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Municipal City Gardener - an antidote to bad governance? Not a bad idea from Poznań activists

17 of August '23

It sounds a bit humorous, but it's a serious matter. "Municipal City Gardener" is the working name of the unit that would coordinate and make sense of the activities of officials. The idea was thrown around by the Investment for Poznań Association. Perhaps it is a concept needed in other cities as well.

"Poznan order" has long been nothing but a myth. The degeneration involves many aspects: from streets that are not cleaned well, overflowing garbage cans and sticky benches, to organizational, management and conceptual mess. We have written several times about Poznań's renovations as part of the downtown project and the reconstruction of the Old Market's slab, their poor coordination, flawed supervision of the poorly executed work, and the disastrous way in which the changes were communicated. These reservations are still valid, because, although the work is progressing, it is far from complete.

ławki na wyremontowanym w 2019 roku odcinku Świętego Marcina

Benches on the 2019 renovated section of St. Martin -.
A multi-day layer of dirt on benches and sidewalks lingered all along the street (the main route of the downtown area) in June

Photo: Jakub Głaz

The Center's project to revitalize the main downtown streets is complicated and certainly requires sacrifices , but the organization of the work and the construction facilities still resemble images straight out of communist construction sites. Added to this are unexpected changes in the project resulting from insufficient preparation of documentation, flawed public consultations and other circumstances that can only be guessed at(the magistrate's announcements have little to do with decent information).

remont Starego Rynku w Poznaniu

Renovation of the Old Market Square in Poznań - a temporary road without proper directional signs - turns into mud after rain; there are no facilities for pedestrians

photo:Jakub Glaz

fist to the table

Residents and visitors endure with difficulty the informational and organizational mess, muddy temporary crossings, dead ends from permanently repositioned fences and poor separation of construction sites from pedestrian traffic (there have even been accidents). This is compounded by the dirt and disorder that have been present in the city for years - on other streets that have not been repaired and - especially - around the Poznań Główny station. Thus, with the naked eye, it can be seen that Poznań - colloquially speaking - "does not embrace". Hence the appeal of the distinguished association Investments for Poznań, which writes on its website that

our City REPEATEDLY needs a host - a "grasper" of the many and varied issues that are happening, and they are happening badly. Such that it is again said - as before the war: "in Poznan do not dare to throw a paper, because there will be a fine". The primary power is "the MOM is authorized to demand answers to the question posed to the relevant persons managing elements of the City's life." The second power: "If the MOM is not persuaded by the answer given, its orders must be carried out." Third power: the right to loudly bang your fist on the table at official meetings.

postulat Inwestycji dla Poznania

Investment for Poznań postulate


The association stipulates that the immediate reason is the holiday (August 15) vetting of the untidy and neglected downtown, and the issue of organizing renovations and more serious city projects is a topic for a separate occasion. However, it is hard not to notice that these threads are connected. The call for a "firefighter," moreover, is part of the call for deep reform of the city's management and improved coordination of all its activities - made by many city activists and publicists (including the undersigned). The word "encompasser" coined by the IdP is very apt and illust rative in this regard - sensibly illustrating the nature of such a body. IdP elaborates on this notion as follows:

The MSM must be characterized by recognizing problems with so-called "common sense, " an approach such as the "common man" has, and not like a bureaucracy that treats a construction site in the middle of a city only as a construction site, and not as "a place in the tourist-business middle of a city intended for living and serving visitors, albeit temporarily with a working construction site. That is: MOM should, for each solution, conduct what is technically referred to in jargon as stress testing; in Polish, it can be rendered as "check whether it will generally work out." It should ask questions like "can you convince me that a particular thing could not have been done better?".

ul. św. Marcin w Poznaniu po remoncie

St. Marcin Street in Poznan after renovation - an example of thoughtlessness and "unthinking" of the situation: new benches within the food garden;
ill-considered location (of benches or garden) prevents use of public seating

photo: Jakub Głaz

effective naivete

MOM would direct these questions to the units and departments responsible for particular aspects of the city's operations. And although the examples given by the IdP sound very simple, they are accurate - following the principle that seemingly naive questions have the greatest power. This is because they force answers that are far from official mind-benders. Let us therefore note some examples given by the IdP:

- is it not possible to enforce good quality of works in accordance with the content of the contract and carry out reliable acceptances of these works (with measurements by a surveyor, before covering underground elements, in accordance with an elementary sense of aesthetics, etc.)?
- when applying these thousands of signs, nonsense barriers, are you doing as the regulations state, or as you (fellow MOMs from the Authority) have understood these regulations or find convenient for yourselves?
- Was forcing the "network managers" to move them in order to put in street trees applied, or do you immediately "know" that "it can't be done, because you would have to do this or that"?

Many years of observation of the actions of the Poznań municipality shows that these seemingly simple issues cause the greatest confusion and - after forming an opinion in the spirit of "it always works that way" - the inquiring party does everything to make sure the problem is forgotten and no changes are forced.


The corner of "Kupiec Poznański" at Wiosny Ludów Square in Poznań,
City authorities have not been able to deal with the mess and commercial arbitrariness on the corner undeveloped plot for 23 years

Photo: Jakub Głaz

efficiency bonus

What, then, is to persuade the city authorities to establish a "ograta" and - which should entail - a deep reform of the structure of the magistrate? Jacek Jarzina of IdP, who is responsible for formulating the Association's demands, clarifies the idea for us:

We would like MOM to be a kind of unit or department that would carry out at least those tasks we have enumerated in the text on the website, although there would be many more. The MOM would have to be held accountable for efficiency: rewarded for pertinent interventions that would improve and organize life in the city and the work of the office. Such a body would need to be firmly established in the city's management structures, so that it could identify the causes of errors and neutralize them quickly, unhindered by existing structures . And the name is somewhat humorous, because we know how sensitive to criticism the city government is these days. So we wanted to soften the effect of our thoroughly serious proposal. We probably don't need to add that our proposal is only a starting point for a discussion about how such an "embracing" body should look and operate.

Jarzina adds that the IdP is aware of the state of the local government's finances and the fact that the establishment of another entity would certainly stir up controversy. It is worth noting, however, that the "ogarniacz" could successfully replace inefficient or facade departments of the authority and eliminate those units whose competencies are duplicated. Thus, in the long run, the "ogarniacz" would bring the city profits not only in the form of better organization and operation, but also - financially.

prace budowlane w ramach Projektu Centrum na ul. 27 Grudnia

Construction work under the Center Project on December 27 Street - instead of better organization of works and pedestrian crossings, the number of signs with apologies has significantly increased

photo: Jakub Głaz

The City could, by the way, have benefited earlier as well, if, for example, as suggested by the advisors, it had created a kind of municipal think tank operating at the Office. This did not happen, however, and the City Development Department today calls the think tank a series of casual meetings with specialists. These meetings, however, are close to a substantive discussion circle, and very far from having a real impact on anything.

Jakub Głaz

The vote has already been cast