“Democratic Decision Making”

In HBL of 17 Juni there was a long article titled “Nylandsplanen godkändes utan förändring” in which also several persons who had been in the meeting when the decisions were made were quoted with expressions of DEEP dissatisfaction.

And after reading the article I do think that I recognized the situation (plus the resulting feelings) from my own experience with decision making in the house assembly of the house where also I own an apartment: there tends to be a small group of persons (say, the chairpersons of the house assembly) who have worked long and hard searching for a firm and negotiating a good price and who, after this, do not feel like seeing all their honest efforts go to waste. And then one has to get still the agreement of the full assembly of the house, which consists of people rather many of whom have simply not thought very much about the matter but relied on the wisdom of the chairpersons, plus a few persons who come to the meeting with some specific idea on their mind. And when these few people each come out with their idea, most members of the meeting are simply too unprepared to be able to take up the matter so suddenly. With the end result that the opinion of the chair persons will prevail “utan förändring”.

In the case which I experienced during a recent house meeting the vast majority accepted to pay 700.000 € (to be paid over the next 25 years) for a renewal of the outer layer of the walls which I thought (and still think) totally superfluous by at least two thirds (because very most of the outer walls were in perfect order). In the case of that Nylandsplanen there are now decisions about the place of a railway depot, that Tallinn tunnel, Finland’s second-busiest airfield, and an up-to-now beautiful and nature-like island (at least). and according to one participant “inte ett kommatecken ändrades”. – To voice my own opinion: I think that the whole Tallinn tunnel is a bad idea, and also that airfield one should let be an airfield before one has a MUCH better idea than the present one about what to do with it.

If one is now dissatisfied with how these decisions have come about, what would be a better procedure? One thing I see is that one should force that inner circle which is working so long and hard to report already about the early stages of the negotiations, to invite suggestions from those who are supposed to give their agreement later on (or even from a wider public – there are good reasons to mention, AGAIN, the “Helsinki Energy Challenge” in this context), and if the members of that inner circle are employees of the state and obviously unwilling to take any suggestions seriously, then the responsible minister should have the power to force them to undergo a series of psychological tests in order to check whether they are still fit for their job. – This will at least in the beginning not increase their cooperativeness, but once it is routine it may be less damaging; and with the intransigence of people who have been sitting too long in a power position I in fact do have my personal experiences (which make me think that it might not do too much harm if these persons are put to do other things than they are used to but which they can still perform reasonably well).

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2 Responses to “Democratic Decision Making”

  1. Anders HH Jansson says:

    (perhaps too often commenting, but here goes)

    You are quite right in that the persons doing the long work should open up much earlier; actually, public discussion should start with what the question is about and why. By the time we get to alternatives, it’s way too late. The circle is already locked into what kind of solution it wants, we outside have had no idea about what is expected and there we stand and can do no other, except the valituskierre (a beautiful word). There have been many proposals about this through the years, but they seem to disappear before reaching any decision makers.

    In Finland – different from Sweden – ministers have the power to order their departments to, for instance, open up, but they seldom do, because they, too depend on having departments that want to co-operate – with them.

    (But in regard of Malmi airport; that is a decision actually made before the year 2000 and since then all kind of work has been going on IRL, so any changes to that in the regional plan would be very unlikely)(I agree that the tunnel is a real pipe dream)

    • Ernst says:

      It certainly may well be so that nothing more can be done about Malm airfield, but I do think it still a pity to close it down. E.g. for the reason that the development of electric airplanes for short distance traffic is in full swing and that I do not see how that could still be fitted into the traffic at Vantaa airport. So that we may soon have the situation of having a rather useful and environmentally friendly possibility of doing some urgent travelling (by electric plane) but a VERY long way to any fitting airport. This, while the western corner of Sibbo, which Helsingfors needed SO VERY URGENTLY is still unused … .

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