PvdA Student Candidates: “We want to go back to the local feeling, to the core of Maastricht, one th
The running Social-Democratic party argues that nuisance and student housing, drug violence and drug tourism should not be framed as corollaries.
Three former UCM students now carry the roses of Maastricht’s socialist politics. Maren Slangen, the PvdA speaker at the MAASX Student Debate, is the 3rd name on the list. She has left the ongoing UNU Merit class in Public Policy and Human Development and instead signed in for a degree in Dutch politics in The Hague: “there is more than enough to do here in this country” she says, plus, she would rather “speak about people, not numbers”. Lianne Schuuring, #9, decided to leave behind the tutorial classes of her European Law Master in order to work as an assistant at the provincial government as well as at the city’s Tourist Office. Lastly, the born and raised Maastrichtenaar of the team is Jintro Pauly, number 12 on the list. Although Jintro graduated from UCM last summer, he is still registered at UM, so that he can do an internship. Their devotion to the local political debate is a deep one, and, despite the fact that this centre-left party sits in the opposition at the Markt, they are committed to fuel the advancement of the Gemeente’s action by adopting an informative and conciliating tone. Still, many of the PvdA’s proposals have nothing to envy to the vigour of others’ controversial proposals.
Nuisance is not a student problem Maren, Lianne and Jintro are tasked with reviving their party’s pro-student stance and approbation. PvdA had been the initiator of the “Student in the City” scheme, which used to be the municipality’s program for promoting cultural activities supporting international students and their integration into the local culture and people. Jintro explains that this project faded out due to the current coalition that did not expand and decided to cut its funding. “PvdA is very willing to restore something similar” he claims. “Student in the City” was, for instance, the impulse behind the “International Student Club”: the project of a large event and party venue that will take on the part of the Muziekgieterij building that will be left empty once the latter will have moved in its freshly constructed Concert Hall. This, according to the PvdA candidates, should help to face the lack of party clubs in town, as well as, coincidently, to tackle the issue of nuisance. The Social-democrats plan to soften the rules that the municipality imposes on clubs and bars to fill the nightlife vacuum. The municipality, says Maren, renders it burdensome and unprofitable to open a party venue after two: “You need to hire a security guard as from before midnight if you want to stay open past the regular closing hours”. She intends to facilitate and leave room for incentives to opening a club, she explains, as she hints at PvdA’s somewhat hesitant proposal to ensure that “longer opening hours for bars should not be thwarted by bureaucracy”. “There is a demand for nightlife, there are still permits left, but there are no incentives to be granted one” concludes Jintro.
In turn, this issue relates to the question of security and of the nuisance, the cacophonies of students epiphanies… First, Maren, Lianne and Jintro point out that having clubs opened in the city centre or nearby the Muziekgieterij should reduce the noise and inconveniences caused by student parties in residential neighbourhoods. Second, they deem it important to have in mind the danger involved in packed house parties in rooms that are far from respecting any security standards such as fire safety. More importantly, PvdA postulates that the nuisance problem, just like the one of social cohesion in town, should not be framed as a student problem. Wrongdoers and misbehaviours should be “addressed and punished” but the bars should be kept open until late at night, (similarly, the resident-only criterion for the coffee shops should be abolished) because it is unfair and incongruous to punish and restrain those who do not cause these problems. If reducing nuisance, street violence and drug-related crimes in Maastricht were to be the only concerns, the municipality should, in the PvdA’s views, favour the use of law enforcement officers.
The discourse is indeed deemed incorrect on the topic of housing and quotas. According to the three candidates, there are a high proportion of streets that are well below the student housing repartition ceiling: 20% in suburbs, 10% in the city outskirts, no quota in the city centre. Quotas apply to, for example, family owner-occupied houses, room-rented buildings, social accommodation for elderly inhabitants and aim at reaching a sound equilibrium, which, consequently, also nudges the students to integrate more. When the question of social cohesion and house repartitions are linked to that of nuisance and thus are accusing the students “this is where the debate goes wrong” says Jintro. Plus, the municipality’s objective is to reach the right balance between social groups in neighbourhoods. According to Maren, Lianne and Jintro, however, students are underrepresented in the public debate because no effort is put into translating the council’s meetings into English handouts (which Maren proposes to do), and we, therefore, lack visibility. The three candidates also believe that this is due to “a lack of care from the students”. They promise to keep the quotas on student housing as low as possible in order to resort to that.
Enhancing the life of the neighbourhood As a centre-left or social-democratic party, the PvdA favours the active involvement of the municipality and supports the quota policy. PvdA candidates do not believe that the market can regulate itself in a way that promotes social welfare: “you might end up with 90% of students in one street which disrupts the community” says Jintro. However, the municipality should avoid abusing it, by overly emphasizing the correlations made between nuisance and student housing or drug violence and drug tourism for instance. Still, ensuring that there are enough student accommodations should be on the top of the list of the reasons for municipality intervention. More precisely, the PvdA’s program for Maastricht envisions a policy where the centre of responsibilities is shifted from the Markt towards the neighbourhoods. PvdA suggests implementing neighbourhood-level access to care and assistance and local law enforcement teams plus an alderman for every district. Also, the PvdA is “committed to experiment ‘versatile urban nature’ projects and to assign spaces for neighbourhood shared gardens”.