The Same Procedure as Last Year at the Ausländerbeirat

Regular readers may have noticed that there have been less articles about the Ausländerbeirat on this blog in the second half of last year. There are a number of reasons for that, but one is the lack of new things to write about. One meeting is very much like another, and the few highlights that did happen didn’t always make it as far as an article.

But with the committee’s attention turning towards their own election on 29th November, 2015, would they make an effort to be more productive? Maybe even come up with their first motion for the town council?

The first meeting of the Ausländerbeirat in 2015 took place on Monday, 19th January, 2015. All members were present, except for their man in the town hall, Thomas Eifert, who was on holiday in Thailand.

There were very few guests, and when it came to the public questions part of the meeting, I was the only one who had anything to ask.

So I asked if it was possible to inform the foreigners in the town about the forthcoming election by writing to them directly with unbiased information, and not just send them the usual voting notification postcard. One of the committee members, Nathalia Bind, was quick to point out that the information would be in the newspaper at some point during the year.

Now, “in the newspaper” usually means in the Taunus Zeitung, because that is usually where the town hall place their official notices in addition to issuing a press release. I don’t know if any of the local newspapers keep statistics about how many foreign residents actually read their publications and I suspect that I am probably in a minority in doing so. Even free newspapers such as the weekly Oberurseler Woche are only going to be read by someone who can actually understand them. The foreigners living in the town but who do not understand sufficient written German are probably unlikely to even pick up, let alone buy, a newspaper in my opinion.

So the question was posed, and an answer was needed. Normally the committee would have decided whether to pass the question on as a “Frage an den Magistrat”, but in a break with protocol (the public are only allowed to asked questions, not take part in discussions) I had already posed the question and received an answer from the electoral office and the treasury. It IS possible, as long as the information is unbiased, ie. how to vote, when to vote, maybe even when the candidates will present themselves at the town hall, but no information about the candidates themselves. The postage would cost €700.

“Wer soll das bezahlen?” (“Who is going to pay for that?”) was Natalia Bind’s quick response to this information. Well, considering that in the past few years the Ausländbeirat has been left wondering how to spend all of their budget and this year even has a birthday bonus of €500, I think they have the means to do that.

Surely it must be their priority to get people voting, after the turnout at the last election 5 years ago of only 3,43%!

The question did not receive any further discussion, except for chairman Dr. Franz Zenker’s information that he intends to hold no less than 3 information events in the town hall for votes in advance of the election. No-one asked how they are going to be paid for. But interestingly, my idea of the postal information made its way into his speech to the town council just a few weeks later. The election itself it set to be the topic of the committee’s next meeting in March.

There was a report on the presents that had been purchased for the children in the asylum-seekers’ home, inclucing the interesting that the people running the home had originally not wanted anyone to visit and had said that there were no childen living there. This turned out to be completely false and there were “a lot” of children there. Luckily, a number of committee members had persevered and gone anyway, accompanied by a member of the town’s executive committee.

There was no information from the town’s administration, so they moved on to “current events”, “Aktuelle Ereignisse”. With the Pegida demonstrations in Germany in full swing and the events in Paris just a few days old, you might have excepted them to be discussed at some length. But this item on the agenda was dealt with in the surprisingly short time of under 5 minutes.

It was time for the reports from the other sub-committees. Natalia Bind reported on the Social and Culture sub-committee and Franz Zenker reported on the Finance sub-committee. Both had news of multi-lingual improvements to services. The information about services that it sent to new parents in the town is now available in a number of languages, and the signs in the town hall have been translated into English and French.

But when it came to Giannoula Kalargali reporting on the Planning and Environmental sub-committee, just 30 minutes into the meeting, Dr. Zenker was very direct and asked her if she went to the meeting. “Yes”, she replied, “but I have to leave now”.

At this point, the leader of the OBG parliamentary group, Georg Braun, who had been watching the proceedings, stepped in. He reminded Frau Kalargali that she held an official position that she had been voted in for, and as such had a duty to attend meetings for their full length unless there is an urgent reason not to do so. such as for health reasons. He made it clear that it is unacceptable to arrange other appointments at the same time as committee meetings. “The appointment is for my health” was her response, at which point she got up and left.

Dr.Zenker was left to ask “what do I do with Planning and Environment? It’s always the same!” Well, it’s not always exactly the same, sometimes she’s just not there, sometimes she didn’t go to the meeting, sometimes she says that her iPad doesn’t work, sometimes she doesn’t have the paperwork with her, and sometimes she just doesn’t remember.

Unfortunately, he used the any other business part of the meeting to announce his intentions to set up, or at least suggest, an inter-fractional group to look into affordable places to live. One of the problems that foreigners have in the town is that, once their asylum request has been granted, they often need to find a job and a flat at the same time. Without any means other than benefits, it is very difficult for them to find a flat, and without someone to live it is just as difficult to find a job.

He suggested it in his speech to the town council as well, but they – for the moment – did not respond. Maybe if the Ausländerbeirat wants to influence the new flats being built in the town, they need better a better flow of information with the Planning sub-committee. But that, it seems, is going to continue this year just as it did last year.

On 29th November this year, it’s time that changed.


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.


  1. Yesterday I met -just by chance- three very active foreigners, who perhaps would candidate in 29th november.
    They seemed to be very well informed about the different discussions of the sub-committees 🙂

    I hope, they will do so
    …because I´m not amused to read, how Madame Kalargali seems to handle her job 🙁

    And a turnout at the last election 5 years ago of only 3,43% is just like nothing !

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