this country (thank God)!

Point 1 of the Declaration says that it supports Czech MP Řápková in her promotion of legislative amendments concerning the resolution of the issue of the socially "inadaptable". There is nothing to be done but to subject these recommendations to a genuine analysis, at least in their most garish points where "the desire is the father of the thought" - and what rash thoughts they are!

Point 1a calls for immediately anchoring into legislation the option of subjecting benefits for those in material distress to the "execution of decisions", by which is meant collections. When Ms Řápková was mayor of Chomutov, she presented the rest of us with an example of that approach in all its glory. That attempt didn't exactly turn out for the best. The collections cost the town quite a bit of money and increased the misery of the debtors tenfold, because every collections transaction cost them ten times as much as their original debt.

A subsequent legal analysis confirmed that debts cannot be paid from benefits for aid to those in material distress (to say nothing of collections agents' fees). These agents work like loose cannons and cause total upheaval in the lives of those groups among our population who are already drastically impoverished. Such agents very often proceed incorrectly, and it takes a long time to eventually achieve justice in such cases. Could this be the mayors' aim?

It is also unclear why this point kicks off a Declaration which is supposedly a response to disorder, the "inadaptability" of certain parts of the population, and petty crime. The use of collections agents will not combat these phenomena, as they stir up social tensions and upheaval - they certainly do not contribute to municipal calm.

Point 1b calls for banning residency, including a definition of the concept of "nighttime quiet". Nothing against nighttime quiet, but we don't need a law for that - any town can issue its own decree on that issue. The town cop can keep track of that himself even if the mayor doesn't order him to. However, it is well-known that it is impossible to ban residency anywhere in Europe, so how is it supposed to become possible in Czech towns and villages? If something like that is going to work, it has to be for legal reasons. A court would have to decide on an individual basis whom such a ban might concern, and why. Clearly, obviously, it is not possible to make this a general option, not to generalize it such that it fits a certain group, which is evidently what the mayors have in mind. We have already said a thousand times that shifting these problems from one community to another is not the solution. That has already been attempted and condemned, hasn't it?

In point 2, the mayors demand that the government anchor the option into legislation of canceling people's welfare benefits if they are ever abused. What about those people's children? Are they to suffer because their parents are disgraceful? Look for other leverage and options, this won't work!

In point 3, the mayors demand that the government seriously concern itself with their municipal powers through the option of compensating them for their increased costs in caring for foreign citizens, "inadaptables", and those without permanent residency, because such people are a financial burden said to cost every community millions. This a clear, but remarkably naive, idea: We have big problems, so give us money! What are the criteria for calculating and establishing the financial needs related to such difficulties? What about the already-existing social system, the services, the activities of labor offices and all the other administrative units that already exist in this society and in these municipalities?

On the other hand, it is well known that these municipalities cannot stand being advised by the government as to how they might behave or what they might do to prevent these problems. These communities do their own thing, and what they do often contravenes the very purpose of government programs, such as those for integrating members of the Roma community into society. If I am going to demand something, then I have to cooperate. Point 3 completely contradicts this essential principle.

Point 4 reveals the quality of the assembled mayors' brain trust, in all its nakedness. There is no need to literally cite the options it lists; the point is that the mayors are demanding optimization (evidently of the activity) of the Czech Policie so as to uphold the law and prevent reductions to our citizens' security – which is pretty much a direct quote.

I consider it an insult to the reader's analytical capacity to explain how purposeless and stupid this demand is. We can't even recommend to our police chiefs the mayors' demand that 50 % of every police officer's workday be spent in the field, as this is already a natural principle of the operations run by each local police head.

Points 5 and 6 are like point 4: Unjustified demands. They concern matters already covered by the agenda of the administration of any state that is even slightly developed, as well as by the system for cooperation between various state institutions and civic institutions and the descriptions of these institutions' activities.

I cannot rid myself of the feeling that the mayors, from the moment they saw one another coming together, determined that their problems were far more complicated and demanding in terms of resolution than they had ever realized, so they ended up giving us this pro forma performance. I would like to call it "primitive", but "stupidity" is the more precise definition of what it is they have shown us.

One can barely bring oneself to write about such "Declarations", because they are a real waste of time. However, among people who are not necessarily conversant in questions of municipal and state administration, this Declaration sounds like the brilliant opinion of authorities who understand such things. We can only be grateful that only a negligible percentage of the total number of mayors in the country was even present.

Ladies and gentlemen of the municipalities and the Chamber of Deputies, this has really not been a success. The best thing would be if everyone quickly forgot about your effort, which I hope was well-intentioned, because it certainly will not do!

Gwendolyn Albert, Karel Holomek, Karel Holomek, chair of the Society of Roma in Moravia, http://blog.aktualne.centrum.cz/blogy/karel-holomek.php?itemid=12329, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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