Initiators take stock of the citizens’ initiative against green spaces – Munich

Early on Wednesday, Tobias Ruff drove up to the town hall with a small wheel loader; long before he had to go to the general assembly of the city council as parliamentary group spokesman for the ÖDP and Munich List. At eight o’clock at the western end of Marienplatz he rolled a green plastic carpet in front of the van of the vehicle; He and his helpers draped twigs, sand, shovels and all sorts of animal figures on the narrow strip. The ensemble symbolized Munich’s green spaces, which are threatened by construction vehicles and which, not only in Ruff’s opinion, need to be protected.

More than 50 representatives from around a dozen organizations met in front of the town hall that morning to once again demonstrate for their citizens’ initiative – “preserve green spaces”. Among them were local politicians from the ÖDP and Munich List, environmental activists from the Federal Nature Conservation Association and the State Association for Bird Protection, and committed residents who came together in the Bund Munich citizens’ initiatives or other interest groups. On posters they asked: “How much green still has to go?” They demanded: “We need trees.” And: “Take citizens’ will seriously.”

That was what the demonstrators were primarily concerned about: the feeling that their concerns were not being taken seriously.

On March 1, 2023, the Munich City Council, with a majority of the Greens/Pink List and CSU/Free Voters, adopted the contents of the citizens’ petition, which was supported by around 60 organizations and signed by around 60,000 Munich residents. After a year, the initiators took stock: the municipality has implemented practically nothing.

The city council has decided on the development of green spaces 21 times in the past twelve months, says Ruff: “Only one has been preserved” – an old tree stand at Tucher Park. Otherwise, it was argued in every single case that the plans were already too far advanced to stop them. No citizens’ initiative in Munich has ever had less success.

“We now fear that after this year even more decisions will be made against the request,” says Stefan Hofmeir, who, like Ruff, acted as spokesman for the request. Hofmeir once fought for the Unnützwiese in Trudering and thus set in motion the citizens’ initiative to preserve green spaces throughout the city. Hofmeir also stood on Marienplatz on Wednesday morning to signal that commitment and commitment do not end, on the contrary.

According to the mayor, the decision is valid for an unlimited period

The ÖDP/Munich-List faction submitted an urgent motion to the general assembly of the city council in which they demanded that the body continue to feel committed to the goal and intention of the citizens’ initiative. As was the case with the high-rise decision, with the rejection of the third runway at the airport and with the phase-out of hard coal. “We want a positioning again,” confirms Ruff: “Has the topic been cleared up or do you recognize its importance?”

As expected, the application was rejected. Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) also contradicted Ruff’s opinion that after a year the time in which the city was bound to the citizens’ initiative would expire. This deadline only applies to requests that the city does not accept, explained Reiter; But if the council agrees to the request, it would be like a city council decision that is valid indefinitely.

So the topic remains on the agenda. “We insist on preserving every single green space,” says Ruff. He criticizes how the majority in the town hall is playing off the positive occupation of properties against each other: “Where green spaces are lost, daycare centers, senior citizens’ or refugee homes should be put there. You would never say with green spaces that a commercial area will be added.”

Hofmeir points out that Munich is already the most sealed city in Germany. He demands: “The citizens’ initiative must be implemented by the city council in the long term.” The demonstrators on Marienplatz agree that the importance of unsealed soil is increasing for the quality of life in the city, for local recreation, but also for mitigating the consequences of climate change. “The next tropical nights are definitely coming,” says Hofmeir, “and a green flat roof won’t help. Only green spaces will help.”

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