Boris Bonev, Mayor Candidate: Deadly Combination of Corruption and Incompetence Rules Sofia
Boris Bonev is the first to announce his candidacy for mayor of Sofia in the upcoming October 27 local elections. His program for the development of the city is presented on 300 pages and is called "Plan for Sofia". He is one of the founders of the civic organization Save Sofia, which constantly offers European solutions to the problems of the capital and is the sharpest critic of expensive and poor repairs. He studied and worked in Paris, defending two Masters Degrees in Sorbonne - Economics and Management and Innovation. He was born in Sofia and lives in Lozenets.
Mr. Bonev, what is the most important problem for Sofia that needs to be addressed urgently?
- The mismanagement of the city, which I call a deadly combination of corruption and incompetence, has taken over the municipality and the political leadership. This leads to a series of problems and failures that have plagued our city in a time that is historically unique to Sofia. There is access to knowledge, access to finance and technology, but so far it has not led to a significant improvement in life in the city. Over the past 10 years, BGN 15 billion has been invested in Sofia, and if it had not been for stealing and corruption, the city would have looked quite different.
Do you have any idea where the city is going?
- For the 10 years since Save Sofia, we have always said that we do not need to invent the wheel. Thanks to the contacts that our organization has in Prague, Warsaw and Budapest, we meet there not only with similar organizations but also with the administrations and they are ready to share their experience.
The capital does not benefit from the experience of Vienna, Paris, Prague or Warsaw, although representatives of these cities are coming, including at the invitation of the municipality. But usually, these meetings go into a presentation on our part - how much we have done and how we build the subway. And this is presented to a group of people from cities with a metro of 100 years.
But isn't the subway the most promising urban transport today?
"It's not. Its construction is extremely expensive, a heavy infrastructure that is planned with a horizon of 100 years in the future." One metro train in Sofia has the capacity to carry 1,100 passengers, and in one hour at a short interval between trains we talk about tens of thousands of passengers an hour in one direction. But Sofia is not that big of a city to have subways anywhere and to neighborhoods where traffic is actually lacking.
The subway, I repeat, is an extremely expensive infrastructure, so after the completion of the Third Metro and the planned deviations to Lyulin and Slatina, its development should stop at this stage and focus on the construction of separate fast tram routes.
Our first priority is Todor Kableshkov Blvd. The tram is expected to carry over 65,000 people a day, making it one of the busiest routes in the city. It will give a great circular connection between neighborhoods that are not currently connected.
Now is the time when the tram is experiencing its renaissance. Since 2000, the tram system was either launched or closed for the first time in over 130 cities around the world or closed years ago. In Sofia, however, only tram routes are closed - more than 10 km in the last years of Yordanka Fandakova's rule and this is an extremely short-sighted policy.
The Danish architect Jan Geel, whom Fandakova personally invited to analyze Sofia, put in one of the first places in his report the recommendation: "Watch your trams! Do not repeat the mistake that many cities around the world have allowed removing their tram network! Now they build it again and it costs them a lot of money. "
Do you have a solution against the rapid construction of buildings in the city?
- A complex problem, because it is related to the privacy of the personal property and the natural desire of people to invest, to develop. But the quality of life of residents of already built neighborhoods cannot be impaired.
At the Sofia Plan, we propose a concept for a completely new quarter north between the eastern tangent and the northern high-speed tangent, over Vrazhdebna quarter. There is a municipal terrain where road infrastructure, metro station, and parking can be built. The whole property must be parceled and ready for construction. The municipality should then negotiate with the investors of the land in the redeveloped Sofia neighborhoods for a property exchange. We have a methodology for how to do this. In this way, we will first save the inter-block spaces in order to have green space there and secondly - we will shift the investment focus and the development of Sofia towards the north.
North Sofia is now completely forgotten - neighborhoods such as Hadji Dimitar, Nadezhda, Orlandovtsi, Levski are virtually left alone. Moving the focus north will balance the development of the city.
What lies behind the rush of the Sofia Municipality at the end of the term to start the procedure for selecting companies to clean Sofia in the next 5 years?
- If the contracts expire, there is no way for the municipality not to start the procedures, but it is very doubtful in the last months of this municipal council, especially with the expectation that the next one will be much different. For us, this is an attempt by the Mafia to fall for the last, because it is uncertain whether after the elections it will continue to work the same way.
Here, the deadly combination of corruption and incompetence will block future municipal councils from dealing with cleanliness issues because of those contracts that are likely to be signed with contracting companies now.
Which would be more dangerous as a majority in the future municipal council - GERB or BSP?
- Whenever a big deal is supposed to be voted on in the Sofia City Council, these two parties vote together. And not just them - and the Reformist bloc with some exceptions, and the Patriots. There is harmony between them all when it comes to scams damaging the townspeople.
We do not intend to engage with parties because we are convinced that this is the right way to conduct local politics. We are part of a trend that is in many cities in both the West and the East - civic organizations that best understand the city's problems, hurt them, and deal with the government. And they are doing quite well.
How would you resolve the dispute over the Soviet Army monument?
“What I intend to do when I became mayor is to remove the inscription because historically it is not true that the Soviet Army liberated us. And I'll stop right there.
Focusing on files, lustrations, monuments, etc., instead of looking into the future and how to get out of the jam we are in, is a waste of civic energy. Let this be resolved and appreciated by smarter people in the future.
The central public bath what to be - a museum or a bath?
- It has to be a bath. Given that Sofia originated at this place because of the thermal springs, in the 21st century, with so many opportunities for tourism and use of this water - for drinking, for healing, for heating, even letting thousands of liters pour daily into sewerage is an irresponsible policy.
The Museum of Sofia may remain in the central part of the bathroom, but its place, in my opinion, is in the Royal Stables after they have been restored. Even so, the main exhibits of the museum are Ferdinand's carts. there is hardly a more suitable building in Sofia. This will also draw the tourist interest in this part of the capital.
How would you facilitate Sofia's approach to Vitosha?
- In our "Plan for Sofia" we have provided several bus departures to key places in the mountain, as well as the restoration of the Knyazhev lift.
To do this, companies like Vitosha Ski must be removed from the park. This can be very easy - the company owns only the ropeway facilities but not the ground below them. If the facilities are dangerous, an order to remove them would do the job of removing this monopoly of Vitosha Park.
How can Skopje and Sarajevo, which are poorer municipalities than Sofia, build their own lifts and we can't? I think that the Metropolitan Municipality should restore the Knyazhev lift and operate it.
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