On Monday 2 January 2023, the residents of Amstelveen were very welcome at the municipality’s New Year’s reception in the town hall, Laan Nieuwer-Amstel 1, Amstelveen. Shortly after 7:30 p.m., Mayor Tjapko Poppens gave his New Year’s speech:
‘Dear Amstelveners, fellow directors, ladies and gentlemen. Glad you’re here. And that with so many! I have been looking forward to meeting you in person again and wish you all the best after the digital new year openings in 2021 and 2022. A special welcome to the college in Aalsmeer, which is fully present. Today it is exactly 10 years since both official organizations merged to form the organization Aalsmeer-Amstelveen. It’s a big congratulations, is there cake?
My prelude to the turn of the year was as usual. Consult emergency services during the day, eat in good company in the evening. And with Claudia de Breij’s New Year’s conference, the last numbers of the top 2000, a can of oil in one hand and the mobile phone in the other, I was ready for New Year’s Eve. Fortunately, it was pleasant on the streets in many places in Amstelveen and it remained relatively quiet. I would like to thank all employees of the police, fire, police and ambulance services for their commitment to our safety.
It was unprecedentedly hot on the last day of 2022, just under shorts weather. A lot of wind. Fortunately, not as much as in February, when storms Corrie and Eunice also raged in Amstelveen. This resulted in extensive damage and fallen trees. We were still in a corona lockdown at the time, the last measures of which only expired in March. Actually only recently, but it feels much longer.
This retrospective should of course include Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. The serious consequences and suffering are in the news daily. We are now accepting about 700 Ukrainian refugees in municipal shelters and with host families. I am impressed by how well and quickly the shelter was set up together with social organizations, many volunteers and the owner of IBIS and Adagio. Heartwarming to see how many Amstel friends were willing to help people in need and even open their homes. A big compliment to everyone who has contributed and still does.
(Photo Amstelveenweb.com – 2023)
Tjapko Poppen, mayor of Amstelveen, during his New Year’s speech on Monday 2 January 2023 in the town hall
Last year was also one with many catch-up parties. Postponed weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Everything was finally possible again. Nice cycling through the city and spontaneous meetings along the way. And you notice how important events are to the life of our city: the Cherry Blossom Festival again attracted many visitors. And I enjoyed my first real Amstelveen King’s Day. Tours from Nes aan de Amstel to Middenhoven, Westwijk, Bovenkerk and Randwijck and finish with the many musical performances and activities in Oude Dorp and on Amsterdamseweg. Also well attended were the national sports week, the festivals of Japan and Diwali, the arrival of Sinterklaas and the winter village. It is great that Amstelveen’s international character is reflected in these events, including the visitors. I look forward to the relaunch of Jazz in het Dorp next September.
Last year we unfortunately also lost a number of (former) directors:
Former mayor Harry Kamphuis
Councilor Rob Ellermeijer
Former councilor Henk Fokkink
Former councilor Nel Dennenbroek
What else happened in Amstelveen in 2022? After the local elections on 16 March, no fewer than 12 parties entered the city council. And many new faces: More diverse, younger and more women. And thus a better reflection of our society. I would like to express my appreciation to our 37 council members. It is not the easiest period to be a part-time Member of Parliament. Complex issues with large and sometimes conflicting interests require careful decision-making. The guesswork is useful and also a lot of fun! On March 15, there are elections for the water councils, the provincial council and indirectly for the Senate. Let everyone vote!
In June last year, the coalition presented an agreement with their ambitions for the current city council term until 2026. Councilors Herbert Raat, Floor Gordon, Marijn van Ballegooijen and Frank Berkhout have been re-installed, newcomer is Adam Elzakalai. He now feels like a fish in the waters of the Amstelveen. Unfortunately, Councilor Berkhout is temporarily absent due to parental leave. We miss Frank and hope he comes back soon.
As a municipality, we face major challenges. In the area of climate, energy transition, housing shortage, sky-high inflation and a tight labor market. Complicated issues that make great demands on our creativity, solidarity and resilience.
Let me start with the climate. We also see that changing in Amstelveen. For example, it snowed on April 1st, we measured a record temperature of 37 degrees Celsius on July 19th, we skated at Poel in mid-December and two weeks later we had the hottest New Year’s Eve ever. Accelerating the energy transition and climate adaptation are the spearheads of this college. Ambitious goals that we can only achieve if everyone participates. Even without the ‘climate stickers’ – the word of the year 2022 – we no longer need to convince many of the need to become more sustainable. As a municipality, we offer advice and subsidies. The high energy prices are an opportunity to accelerate sustainability.
The flip side is that a growing number of amstel friends are having trouble making ends meet. People who used to do well now have less money for their daily purchases or turn off the heat because they can no longer pay the energy bill. This is unprecedented for Amstelveen. The national energy price ceiling is not sufficient for everyone. In November, the city council set up the Emergency Fund for Rising Costs, in addition to the government schemes, to help residents, institutions and entrepreneurs who have run into acute problems due to the high energy prices. And that while many entrepreneurs, especially SMEs, were still paying their corona debt. Through the Local Economic Stimulation Fund, the municipality provided grants for initiatives to support entrepreneurs after Corona. The successful ‘Back on Track’ program was an example of this.
Economically, we are part of a strong, dynamic metropolitan region. We have no less than 12,000 companies in Amstelveen, employing more than 55,000 people. At large international companies, SMEs or in one of the many startups. To maintain this, the municipality invests in a good localization policy and in good digital and physical connections. With 138 different nationalities, Amstelveen is also an international and diverse city in terms of population composition. It is important to bring residents of different backgrounds and cultures into contact with each other and thereby contribute to the quality of life and cohesion in districts and neighbourhoods.
Due to its location, green surroundings and excellent facilities, Amstelveen remains a popular city to live in. In the Atlas of Dutch municipalities, we are in the top 3 of attractive municipalities, after Amsterdam and Utrecht. The growth in the number of inhabitants is primarily in families. Even without this growth, the shortfall in our local and regional housing market is great.
House prices now seem to be cooling down, but it remains difficult to find affordable housing for everyone in Amstelveen. New construction is therefore important, and various housing projects will ensure this in the near future.
In addition, we check more for idleness and illegal letting. So houses are used for what they are intended for: living in!
Our city is on scaffolding. You won’t have missed it. We will feel that even more this year. Rijkswaterstaat will start to lower lanes on the A9 and traffic will temporarily travel through a so-called ‘bypass’. It takes a little perseverance, but in the end our city will be more beautiful. The three roofs to be built over the A9 will once again connect the north and south sides of our city. And it is an opportunity to boost our Stadshart. We have invited residents and other stakeholders to share their thoughts on this.
We invest not only in Stadshart, but in many areas of our city: in good school buildings and sports facilities for our children, in good childcare and youth care, in safe cycling connections, in culture and our cultural-historical heritage. It is also nice to say that this year we are ‘hosting’ the national tree day. As a green city, we are proud of that.
Enough to do. Many of the challenges I mentioned earlier are not over this year. Am I gloomy about this year? No, definitely not. I look forward to the future of Amstelveen with confidence. ‘We will come to an end’ to quote our former national coach.
But in uncertain times there is sometimes a tendency to retreat into our own right. The recently published Citizens’ Perspectives report from the Social and Cultural Planning Office shows that three quarters of the Dutch believe that differences of opinion are increasing in our country. However, the same SCP also states that this does not appear from the annual population surveys. That the feeling is there is often due to what people see in the House of Representatives and on social and other media, where a relatively small group of people with more extreme opinions demand and receive a lot of attention.
And yes, in a healthy democracy there must be plenty of attention and room for dissent. And it can be quite hard in a social debate, you can’t always agree. As long as there is mutual respect. So keep talking, keep listening and ask each other questions. I realize it is not always easy, but this is how we prevent differences from turning into strife and work together towards a diverse and inclusive city where there is room for everyone.
Finally, I express my great appreciation to the people who are always ready for and others and the many volunteers who engage in our community through social organizations, associations, churches and neighborhoods. They give the word ‘together’ real meaning. On behalf of the city council, the municipal board and all our employees, I want to raise a toast to a healthy and happy 2023, with each other and for each other!