A first look at Oberursel’s Ausländerbeirat

The last time that I wrote about the term “Ausländerbeirat” I had just voted in Oberursel to elect a new one in November 2010.  At the time I asked what the point of having one was, especially I did not know any of the candidates and the turnout at the election was only 3%.

For the benefit of readers who are not aware of the Ausländerbeirat (other than a voting slip every 5 years), it is an elected parliamentary body that every town in Hessen has where more than 1000 foreigners live.  And only those foreigners are eligible to stand for election and to vote.

As I understand it they have two purposes.  One is to support the integration of foreigners in the local community, and the other is to look at the decisions being made by other committees and the town parliament in order to comment on whether the non-German communities will be particularly affected by them.

Whether they have any power to block any of those decisions, I have yet to discover.

Anyway, although I come into contact with at least one member of the Beirat last year at one point, I decided that having started going to sessions of the town’s parliament it was time to take a look at what went on at the Ausländerbeirat.

Franz Zenker (2nd from left) with his deputy (Chantal Le Nestour, right), Homayun Wafa, Nadia Xoulei and Giannoula Kalargali from the Ausländerbeirat

Franz Zenker (2nd from left) with his deputy (Chantal Le Nestour, right), Homayun Wafa, Nadia Xoulei and Giannoula Kalargali from the Ausländerbeirat

The evening starting with not just one but a series of votes on positions that had become vacant due to the chairman moving away from the area.  Whilst this position was quickly refilled (although not as quickly as it may have been if a secret ballot had not been asked for), other positions such as the representative on the suburb committee in Weißkirchen and a deputy representative for the suburb committee in Stierstadt took longer.  In fact, as none of the members volunteered the positions remain vacant.

And whilst candidates were lacking for those committees, there was a tightly fought contest for the job of representing the Beirat on the traffic committee – so tight in fact, that one of the candidates asked for a re-run of the vote!

Moving on to the part of the evening where current topics were to be discussed, the first item on the agenda was the town’s integration concept, but as not everyone had read it the items was deferred to the next meeting, and I have no idea whether this is something new or the same concept that was announced to be discussed at the end of 2010.

Next were the reports from the other town committees, some of which could not be reported on as the person who attended the meetings is no longer a member of the Beirat.

From another committee it was reported that child-care costs in the town are to be increased, or actually have been increased since 1st August – something that the town parliament approved 8 weeks ago.  When another member asked why they were being raised, the answer as that they had not been an increase for 9 years, which quite frankly is simplifying the situation quite a bit.

Finally the time arrived for what could have been the most interesting part of the evening – the Bebauungspläne.  Three of them were up for discussion, include the one affecting the swimming pool car park which is up before the planning permission committee this evening.

Now it could probably be said that the swimming pool car park is probably not really a case that requires any special consideration for foreign residents.  But since the members of the Beirat would probably not be able to decide that, because when the reached the item “Bebauungsplan Nr.218 Altkönigstraße Steinmühlenweg” the first question was “what’s that about then?”

Don’t they read the documents that they get in advance of the meeting?  Don’t they know what is going on in the town?

The whole thing was played down by the claim “we are not building experts, we don’t need to give advice on this” and “we are only volunteers”.

Do I, as a foreigner living in Oberursel, really want people representing me in the town hall who (a) don’t read documents that they have been sent, (b) skip over important items in the Agenda because they don’t understand them, and (c) don’t want to go to other committee meetings even though it appears to be part of the job?

And, I might add, getting paid an attendance fee (“Sitzungsgeld”) from tax-payers’ money for being there?

Having been to one of their meetings, I am probably more sceptical than ever as to why we need this committee and what purpose it serves, especially with so few of the eligible votes actually taking part in their election in the first place.

Let’s see if the meeting next month is any better…

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

Comments

  1. I had been wondering about this Beirat’s purpose for years too.

    Glad you attended and shared your experience with us.

    Noticed everyone smiling, but Franz Zenker. Was there a reason for this?;-)

  2. Franz Zenker says

    Could You explain to the reader the purpose of this article ?

    • The purpose of the article? Because I am trying to understand how different parts of the town’s administration work and explain them to my readers here. I have visited other public meetings in the past few months and written about them here as well.

      In the case of the Ausländerbeirat it is something that I voted for myself in the election two years ago and wanted to see what went on in a typical sitting.

      I try to give an accurate picture of what went on through my observations, and in this case I have been critical of many of the results – or lack of them.

  3. Franz Zenker says

    I still do not understand what Your goals are …normally I do

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