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Election choices

We have municipal and provincial elections tomorrow, and I've found it very difficult to make up my mind who to vote for; everyone claims to love our little village in a very special way (and nobody seems to know what the provincial government is for). In an effort to distinguish between them, I emailed all six parties standing in the municipality with my well-chronicled complaints about the evening rail connection in Leuven, apologising for doing so in English. I post the replies from the six parties below in the order that I received them:
  1. We will try to get more citizens to use public transportation. When that happens we probably can point out to De Lijn/NMBS [De Lijn is the bus company, NMBS the train company] that they have to increase their frequency. This does not solve your problem entirely (you might still loose 30 minutes) but it is De Lijn/NMBS that decide on their time tables. They might have a good reason for their timetable: If that train is meant to connect with another train somewhere for example. Anyway as you can see there is not an easy solution. Good communcation between the city council and the people of De Lijn/NMBS is the only possibility to solve your problem. 

    Are there many people that fail to catch their connection? Maybe if we combine it into 1 big complaint/request they might listen to it...

  2. This is in response to your recent inquiry .

    I can assure you that after the elections to be held very soon, I shall insist that the NMBS look into and fix the problems you encounter with the train connections concerning Oud Heverlee and St Joris Weert.

    I believe that the present situation resulted from budgetary constraints and was done in order to save.

    Please be assured that you are not the first and only one  to complain about this situation!

    I shall do what ever possible to intercede with the NMBS

  3. We're trying to ask the NMBS (train company) to let the trains follow up to another.

    I have send your request to them.

    As soon that I will receive an answer, I will send you a message.

    If you don't hear something from me after one month, please react again.

  4. I will ask the NMBS for more information and I'll try to ask them for a better connection between the train of Brussels and the train of Ottignies.

    I know someone personally from the helpservice of the NMBS and I'll try to tell them this problem and ask if it's possible to let the train depart again at 33 minutes past the hour in stead of the 28 minutes past. I won't even wait untill 14 october to ask this.

  5. Sorry for the late answer, but because of the elections next Sunday, we are all very busy.

    I will take care of your question next week.

  6. [No reply]

I must say that I am impressed that the replies all came in English. These are candidates for office in a small village where Dutch is the only official language (though we are up against the linguistic frontier, bordering Wallonia). I also regret that I chose to write to them on an issue which isn't actually one which they can do much about if elected. But anyway, I think the answers are revealing.

What do you think?


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 13th, 2012 08:01 am (UTC)
I think it's a rather good test in terms of how people will operate as local representatives on local issues. #2 would get my vote. Please tell me that is not Vlaams Blok.

Edited at 2012-10-13 08:01 am (UTC)
Oct. 13th, 2012 08:53 am (UTC)
I thought number two was the worst, even worse than no reply. He's promising to do something he has no power to do, and this is corrosive to politics. He can make requests of the NMBS, but he can't insist that they do anything. Of course, in this instance it may be a linguistic issue.
Oct. 13th, 2012 08:56 am (UTC)
If you think a representative has no ability to influence local issues then there is no point in having local representation. I'd prefer to have one that tried to address a problem that affects their constitutents than one that ignored the message or said 'I'll get back to you once I've finished with my election'.
Oct. 13th, 2012 08:59 am (UTC)
If he'd offered to influence rather than to insist, then it would have been a good answer, because it would have been something that's within his power to deliver. When local representation becomes pointless is when people think that their local representatives can solve any issue for them, even ones in areas over which they have no authority.
Oct. 13th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
Why is it beyond his power to insist? I genuinely don't understand.
Oct. 13th, 2012 09:08 am (UTC)
To me, "insist" implies compulsion. I can insist that a member of my staff does something, because I can sack them if they don't comply. But I can't insist that a colleague does something, because I have no sanction if they refuse.
Oct. 13th, 2012 09:44 am (UTC)
OK, I'd use "instruct" in that context rather than "insist".
Oct. 13th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
Having lived in there I'd expect this to be a nuanced language issue. You are not dealing with native English speakers in Belgium.

I do not think 'local representation' is a magic bullet to everything; having a representative who does listen to their constituents issues and tries to do something about problems that affect a large number of them is worthwhile.
Oct. 13th, 2012 09:00 am (UTC)
I'm sure there are indeed linguistic issues, but I don't see any difficulty with #2 insisting; after all, the railways are not obliged to listen to him (and it is indeed a him, as are all six of them).

Which of the others did you like?
Oct. 13th, 2012 09:10 am (UTC)
I thought number 1 was the best, because it's the most realistic. Train scheduling is indeed a very complex matter, and it's unlikely that there's a simple solution.
Oct. 13th, 2012 12:55 pm (UTC)
yeah, 1. feels most thought out, because he doesn't make any promises he can't deliver. But does try to give explanations, clearly taking the issue serious and gives an option that could get results.
Oct. 13th, 2012 10:26 am (UTC)
I interpret them as:

1. I don't know anything about your specific issue or how big a problem it is, but hope my general enthusiasm for improving public transport will help.

2. I know of your problem already and I am prepared to make a noise about it.

3. I've forwarded your message on, please take on the effort of chasing me up about it.

4. I'll ask the company for more information and I'll try to use my personal contacts as well as official routes to see what can be done.

5. I am more interested in general campaigning than answering your specific question, and am setting your expectations accordingly.

6. I am more interested in general campaigning than answering your specific question, and can't be bothered to set your expectations either.

I have some sympathy for 5, but given 4 of their competition managed to do better, not that much. My preference vote going purely on this response would be 2, 4, 1, 3, 5, 6.
Oct. 13th, 2012 10:52 am (UTC)
Yes, I think I'm with you on all of that!
Oct. 13th, 2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
From that, I'm most keen on 3 or 4; both of them have obviously understood what you were asking, identified a positive thing they can actually do, and been honest about their chances of success. I'm not sure I could choose between them on this evidence; 4) gets points for precision of problem identification and personal connections, but 3) gets points for honesty on timescales and inviting follow-up.
Oct. 13th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
I'm genuinely astonished that you got a reply from 5 of the 6 (and having read the update, all 6)... Last time I quizzed a candidate for local office on the doorstep about the frankly awful and ever-diminishing local bus service, he had absolutely no idea which routes ran, how frequently or what the numbers were. (As there are only 2 bus services, frankly, extremely poor). I didn't vote for him. I wasn't going to vote for him anyway, but I felt berating him on the doorstep might take up time he could be using to recruit others...

Sad to say, he got in, and has since been re-elected twice...
Oct. 13th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's the kind of issue where the doorstep isn't the right environment to connect with people - a good candidate (indeed, a good canvasser) will take a note of your problem and your phone number and call you back later or the next day to talk it through properly.
Oct. 14th, 2012 07:50 am (UTC)
Yeah, but candidates in this commune would be aware of the bus numbers without having to do their homework first.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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