A long evening with the Ausländerbeirat

If the members of the Ausländerbeirat thought they were in for a short meeting when they met on Monday, 23rd September, 2013, then they had to think again.  Lasting almost two hours, the meeting was the longest that I personally had experienced to date.

Part of the reason for this was certainly down to the questions from the public, two of which led to extensive discussions.

One question that did not was about a new playground in the town next to a building where – according to one of the town councillors who happened to be present – a lot of foreigners live.  The opening times for the playground only list work days, but not Sunday.  So is it closed on a Sunday or just open all day?

Not that the Ausländerbeirat could really be expected to give an answer to this, but maybe they could have passed the question on instead of referring the councillor to the social and culture sub-committee of which, ironically, he is himself a member.

The next question came from a reader of this website and concerned the cancellation of a “Muslim barbeque” to celebrate the end of Ramadan which had been due to be held at the Portstraße.  Although the reason for the cancellation was given by the town hall as a lack of personnel for the event, there had been an on-line campaign to write to the Mayor complaining about such a religious event taking place in the town.

The question was simple: why did the Ausländerbeirat not have anything to say about it in their previous sitting?

The simple answer from Chairman Dr. Franz Zenker was that had not been informed about it.  When he heard about it for the first time, he said, he had had to look into it for himself.  Others had read about it in the newspaper, at which point he commented that the Ausländerbeirat had a “weakness” when it came to working with the press, or in this case reporting back on such items.

Committee member Chantal Le Nestour put forward an official request to the town’s executive to ask why they had not been informed and the committee is now waiting for a response.

My own question about how other members of the committee felt about their lack of representation at the building and environmental sub-committee was basically blocked as it was deemed to be an internal matter and also because the committee member concerned was not present at the meeting.  (It is worth noting that according to the minutes she was only present for 5 minutes at the last sub-committee meeting  as well, so there was little chance of her reporting on it anyway).

Whilst Frau Le Nestour pointed out that all committee members received the written documentation from the sub-committees, Dr.Zenker was more in favour of a change in flow of information from them.  “We need that information” he commented.

After the questions, the next two items on the Agenda were deemed to keep the committee sitting for a while as well.

The first to be discussed was “Frauenschwimmen” –  a “ladies’ only” time in the new swimming pool.  Would enough come to make it financially viable?  Would it be possible to have female lifeguards and technical staff on duty?  Would “Burkinis” be allowed?  It was all part of a larger discussion that will now move forward for someone else – possibly the town council, possibly the operator – to decide.

Next to be discussed were the election posters of the NPD party.  It was reported to the committee that in some towns these had been removed due to the content, after which the NPD had apparently complained to police that this was criminal damage to their property.  However it was also reported that some police stations had allegedly been unwilling to accept complaints against the posters, even though the complainants were of the opinion that the posters amounted to “incitement of hatred”.  It was not made public which police stations either of the situations had occurred at.

The topic brought the discussion about the Muslim barbeque back onto the table and the question to the town’s executive.  More specifically, not only why the Ausländerbeirat had not been informed, but whether the event had been held at a later date or if it was planned to do so.  It was also questioned as to why the town did not request a police presence for the event if this was deemed necessary.

A vote was taken as to whether to put these questions to the town’s executive as being from the whole committee, which received 5 votes in favour and one abstention.

On an administrative note the town hall employee responsible for the Ausländerbeirat, Thomas Eifert, informed the committee that they had a budget of €2,500 per annum.  He also listed the total expenditure for the past four years, but was then requested to provide more details as to how the budget has been spent in the past.

After a suggestion that the “current developments in integration” should be renamed just to “current developments” on the agenda, it was time for report on the other sub-committee meetings and discuss the future ones.

There was some discussion at this point about the new flyer and homepage for the Ausländerbeirat, which the committee is expected to write and organise its translation themselves.  Dr. Zenker also commented that most of the committee had failed to turn up to a separate meeting to discuss the content of the new homepage.

When it came to the savings that the town wants to make on cultural events, the topic of the carnival procession was raised.   However having the written documentation for the forthcoming social and culture sub-committee was obviously not sufficient for committee member Natalia Bind to explain what exactly the CDU motion was all about.  He sentence began with “it’s probably about” and then differed somewhat from the version at the last town council meeting.

And with committee member Giannoula Kalargali missing from the meeting, Dr. Zenker himself took on the task of explaining the planning permission applications by using his iPad to show photos and maps from the BrunnenTreff forum.  It just left him asking the questions “who’s going to go [to the meeting]?  who is her backup?” and with no other answer forthcoming announcing “we have to go [there], otherwise I will go there myself”.

Maybe that’s not a bad idea.


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.

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