Socialism is alive and well in Copenhagen and far-left party Enhedslisten (EL) – which secured 10.9 percent of the vote in the 2009 local election – is expected to win a whopping 20 percent on November 19 (see related story above).
If the polls hold true, EL will become the second largest party in Copenhagen City Council and could potentially take control of two of the city’s seven administrations.
EL currently controls the social affairs administration that last year introduced permanent injection rooms for the city’s drug addicts despite deep scepticism from the right wing. The administration is run by deputy mayor Mikkel Warming, who campaigned to legalise cannabis together with Mayor Frank Jensen (S). The Justice Ministry has thus far refused to play ball.
Warming is retiring from politics in January, and Morten Kabell is taking his place as the party’s mayoral candidate. He is currently a member of the political committee in the Technical and Environmental Administration, which he hopes to head after taking office.
No need to drive
“This election is about the direction of Copenhagen’s traffic policies,” Kabell told The Copenhagen Post. “The right wing wants more cars, but the rest of us on the left don’t agree.”
Kabell’s position on public transport and bicycle infrastructure brings him into direct conflict with right-wing parties that moan that this environmental agenda is sidelining the city’s residents who depend upon cars.
But Kabell argues that very few of the city’s residents actually have to drive.
“Other than the handicapped, most people have an alternative to cars, and that’s what we want to promote,” he said. “If you want to take your kids to after-school activities, for example, bikes are often the fastest option.”
Metro and light rail
Kabell wants to ramp up investment in public transport. He wants the Metro to run to Sydhavn and says a light rail system should be built to stitch together the city’s public transport network.
In fact, Kabell is generally a fan of investment and would prefer to spend the city’s budget surplus than make tax cuts because, he argues, it’s a better way to create jobs.
“There is no doubt that investments will create jobs,” he said. “We already have the ninth lowest council tax and we know that when residents are given financial windfalls through tax reduction, most of the increase in consumption occurs abroad, either on imported goods or travel. We want to make investments that are felt here in Copenhagen.”
More work placements
Kabell is dissatisfied with the way the city currently hands out contracts to developers. He argues that often only large foreign firms can tender bids. Kabell would rather split contracts so that local businesses and craftsmen can participate.
He also thinks it’s a scandal that developers aren’t offering enough work placements for young people taking a vocational education. Without the placements, the students cannot complete their courses.
“We spend money giving young people vocational educations that can’t be completed even though these are skills that society needs,” Kabell said. “The Metro is a 21 billion kroner investment that has only created 15 work placements.”
He wants to use better city planning to protect the remaining industry in the city. New residential neighbourhoods should be separated from industry using commercial spaces that are less noise sensitive, for example. He also argues that there is a need for more intelligent and less bureaucratic regulation of businesses.
But when it comes to attracting businesses and industry, the city can’t join the race to the bottom by lowering taxes and salaries.
“If we want to attract other industries, we have to rely upon the softer values that Copenhagen has to offer. We can’t compete with Chinese and Vietnamese salaries. We have a clean and safe city with a rich cultural life and good mobility that could still be improved with better light rail and Metro,” Kabell said.
Factfile | Morten Kabell
Years on the City Council: 8
• Better public transport
• More work placements
• Public investment
• Support of local business
• Smaller classroom sizes