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#150: Bureaucratic disresponsibility, Muslim burials, racist attack
And bad public transport is good for scooter sharing
Hey 20 Percent!
As a kid, I used to get blamed for anything that either my brother or I broke. It would start with my mother yelling at me for something I didn’t do and would then escalate when I denied doing it. “Well,” my mother would yell, “somebody did it!”
I never understood why I was always getting yelled at.
While we were home from college one summer, my neurotic brother vacuumed so vigorously that he broke the vacuum — we had a small discussion about what to do before our mother came home from work and then forgot about it. When she finally did, I was within earshot when she asked him how the vacuum got broken.
“I don’t know,” my brother said, “ask Andrew.” And suddenly decades of pain were clear to me.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s a metaphor for why nothing works in Berlin. If something gets broken in Steglitz and you want to get it fixed, you might first go to the district’s administration. “I don’t think that’s our job,” Steglitz will probably say, thumbing through an all-inclusive vacation catalog. “Ask Berlin.”
You will get an identical response from Berlin.
And then you are in what is officially known as “bureaucratic ping pong” and/or “organized disresponsibility”.
The current coalition, which will be replaced by Sunday’s re-election, this week came up with a way to battle the malady, according to Tagesspiegel: Berlin will worry about the bigger, strategic decisions while the districts handle the piddly stuff. It’s the equivalent of Berlin telling the districts to take the trash out before they do their homework, and then blaming them for anything that gets broken, regardless of who broke it. In short: Berlin’s bureaucratic gridlock will continue.
Have a good week!
The capital of strikes
This week you won’t notice the bureaucratic ping pong because it’s unlikely you’ll meet a public employee — lots of them are on strike, Morgenpost says. Teachers and other educators are out Tuesday and Wednesday to demand smaller class sizes and other health-related benefits — the GEW teacher union says more educators are out sick at the moment than ever before. Berlin predictably says it’s not responsible for class sizes because a national labor bargaining organization sets them. Berlin bureaucrats are also striking Thursday — they want a 10.5 percent pay bump, or at least €500 per month more. And, finally, Deutsche Post/DHL mail people went on strike Monday and again Tuesday hoping to get 15 percent more. I’d make a joke about how mail service has been so bad in Berlin that you didn’t notice but, as the Morgenpost points out, it could affect mail-in ballots for Sunday’s re-election. If you can vote and you’re doing it by mail, send it in today!
Creating more Muslim burial sites
But occasionally some people do feel responsible (and do something): Berlin this year will create 2,000 Muslim gravesites after a January report noted that Berlin was running out of them. The Landschaftsfriedhof Gatow in Spandau, the city-state’s only Islamic cemetery, will be expanded and space will also be made in a Protestant cemetery in Neukölln, according to RBB24. Public cemeteries in Tempelhof-Schöneberg and Mitte will also make room. Muslim burials are exempt from German laws that require a casket and corpses can remain at the sites indefinitely, in accordance with Islamic requirements — German cemeteries normally re-use spaces after several decades because in Germany you only get to be dead temporarily.
Racist attack by right-wing politician
The most despicable attempt at denying responsibility comes from local Berlin politician Kai Borrmann, who predictably belongs to the right-wing AfD. Prosecutors are asking a Berlin court to sentence him to seven months probation as well as a €5,000 donation to assault victims after he bit music journalist Steph Karl outside a Mitte cafe in August 2021, according to the Tagesspiegel. The journalist and a friend were attacked as they tried to leave the cafe because Borrmann had begun calling them the N-word. Borrmann’s attorney says he wasn’t insulting the journalist, who was born in Kenya, he was trying to educate her on the proper use of the term, though that doesn’t explain the bite. But his defense is that he was man- and German-splaining racism? Really? That should be an extra offense. The court is expected to rule Feb. 14.
Berlin bike and scooter rental companies have seen a bump in service since the U2 was forced to halt service on one track at Alex and a tunnel used by the S1, S2, S25 and S26 (the Nord-Süd Tunnel) was closed for repairs on January 6 — it will re-open February 17. Tier has seen a 30-percent increase in rides around Alex and an 18 percent bump near the tunnel, according to Tagesspiegel (paywall). Lime has seen a similar increase while customer numbers dwindle elsewhere in Berlin.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Event recommend ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Is climate justice important to you? In Wednesday’s English-language Insta Live, Klimaliste Berlin activists will share everything you need to know for the upcoming election on Sunday, February 12. German bureaucracy can be daunting, especially when you live here as a foreigner. The Klimaliste wants to enable more residents to participate in democracy and to vote by loosening voting regulations! They'll answer questions on who can vote and in which election and how to find a district office or polling station. The Insta live is Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 7.30pm.
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