Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seminar I: Stuttgart (2)

During the seminars we meet with academics, politicians, business people, and representatives of local culture/history to get a rounded view of the particular topic we're looking at. Since one of our topics included Bosch, and therefore BW, we had a chance to visit the Minister President's offices and speak with his chief-of-staff. The new Minister President is from the Green Party, an amazing development for a state that has been ruled by the CDU uninterrupted since 1953.

There are differing opinions about why the Greens won, but it is clear that the Fukushima nuclear crisis and the Stuttgart 21 project were catalysts for change. The Green's interpretation is that the citizens of BW were tired of being excluded from politics and were demanding more civil engagement whereas the CDU is of the general opinion that in the typical German fashion, the voters overreacted to the nuclear issue in Japan and the Green's took advantage of this fact. Both sides are likely to be somewhat right. The Green Party was formed as a result of the nuclear issue decades ago and in an international poll, Germans were ranked as the most reactive and more paranoid about nuclear energy. On the other hand, with the growth of the internet and easy communication, more citizens are aware of the policies their governments are implemented and they are not thrilled when they feel laws are implemented for political or monetary reasons rather than for the greater good.

The chief-of-staff outlined a new citizen engagement policy that includes discussions with stakeholders prior to the implementation of new projects and an effort to provide forums and areas where citizens can voice their opinions and provide feedback. Although I like the initiative, I sometimes question how effective simple "town hall meetings" are going be when considering bigger projects like Stuttgart 21. I think they will need a larger and more integrated program to really see impact citizen opinions and enhance engagement but nonetheless, I find this a very positive development.

These offices also have an in-house curator, and she's responsible for the management and development of the art and furniture within the building. We had a tour around the inside (I am not posting pictures because other people are in them), and it's interesting to see the influences from the different time periods. One room looks like Nixon may have chilled out there, whereas another looks nearly 200 years old. 


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