The Ausländerbeirat: a lost cause?

Regular readers of this website will know that I am a regular visitor to the Ausländerbeirat meetings in Oberursel, and often critical of what goes on there.

This week, after their meeting on Monday, 13th April, 2015, I can only shake my head and wonder what the purpose of this committee is.

First of all, what use is a committee without proper minutes?  Having pointed out the two omissions and one error – in my opinion – of the last set of minutes to the chairman, Dr. Franz Zenker, in advance, I effectively gave him the chance to bring the items to the table himself or I would ask about them in the public question part of the meeting.  So he did.

These were:

1. Giannoula Kalargali left the meeting at 18.40 but this is not stated in the minutes.  On this point committee member Natalie Bind did not see a need for this and even the committee’s person in the town hall, Thomas Eifert, commented “it has not been up until now”.  Luckily I had printouts of previous minutes with me and was able to point out that it certainly was.  But all the committee was able to agree on was to start putting it in the minutes from now on, but not the change the last set.

2. The minutes make no mention of my presentation of the planning applications.  This, apparently never officially took place, so it is not in the minutes.  The fact that I explained to the committee what is set to be built in the town, that they had no idea about because the person who is meant to know had left the meeting, and it is not in the minutes.

Before we got any further, Natalie Bind herself wanted part of the minutes changed.  One item did not mention herself and Frau Kalargali, even though – they claim – they spoke up at that point last month.  I cannot confirm this, as my notes make no mention of it, but by directly asking other members of the committee to agree (not whether they agree to the fact, but whether they agree to the change) she managed to get 4 votes in favour of the minutes being amended, with 2 abstentions and 1 against.  I guess some people just need prompting with “you’re in favour of that as well” before they will actually vote for something.

Back to my third point.

3. The minutes state an answer that I gave after the meeting, rather than the question that the committee wanted to ask.  For me, that is not a true record of the meeting.  But “das bleibt so” was Dr. Zenker’s response, to which council member Chantal Le Nestour commented that she why one amendment was voted on but not this one.  However the committee wanted to continue, so all three things that I consider to be wrong are going to stay that way.

The citizens’ questions time was almost insignificant after that, and considering what was still to come.  I had the only question, and that was how much the interests of the foreigners in the town had been taken into a account in the new app which was due to be launched two days later.  Admittedly I only officially knew about the app because I had an invitation to a press conference about it, but on Google’s Play Store for almost three months!

“What app?  I don’t know about an app” was Thomas Eifert’s response, and none of those present seemed to know anything about it.  Was this a lack of communication in the town hall, or just a lack of reading the information on their iPads?  I don’t expect we’ll get an answer on that one.

So after some reporting on the gala evening with the Windrose charity (the one some of them wanted to have their tickets paid for out of the budget…) and the announcement that there will be an information evening on 6th May for prospective candidates for the committee, we came to a very interesting part of the evening.

Seriously, this was very good.  The chairman of Hessen’s Ausländerbeirat, Enis Gülegen had come to talk about Antidiscrimination in Frankfurt.  He talked about how they have rules against discrimination in Frankfurt that apply to all of the municipal areas and organisations that have anything to do with the town have to abide by them as well.  There is even an office that has the power to investigate any claims of discrimination with access to any files they wish to see.

He told the committee about the 10-point-plan that Frankfurt has to make it more welcoming to foreigners, throughout the town in places such as the museums, the music school, the theatre, and even adult education classes.

But perhaps the most important tip that he gave was to get statistics and ask questions about them.  For example, what percentage of children have foreign backgrounds at each of the different types of school.  What percentage of town employees have foreign backgrounds, or the percentage of people in the sports clubs, and to measure this against the percentage of the population.

The majority of the committee agreed that this was something that they should do in future, and gave Chantal Le Nestour (who is not yet certain if she will remain with the committee after November) the task of keeping track of all the questions that they intend to ask.

After his talk, Enis Gülegen unfortunately had to leave, so he was unable to see how short the memory of the committee members can be.

Time was getting on, it was now 19:25 and so before she could give her report from the planning committee, it was time for Giannoula Kalargali to leave the meeting, leaving Chantal Le Nestour to comment that the committee would “as usual” have to make do with their documentation.

At this point the chairman, Dr. Zenker, tried to talk about the current events taking place in Germany concerning asylum seekers, but when he tried to bring up the subject of a shots being fired at an asylum seekers’ home in Hofheim (which is about 10km from Oberursel as the crow flies) the topic was blocked by, of all people, his wife.  “Can we get on?” she insisted.

So instead of finally talking about something affecting foreigners in the area, they got on with their committee reports instead.

Now in preparation for forthcoming meetings of other committees, they generally go through the agendas.  Except for the planning committee, because there is no-one there to do that.  Unless, of course, I get asked to explain something – which of course as we now know does not officially take place.  So having established that this cannot officially happen, Natalie Bind said that her husband (who is also only present as a member of the public, and not a member of the committee) had something to say about the planning applications.  It will be very interesting to see if that makes it into the minutes of the meeting!

But the real failure came on the other topics that they mentioned, for example a discussion set to take place the next day on private day care in the town, or about social housing.

Having listened for  almost an hour on how they should be asking questions and agreed with it, WHY is no-one asking the question what percentage of children in funded private daycare have foreign backgrounds?  WHY is no-one asking the question what percentage of those waiting for social housing have foreign backgrounds?

And whilst I’m being critical, why is the information evening for prospective candidates on 6th May being organised by a sub-committee of the Ausländerbeirat and not by the electoral commission?  Or if this is an official electoral sub-committee, how come there are people on it who have stated their intention to stand for re-election?  Surely those preparing the information about the election should be impartial?

What’s the point?  What does this committee ever actually do?  When they get a chance to talk about topics affecting foreigners, they don’t.  When they get good advice, they ignore it just minutes later.  And why are they not interested in having accurate minutes of their meetings?

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. Dear Graham,

    I applaud your perseverance with this committee! I moved to Oberursel last August and subscribe to this blog to see what is happening in town. It is mostly events for older people and such but every so often something relevant comes up. It seems to me that the committee still functions as it did back in the good old days and it is more a gathering opportunity for those who have been around for a long time rather than a committee with a purpose and function. Maybe the committee is not really interested in being a committee that gets things done? Maybe nothing will change until someone is “elected” that has that vision, but even then, it may ery well be blocked by the majority who do not share that opinion. Quite frankly, from the sound of it, I would not expect any changes in the status quo unless a directive from the outside that people are help accountable to are expected to address. In the meantime, perhaps a few beers before these meetings get underway would be a good solution?? 🙂 Good luck!!

  2. Dr Franz Zenker says

    “And whilst I’m being critical, why is the information evening for prospective candidates on 6th May being organised by a sub-committee of the Ausländerbeirat and not by the electoral commission?”
    Graham Tappenden

    ANSWER:
    This is an initiative of the Ausländerbeirat and done due to the ideas of the AGAH …this has nothing to do with the electoral commission. We want to indroduce the Ausländerbeirat to prospective candidates. Being critical is one thing being supportive is another thing. If You are so unhappy with the Ausländerbeirat then it might be the best for You to become a candidate and contribute to the vision of the Ausländerbeirat I have and believe me it will come to reality. Your article is definately not based on objectivity. We had major events last year in which You did not participate. You were not there when we informed the foreigners about the situation of old aged pension. You were also not present when we informed the public about religious education in terms if Islam. No Mr Tappenden was present.
    No article about that. You were also not there when we distributed at Christms time presents to the Asylum seekers in Oberursel. All in all I get the severe impression that You are trying very hard to give a picture about the Ausländerbeirat that is not objective.

    It is also none of Your business to evaluate where and and how long the members stay in a session. You also did not mention that my proposal for a comitee at my speech in parliament is coming into action and becomes reality. Having read Your article I come to the conclusion that You are not really interested in helping the Ausländerbeirat, but You are interested to describe a subjective opinion.

    So my question is : What is the purpose of Your intentions to write about something You apparently do not like ?

    • “You were not there when we informed the foreigners about the situation of old aged pension.”
      Yes, I was, and we spoke after the event. I have even cited this in the past as a positive example of the Ausländerbeirat’s work.

      “No article about that. You were also not there when we distributed at Christms time presents to the Asylum seekers in Oberursel.”
      Actually yes, I have mentioned this in articles as well, but as the press were not invited to the appointment, I haven’t written a dedicated article on it.

      “It is also none of Your business to evaluate where and and how long the members stay in a session.”
      The members receive expenses for going to these sessions and are elected to do a job there, even if it is voluntary. As a tax-payer, I feel I have every right to criticise someone for consistently failing to do that job and presumably still receiving the expenses. Actually here I am being critical of the minutes being inaccurate on this point.

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