Rīga's temporary administration suspends executive director

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Rīgas municipal temporary administrative director Edvīns Balševics suspended the city's executive director Juris Radzevičs (Honor to Serve Riga) due to irresponsible actions during the emergency situation caused by the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, while executing his duties as executive director and shareholder at municipal companies, according to a Rīga City Council press release on March 31.

“Rīga contains strategic infrastructure and the largest population. During these circumstances the city's executive director must be able to coordinate the operations of municipal companies, especially because many of them are of decisive importance in this epidemiological situation,” said Balševics.

The council said that Radzevičs hasn't properly executed Rīga City Council Rīga Cooperation Territory Civil Protection Commission resolutions, nor what is laid out in the commission's bylaws. For example, as a “Rīgas satiksme” (“Rīga Transport”) shareholder, he decided to decrease the amount of transport running routes during the pandemic.

“A well thought-out public transport timetable and density, responsible and fast operations by social services and the largest city's housing administration, coordination with responsible state institutions. This type of action is expected from the executive director, but currently – proactive, instead of reactive," continued Balševics.

Radzevičs is suspended while his violations of duties are evaluated, but there are currently enough to warrant suspension. The temporary administration will form an evaluation commission that includes outside experts, and will objectively evaluate Radzevičs' work.

Iveta Zalpētere will be Rīga's municipal acting executive director, having extensive experience in supervising and representing companies as “Ventas osta” (“Venta Port”) council chair, Ministry for Children and Family Affairs state secretary, as well as state secretary for the Justice Ministry, and other roles. Zalpētere has also offered legal consultations through a private practice for seven years.

As previously reported, due to the state of emergency and "a significant drop in passenger numbers", Rīga's municipal transport company, Rīgas Satiksme, announced extensive changes to its timetables. From March 21, substantial changes were made to the schedules of trams, trolleybuses, buses, minibuses and express buses. Night routes were also closed from 23:30.

The number of services was reduced by 20%, with passenger numbers having declined already by 50% as people stay at home. However, the Riga City Council urges residents to carefully consider if even these journeys are necessary during times of social distancing. 

Critics argued that such an action actually forced commuters to take journeys on fewer, more densely packed buses, trolleybuses and trams, increasing rather than decreasing the risk of spreading infection.

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