Sorin Oprescu, General Mayor of Bucharest Municipality
The members of the General Council of Bucharest
Honored Mr. Mayor and Ladies and Gentlemen Members of the General Council
During the first meeting of the General Council of Bucharest in the 2012-2016 incumbency, we noted that these meetings were no longer open to the public. The signatories of the present letter consider that preparing a special room destined to watching Council meetings is not in the spirit of the law and principles of participative democracy, quite the contrary. Moreover, separating citizens from local elected representatives will have a major impact on direct communication between the two categories, the council meeting being one of the main occasions when citizens are able to take part in decision making regarding the city management.
A group of citizens representing the Resource Center for Public Participation wanted to be part of this meeting on July 11, 2012, but was sent into another room, on another floor, in the building where the meeting took place. They were invited to watch the meeting on screens, to which the works were streamed through webcams. According to the media, the decision to place the public outside the Council meeting room is a result of the overcrowding, because a lot of space was claimed by a podium build especially for TV crews to install their camera tripods on.
Although we appreciate the care of local authorities in Bucharest for the communication with media institutions, we must remind the Mayor and his General Councilors that this should not encumber over direct communication with the citizens. Assisting to a web stream cannot, under any circumstances, replace direct contact between citizens and their elected representatives for local administration.
We remind that, according to Law no. 215-2001 on local public administration, Article 42, paragraph (1) “Meetings of the local council are public.” Participative democracy means, therefore, that the public shares the same room with its elected representatives in local administration. Also, Law no. 52/2003 on transparency in local public administration decision-making defines the obligation for transparency in Article 3, paragraph (e) as “the obligation of public authorities to inform and submit to public debate all normative projects, to allow access to decision making and to minutes of public meetings”, while in paragraph (i) it defines a public meeting as “the meeting of administration authorities that may be attended by any interested person”
We ask you therefore to allow unrestrained access and the participation of any interested person to the room hosting CGMB meetings – which, we must underline here, are public meetings – as well as the possibility for citizens to express their opinion on the projects under debate. In case the room is not large enough, the Bucharest City Hall must provide a sufficiently large venue for all those interested to fit in.
The solution found by the City Hall, to send citizens into a different space than their representatives, is offensive and bound to create an even greater estrangement between local representatives and those who elected them. Taking into account the mandate of trust conferred by the electors, we trust that you will admit that this situation is in contradiction with the very spirit of participative democracy.
For further information, please contact Oana Preda, CeRe (Resource Centre for Public Participation) email@example.com , 0723 547 870; and Irina Zamfirescu, ActiveWatch – firstname.lastname@example.org , 0727 736 572.
Mircea Toma, ActiveWatch
Marţian Constantin, the Civic Alliance
Raluca Munteanu, Arhiterra Association
Nicolae Rădulescu Dobrogea, Ecocivica Association
Mircea Gheorghiu, Obor Tradesmen Front Association
Miruna Tîrcă, Kommunitas Association
Mihai Bumbeş, Spiritual Militia Civic Movement
Ioan Tănase, National Association of Citizen Counseling Offices
Diana Olivia Hatneanu, The Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania – the Helsinki Committee
Septimius Pârvu, Pro Democratia
Roxana Wring, ProDoMo
Nicuşor Dan, Save Bucharest Association
Liviu Mihaiu, Save the Danube and Delta Association
Bogdan Pălici, Vira Association
Viorel Micescu, Centras
Radu Nicolae, the Center for Legal Resources
Oana Preda, the Resource Center for Public Participation – CeRe
Ioana Avădani, the Center for Independent Journalism
Costel Popa, the Ecopolis Center for Sustainable Policies
Simona Adam, the Eruption Anti-Corruption Group
Suzana Dobre, Expert Forum
Cristina Guseth, Freedom House
Serban Sturdza , Pro Patrimonio Foundation – Romania
Gabriel Petrescu, Soros Foundation
Lavinia Andrei, Terra Mileniul III Foundation
Claudia Pamfil, the Group for Local Development
Vlad Cătuna, Make a Point
Simona Popescu, Romanian Academic Society