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#212: No real solution for Görli/Leo, property papers, yet another mass brawl
Molkenmarkt is an archaeologist's dream ... for now
Dear 20 Percent,
Ah, the little absurdities of bureaucratic life in Germany!
I share with you the following little story: I own a small house in a remote part of Brandenburg. Recently, Germany announced a new way of calulating property tax, so it requested information about the country’s 34 million properties from their owners.
This felt rather inefficient because most of the information requested by the tax authorities, like the size and location of properties, was already freely available in public databases, but owners had to do their duty and fish it out for the tax people. As a good citizen I sent in my stuff by the deadline. Six or seven months later, two cryptic letters arrive in my mailbox simultaneously.
Both letters were a bunch of confusing numbers and legalese. Both of them had the message: “DON’T PAY US ANY MONEY” because each letter contained numbers important in the calculation of property tax (Grundsteuer) but not the amount of the tax itself.
One letter announced the Grundsteuermessbetrag, the other the Grundsteuerwert. The former is, according to Morgenpost, “a factor that is used in addition to the property tax assessment rate and the property tax value to calculate your property tax.”
The Grundsteuerwert is a “factor that indicates the value of your property,” i.e. a fictional estimate of what it’s worth.
A letter about the actual amount of tax I have to pay will be sent in 2025.
I appreciate that Germany wants to be 100% transparent about how taxes are calculated but honestly, do they need to send this stuff in a letter, let alone two letters?
Then there’s the question of cost. Assuming both letters were sent for each property in the country, i.e. 34,000,000 times at 85 cents a postage stamp, it cost an estimated €57,800,000 to send these two letters that, I’m assuming, most people file away in a folder or just bin without looking at.
€57,800,000 for two paper letters - not counting buying the paper, printing, envelope stuffing, etc. For something that could have been dumped in ELSTER or emailed.
More on the same and other news below.
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On Friday the city government held a meeting on security at Görlitzer Park in Kreuzberg and Leopoldplatz im Wedding. “Görli” made headlines following a group rape, allegedly committed by drug dealers operating in the park, while “Leo” has become ground zero for a new wave of crack cocaine addiction. The conference resulted in a paper listing new measures, which may or may nor be implemented. According to BZ, a fence will be built around the Kreuzberg park and the gates will be locked at night. Vegetation will be trimmed back “to establish sightlines”. Both Leo and Görli will see more police, better lighting and “event-related” mobile video surveillance. Social workers will be deployed to support addicts. And, of course, it remains to be seen if the federal government’s plan to legalise cannabis next year will at least partially de-incentivize dealing in Görlitzer Park.
Massive street fight
No fence can contain this: A giant brawl erupted between two families on Kreuzberg’s Mehringplatz Saturday evening, RBB reports. Around 70 people became involved in the fight, some armed with knives, metal bars, planks and pepper spray. Police say they eventually broke it up and are investigating. So far, no info has come out about the root cause of the violence. The two groups had already battled it out on the square on Friday.
About that snail mail…
Not only does the state send out insane amounts of paper mail, it receives ridiculous amounts of it, and, guess what, it’s overwhelmed, according to a damning piece in Tagesspiegel (paywall). In an “e-file pilot project” — it’s always a “pilot project” in Berlin — in the district of Mitte (which includes actual Mitte, Wedding and Tiergarten) — a handful of mail room workers are struggling to scan 20,000 pages of snail mail using a high-speed scanner which digitizes paper forms and letters. But the machine keeps jamming or failing to correctly scan hand-scribbled applications for benefits, which are accepted under Berlin law. Berlin’s administration processes an estimated 220 million pages of paper per year. Of course, this could be eliminated through properly functioning e-government. But we’re miles from that. I couldn’t find current figures, but according to various media outlets only a minority of Berliners use online e-gov forms.
Dancing in the streets
While admin-tech languishes in the early 2000s, the city’s start-ups are profiting from the technologies of the present. Like e-bike and e-moped subscription provider Dance. After a year, writes Tech.eu, the Berlin firm has busted through the 10,000 customer barrier, with riders in Berlin, Paris, Munich and Vienna. Without giving numbers, Dance said it had successfully completed a new round of investment. Oh, and also a shoutout to frequent 20 Percent supporter and newsletter friend ostrom — the utility early this month said it had raised €18 million in an early financing round (known by suits as Series A), which means it’s raised €23 million so far (a tiny fraction of which help electrify this newsletter). Congrats everyone at ostrom!
Archaeologists working at Molkenmarkt in Mitte say they’ve unearthed 300,000 historical objects dating back to different eras, going as far back to the earliest medieval settlement. Finds include a bejewelled golden ring from 1400, combs, marbles, dolls and dice made of bone. Molkenmarkt, adjacent to the reconstructed Nikolaiviertel, has been a wasteland of streets and car parks since the war, but is now being redeveloped. Archaeologists are scouring the area before it gets covered up with buildings again.