Rotterdam on the way to a ‘new triangular relationship’ with culture

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A lot has happened around the Rotterdam Council for Art and Culture lately. For example, on the basis of a mildly rampant investigation, the councilor had rightly decided to dissolve the independent advisory body. It is too self-willed for its officials. His decision was discussed in detail at a city council meeting in late June.

unnecessary debate

After six hours of debate, the D66 culture councilor announced that he had already put his final signature under his own decision the day before. It was therefore irrevocable that the municipal council debate had been unnecessary. Quite laconic. But according to the rules of procedure, he could not have reported it earlier. The municipal council also has nothing to say about random client relationships within a municipal service. asked his officials. So you have power and can use it, or you can share it on your own initiative, but this D66 member chose the former.

After another committee meeting had passed, yesterday, July 7, there was a heated discussion in a council, which unfortunately did not reject by a majority. A dozen proposals were submitted. Seven of these were intended to make the councilor change his mind. All these proposals were eventually voted down. Only those proposals that called for ‘thinking about some form of independent advice on culture’ were approved by the Council. Rotterdam, a city where D’66, who usually chooses dualism, lives in a troubled embrace with the populists of Leefbaar, therefore no longer has an independent council for art and culture.

See the latest debate

Ironically, a proposal was voted for that called for a triangular relationship between the municipality, the art sector and consultancy. Typically such a proposal that one can not oppose, but which also has no consequence whatsoever. In this way, the troubled triangle can continue to exist between the municipal department of Culture, which would like to set its own course, a sector that, after many years of unrest, mainly wants certainty, and a city council that prefers to outsource cultural policy. Occasionally a councilor floats, who chooses his own office without threat of his position. This service has been hampered by the independent advice of RRKC for years, which we have learned from a very reliable source.

Utrecht models?

What now? Maasstad has roughly the choice between following the Utrecht model or the Amsterdam model. The latter, however, involves an independent advisory council, which is not a contractor for the cultural service, and therefore does not become one.

The Utrecht model, which has even been written in capital letters since the beginning of this century, cannot simply be transferred to Rotterdam for another reason. In Utrecht, it was the often small cultural institutions themselves who chose not to go after the big money from a large urban company, but to divide the money between many small ones. The major institutions adopted this formula and adapted their ambitions. This was possible due to Utrecht’s small scale. The spouses know each other, the queues are short, and the bureaucracy changes regularly. Successive top officials subordinate their own ambitions to the ‘Model’. The latter has not happened in Rotterdam in recent decades.

Independence is an illusion

In Rotterdam, the collaboration does not come by itself. There have been so many cuts and mergers under pressure in recent years that institutions are either mainly dealing with the problems internally, or looking suspiciously through the blinds. It is an ideal breeding ground for a bold top official to push through his grand vision. Unwanted, of course, because criticism from the field never comes openly to the bureaucracy, because everyone is afraid of their own skin.

What does Rotterdam need? The problems in the city are too big and diverse to be solved ad hoc by a weak councilor. And that’s exactly what its officials want. The question is whether they are aware of the diversity of challenges that culture poses in the city of Meuse. A strong and completely independent Council for Rotterdam Arts and Culture with regularly rotating members is the only option, but Leefbaar will never allow it and the cultural party D66 will not sacrifice its councilor.

So it’s very unfortunate.

RRKC Response: “RRKC was satisfied that independent advice is guaranteed

RRKC is disappointed that the city council has not put an end to the abolition per. 1 January 2023. RRKC is satisfied that the adopted proposals ensure independent, encouraged and unsolicited advice in Rotterdam. The role of the councilor and the civil service is also rightly examined.

With mixed feelings, Chairman Carlos Gonçalves looks back on the debate in the City Council on the abolition of the RRKC board. The city council had previously criticized the decision to dissolve councilor Kasmi strongly. “The opposition and the coalition met in committee last week together in their concerns about the state of affairs and the future of independent advice. There was a bit left of that in the municipal debate.”

There was not enough support in the city council for proposals to postpone the abolition or for a new study of how things could be improved. However, the city council set limits on the alternative that councilor Kasmi must propose for independent, unsolicited and encouraged advice on art and culture. He will also have to do further research into forms of counseling in other cities and into how his officials counsel and handle counseling. Kasmi will also discuss his alternative with the cultural sector for the city council. These are improvements over the alderman’s original plan

It is gratifying that the municipal council is sticking to independent advice, something that RRKC has been responsible for since 2005. And will continue to do so until 2023. RRKC follows its advisory agenda and will publish two advisory reports in the autumn:Cultural infrastructure and urban development‘, and’Digital strategies for cultural organizations in Rotterdam‘.

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