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#166: Coalition deal, law 'n' order, let's get digital, hospital fire, nasal vax
Berlin's most dense in P'Berg
Dear 20 Percent,
I love a good April Fools article. Back when I worked at Exberliner, we’d usually run one about Berghain, like this one from 2011 about the club buying deceased polar bear Knut’s fur, which was believed by more people than you’d expect.
This year, the left-wing taz had me duped with its “scoop” that Russia, strapped for cash because of western sanctions, was selling its embassy on Unter den Linden to Chinese tech firm Huawei, which would soon be setting up a showroom in the ground floor. That Russia and its thug-in-chief would suffer such a loss of prestige strongly appealed to the reptilian parts of my brain. Alas, a joke.
That the centre-right CDU will be heading a Berlin government for the first time in two decades sounds like a joke in a city where hardly anyone can remember Mayor Eberhard Diepgen who stepped down in 2001.
Mayor-to-be Kai Wegner (CDU) and still-mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) released their 135-page coalition agreement (here’s the whole PDF) for the next city government Monday. Here are a few key takeaways:
Transport: Invest “up to” €10 billion in infrastructure with a focus on extending existing U-Bahn lines. Less emphasis on new tram lines. Not a word about extending the A100 autobahn from Treptow to Prenzlauer Berg. Continuation of the €29 ticket as soon as possible — meaning it might run out at the end of April and then be resumed a few months later. Why is stuff so complicated in Germany?
Housing: Build “on average up to” 20,000 new flats per year, including “up to” 5,000 social housing units. On constructing housing on Tempelhofer Feld: explore “the possibilities of cautious perimeter development”. If they really try to build on the former airport, expect riots.
Law ‘n’ order: An “immediate, permanent and comprehensive" acquisition of body cams for police, firefighters and Ordnungsamt officers. Tasers for cops in all precincts. Introduction of “incident-related” video surveillance in “high-crime” zones. New rules making it easier to ban demonstrations. More effective removal of illegally dumped trash — in the hope that it will reduce crime à la the broken window theory — 40 years after that theory was devised.
Administrative reform: “Digital Bürgeramt of the future”; a "single point of contact" that is as simple and intuitive as possible. “AI-supported facilitation measures”; Automated processes! Let’s go!
With the exception of the law ‘n’ order stuff, which always seems to take priority under more conservative administrations, I’d be surprised if much of this gets done in the next four years. It’s a lot easier to buy a bunch of tasers than to build thousands of flats. And will Team Wegner/Giffey have the energy and gumption to overcome the sloth and inefficiency and convolutedness baked into the Berlin system?
Commentators usually write things like “cautiously optimistic” about new governments but let’s not be April-fooled by this litany of promises. Berlin bleibt Berlin, as one non-Berlin paper put it. Berlin remains Berlin. For better or for worse.
More news below!
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Refugees make way for tourists
As the travel season kicks off in earnest, 650 refugees are being moved out of hotels to make way for regular paying guests, reports Tagesspiegel. Hundreds of Ukrainians are being moved to temporary structures at former Tegel Airport. Asylum-seekers will be moved to accommodation at former Tempelhof Airport. Meanwhile, the police revealed that Ukrainians were more likely to be victims of attacks in Berlin than any other nationality, with 3,250 crimes reported over the past 12 months in which at least one victim was a Ukrainian. The Alliance of Ukrainian Organisations (AUO) said it suspected many of the reported incidents were hate crimes.
Arson in X-Berg hospital
A 48-year-old man is believed to have set a fire in the psychiatric ward of Urban Krankenhaus in Kreuzberg around midnight Sunday. The police said the man had hoped to become a patient in the ward. A woman was treated for a severe case of smoke inhalation after she got stuck in an elevator during the fire. Smoke spread to eight floors. The entire emergency department had to be evacuated.
Nose spray vax
Berlin researchers say they’ve successfully tested a nose spray vaccination against the coronavirus in hamsters, according to RBB. After two nasal vaccinations, the virus was no longer able to reproduce, Charité hospital explained Monday, together with the Max Delbrück Center and the Free University (FU). Researchers also found the nose spray made the virus less transmittable and said the method could possibly used as a booster in future, but no human trials have been performed yet.
Northern Winskiez, the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood between Greifswalder, Danziger and Marienburger Straße as well as Prenzlauer Allee, is the most densely populated in Berlin: 36,291 people live per square kilometer in the trendy zone, according to a paywalled Tagesspiegel story. If everyone lived in Berlin as close together as our Mitbürger (fellow citizens) in Winskiez, the city-state would have 32 million residents. Imagine!
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