Are refugees a topic for the Ausländerbeirat or not?

The first meeting of Oberursel’s Ausländerbeirat after their inaugural meeting started off less spectacularly than the previous one had.  Held on Monday, 8th February, 2016, it was a 18:03 that Dr. Franz Zenker (ILO) asked “shall we start?”, with only 5 of the 9 members present.  “You’re the chairman” came the reply from Natalia Bind (AZO), who only a month before had appeared to be more eager to get things going.

At the time, there were several hundred refugees still camped out in one of the school halls, so it was a topic likely to be discussed.  Indeed, it was even on the Agenda.  Twice.  Four weeks previously the mayor, Hans-Georg Brum, had made it a key topic for the committee.

So when a question was posed about why there had been no mention in that previous meeting of a local building being set up to take 200 asylum seekers, less than 24 hours before the fire brigade carried the beds in, the reply was that the town itself was only informed by the local government (Kreis) at a very late stage.  Thomas Eifert, the committee’s contact in the town hall, commented that “the communication is really bad”. [Read more…]

From the Ausländerbeirat: the old chairman stays, the new refugees are coming

The inaugural meeting of the new Ausländerbeirat last Friday was no normal meeting, especially with the number of guests who were present.  Many of the town’s councillors and members of the administration had come along to observe the meeting, so that almost all of the political parties from the council were represented.  Even the press seats where unusually well occupied.

As previously reported, the election at the end of last November gave voters a choice of two lists of candidates.  The “Internationale Liste Oberursel” (ILO) led by Dr. Franz Zenker won 5 seats, whilst “Alle Zusammen Oberursel” (AZO) led by Natalia Bind won 4.  Both had said after the election that they would be standing for election as the new chairperson.

As it turned 6pm it did not so good for Dr. Zenker’s majority, as two of his members were still missing, and it was impossible to miss Natalia Bind grinning like a cheshire cat on the other side of the table.  “It’s 6 O’Clock” she said cheerfully.  “We can start, we have a quorum”, she continued.  Dr. Zenker wanted to wait, but gave in in the end and opened the meeting.  He passed over the chair temporarily to Chantal le Nestour (ILO), who as longest-serving member of the committee was to run the meeting until the vote had taken place. [Read more…]

Only 3% went to vote

Sunday, 29th November, 2015 saw the chance for the foreign residents in Oberursel to vote: for a new Ausländerbeirat.  The committee, which is supposed to represent the interests of the foreigners in the town.  Committee members not only have the right to speak at town council sub-committee meetings, for the past year they have also been able to table motions directly to the council itself.

At the last election five years ago the turnout had only been 3.43%, so one of the targets for this election had been to get more voters to the ballot box.  In terms of voters they managed it, but only just: 188 instead of 171 went to the town hall to cast their vote.  But due to the increased number of foreigners in the town, the turnout as a percentage sank to a record low of 3.08%. [Read more…]

From the Ausländerbeirat

All members of the Ausländerbeirat were present when their meeting started on Monday, 9th March, 2015.  The meeting got speedily underway, with no questions from members of the public, a short statement by the chairman, and no messages from the town’s administration.  The guest speaker on the topic of “Anti-discrimination in Frankfurt” was not there, so within a few minutes the committee had already made it to item 6 on their agenda.

However before they could deal with that item, and after some discussion about how exactly to change the agenda, they added item 12: a discussion about the gala evening of the Windrose charity.  Theoretically item 12 could have been added to the end of the agenda, but there was an objection to this as committee member Giannoula Kalargali wanted to be there for the discussion (and vote) and had – as so often in the past – to leave early.

So item 12 became item 5 (neu), or mabye it became just item 5, because item 5 was dropped, because the speaker was not there.  Let’s just say it made it onto the agenda between items 4 and 6. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

More power for the Ausländerbeirat?

When the chairman of Oberursel’s Ausländerbeirat, Dr. Franz Zenker, made his annual speech to the town council at the beginning of February, it was hard to overlook the fact that he wanted his committee to be granted the “Antragsrecht” – the right to put their own motions directly to the council.  In fact, he used the word at least nine times during the speech!

And it would seem that he may get his way, with the SPD, Green party, and CDU all supporting motions to grant the committee that right, although not without some criticism. [Read more…]

From the Ausländerbeirat

The members of the Ausländerbeirat must be getting used to longer meetings, as the one they held on Monday, 20th January, 2014 went on until almost 8.30pm.  That is according to my notes.  The official minutes of the meeting are not yet available on the town’s website to verify this fact, and this may well have to do with one of the new rules that have come into effect for such committees this year.

Until now, the minutes of the meetings have been written by the independent town hall employees known as the “Büro der Gremien”.  Since they are understaffed, it is now up to most of the town council’s sub-committees to nominate someone from their own ranks to write them instead.

The Ausländerbeirat nominated their only paid member – Thomas Eifert – to do the job, and he started mid-meeting, however they made it a condition that he receives additional paid time in order to write up the notes later. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

From the Ausländerbeirat: Good news, Bad news, No news and Forgotten news

When the Ausländerbeirat met for the first time after their summer break they had plenty to discuss.

They had received a letter from the Chairman of the town council, Dr. Christoph Müllerleile, which their own Chairman, Dr. Franz Zenker, read out.  It announced that the town’s council of elders had decided that with immediate notice the members of the Ausländerbeirat would not be allowed to sit in on committee meetings if they were closed to the public, unless the topic being discussed was particularly relevant to foreigners in the town.

This affects their participation in the finance, social & culture, and building & environmental sub-committees.  They will also not receive the documents associated with those parts of the meeting, unless the relevant chairperson deems it necessary. [Read more…]

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