Last day for the kiosk – first week for the petition

It was always going to be a sad day at the kiosk next to the U-Bahn station in the Nassauer Straße, with Friday, 14th December, 2012 being the last day of business for the kiosk before it finally closed for good.

With the shelves slowly becoming empty, many of the regular customers had turned up to spend a last evening there with a cup of coffee or a mug of mulled wine.

Much of the conversation going on concerned the future of the kiosk – or lack of it – and in particular the “Bürgerbegehren” that has been started this week.

A “Bürgerbegehren” is a petition to held a referendum on something, and there are strict rules on how to carry one out.


A model of the kiosk

A model of the kiosk

In this case, there is only a limited amount of time available, as the referendum would concern a decision taken by the town council at the end of November, ie. not to extend the lease on the kiosk.

Then, in Hessen at least, 10% of those eligible to vote have to sign the petition with their full name, address and date of birth.  These details will be checked by the town’s Einwohnerbüro, and if that number has been reached – currently that would be 3,298 for Oberursel – then the matter goes back to the town council.

The council has a chance to revoke their decision at this point, or proceed with the referendum (“Bürgerentscheid”), meaning that the people of the town would be asked if they are for or against the kiosk remaining and being run by the same family who have been doing so for the past 24 years.  This has to take place as soon as possible, with 6 months at the very latest, and the simple majority wins – but only if their votes account for 25% of those eligible to vote.

Bernd Peppler and Gisela Grützmacher with the petition lists

Bernd Peppler and Gisela Grützmacher with the petition lists

If this is the case, then the decision is binding for the next three years, otherwise the whole thing goes back to the town council for them to debate again.

Supporters of the kiosk are now collecting signatures to try and fulfil that target figure of 3,298 with a healthy safety margin in case some of the entries turn out to be incorrect, and they have until 17th January, 2013 to do so.  Remember that they are collecting signatures to force a referendum, so whether someone is for or against the kiosk at this stage, it is probably in their interest to sign to get the matter resolved.

To make life slightly easier, they have made the form available as a PDF file to download, which can be printed off, signed by up to 15 people, and then returned to the computer store opposite the station, ie. opposite where the kiosk was.  And to keep everyone up-to-date with their progress, they have started a Facebook page (in German).

Daniela and Christoph Alles turn off the lights

Daniela and Christoph Alles turn off the lights

Comparing Oberursel’s station with Stuttgart’s project may not be quite comparing like with like, but a referendum here could the same effect as the referendum there had – either the people want a kiosk, or they don’t want one, as long as there is enough interest in taking part in this seldom used tool of democracy.


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 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.

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