Mayor’s son wants to make a difference for foreigners

Lasse Jensen is running for election to Aalborg Council on a platform that empowers foreigners

Lasse Frimand Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) is a study in contrasts. He looks younger than his 27 years, but seems much more experienced when he speaks. Politics is in the blood of the candidate for city council in Nørresundby, a small northern neighbour of the city of Aalborg and part of the Aalborg Council. Lasse Jensen is the son of Frank Jensen (S) , the mayor of Copenhagen, who also cut his political teeth in northern Jutland.

Although Lasse is understandably proud of his father – and a member of the same political  party – he said that he doesn’t intend to follow in his dad’s footsteps and use local office as a springboard to bigger things.

“I am 100 percent focused on my hometown and want to make this a better place,” he said.

Getting Nørresundby a piece of the Aalborg pie
Jensen sees Nørresundby’s close relationship with and proximity to Aalborg as both a blessing and a curse. While his small town has benefited from the many development projects that have taken place in Aalborg – revitalising the harbour, revamping old industrial buildings and making major infrastructure repairs – he wonders why all of the money seems to go to the big city, when Nørresundby and its 20,000 residents have projects that are crying out for funds.

“We have places that need attention from the council,” he said. “For example, we are still paying rent on the old Nørresundby Council building, even though it is not being used. I would like to see it renovated and turned into a community centre with meeting rooms and a coffee shop so that it can become a space that helps unite the community.”

Speaking up for foreigners

Growing up near Aalborg University, with its students coming to study from all over the world, has given Jensen an international perspective and he is committed to the idea of equal rights for immigrants.

“Some politicians are afraid to speak up for immigrants’ rights, because they think it will hurt them among ethnic Danes,” he said. “I think it is a disgrace to draw a line between a so-called ‘real Dane’ and a person that chooses to come here.”

Jensen is emphatic that immigrants living and working in Denmark should have the right to vote in local elections.

“They are paying taxes and giving to and using the social welfare system, so they have a right to express their opinion on how the system works,” he said.

He said the seven to nine years that it can take for an immigrant to receive permanent residency is too long to wait to have a voice.

READ MORE: Should foreigners be allowed to vote in ‘Hulabula-land’?

Jensen wants Aalborg to live up to its reputation as an international city and become more accepting of immigrants. He believes an easy first step would be to simply make it easier for new arrivals to understand what is going on around them.

“When you walk down the streets in Aalborg, every second person you meet is speaking English,” he said. “All of the forms, contracts and other important information should be available in English to help people feel more comfortable as they settle in.”

No more “politics of intolerance”
Jensen has lived in several places outside of Denmark, including Africa, and said that the sense of dislocation he felt when moving to a new place was greatly reduced by having access to information in English.

A hometown boy at heart, he has already help stage concerts featuring local talent and hopes to promote more in the future. He uses various stages and events to promote his message of tolerance and inclusion.

“Once people actually get to know someone, they find out that they are often wrong about their first impressions,” he said. “We have many Romanians in Denmark, and Danes often think ‘gypsies’ right away when they hear about Romanians, but that of course is not true.”

Jensen blames the media and what he called “the politics of intolerance” promoted by some parties for creating an atmosphere of mistrust towards immigrants.

“It is wrong,” he said simply. “We need everyone here who can and wants to make a contribution to Denmark.”

Jensen is on the ballot for the Aalborg Council election on November 19. Although he has been active in party politics for many years, this is his first run for public office. His father, the Copenhagen mayor, said he is happy that his son is following in his footsteps.

“I am incredibly proud of Lasse,” Frank Jensen said. “He works hard for foreign students and expats in Aalborg, and he works hard to have Aalborg be an progressive international city, with room for everyone while maintaining the solid values and sense of community of the old working class city.”


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