Rīga sets public consultation threshold at 20,000 signatures

The Riga City Council decided on Wednesday, August 30, to set a threshold of 20,000 signatures to initiate a public consultation on a topical issue for residents, Latvian Radio and Latvian Television reported.

The proposal was previously sharply criticized by both the transparency organization Delna and the Alliance for the neighborhoods of Rīga.

Until now, there has been no threshold to launch a public consultation.

Public consultations include issues like the felling of trees, the building of large structures, etc. So far, the public consultation has been conducted by the municipality. The Local Government Law, which came into force this year, states: “If the public consultation is proposed by residents, the municipality may determine the minimum population required for such consultation.”

The City Council has calculated, according to a specific formula, that the threshold is 20,000.

"It greatly stops any chance for Rīgans to ever come up with public consultations. 20,000 to just raise a question: I would say that this is 99% unrealistic," Inese Tauriņa, director of Delna, said.

Māris Jansons, Chairman of the Board of the Alliance of Neighborhoods of Rīga, believes that “it is simply not possible to reach such a border, and it is also a very high threshold for Rīga”.

The Progressives party faction proposed to set a threshold of 2,000 signatures for “initiatives that affect the whole city or the wider area, just as it is for citizens' initiatives at the moment, and an even smaller limit of 500 signatures for initiatives that affect only one neighborhood”.

Riga Mayor Vilnis Ķirsis (New Unity) stated that Rīga residents will still have the opportunity to submit their initiatives as collective submissions through the portal manabalss.lv, where only 2,000 signatures are needed.

The leader of the New Unity faction, Olafs Pulks, added that such a threshold was meant for large projects.

“Let's say someone wants to build a house in the place of Rolands' Statue [in the center of Old Town's city hall square], and he will receive a refusal, say, in the City Development Department, but he believes that his intention is important, he will collect 20,000 signatures, and a public consultation will be organized, which is governed by law,” said Pulks.

“If we look by analogy, then other municipalities have put 10% of the population [as the threshold], we have 5% of the number of electorates who have participated in the elections, which is even less than the population. I believe that this is a very democratically prepared document,” said Pulks.


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