Riga should become world-class science center - Kirsis

  • 2023-11-24
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Riga should become a world-class science center, Riga Mayor Vilnis Kirsis (New Unity) told LETA after his first 100 days in the office.

In his opinion, the capital city has so far lacked a clear positioning, what makes it stand out among other cities. Riga should become a science center, including a city of students, a place where scientists develop technologies and new inventions are created on a global scale. Riga has the potential to do this with its three major universities.

The mayor is determined to make cooperation between the Riga City Council and the major universities a practical reality.

Kirsis admitted that after the political turmoil caused by the former coalition partners, work at the City Council is returning to normal at a slower pace than he would like.

He pointed out that decision making in the new coalition is based on listening to all views. 

The Riga City Council coalition is honoring the commitments included in the Memorandum of Cooperation, including the restoration of the Anti-Corruption Commission, the commitment to freeze the salaries of elected political officials, and the promise to increase the salaries of employees of Riga City Council institutions in order to increase the capacity of the institutions.

The mayor admitted that the time left for the current term of the Riga City Council to do real work is not long - about a year, year and a half. Consequently, many of the works started will have to be continued in the long term.

However, so far, progress has already been made on issues that were not addressed before the extraordinary elections to the Riga City Council, such as capital repairs of Riga's streets.

Kirsis sees one of his tasks as the systemic improvement of Riga's street management, i.e. street repairs should be routine, with significant investments year after year and improvements in the quality of the road surface.

Work has also been carried out to make the city's public transport more convenient and accessible. Rigas Satiksme ticket reform introduced this year is a good example of how to create conditions to make regular journeys by public transport economic, the mayor said.

Significant investments have been made in improving Rigas Satiksme infrastructure and in creating mobility points to connect different modes of public transport, such as urban public transport, intercity buses and passenger trains.

Looking at the future, Kirsis admitted that education is an important challenge. The last new school in Riga was built 30 years ago. In his view, the Riga municipality should build at least five new schools in the coming years.

The mayor pointed to depopulation as a major problem. This process must be stopped. The more inhabitants Riga has, the wealthier it will be and the more it will be able to invest in a more comfortable and attractive urban environment.

This also brings with it a major challenge - solving the housing problem. This is a prerequisite for more people to choose Riga as their place of residence. "To set this process in motion, I am committed to developing an action plan to ensure that all parties involved in housing work together effectively," said Kirsis.

Martins Kossovics, the head of the opposition Progressives faction, told LETA that Kirsis' work should not be assessed by the last 100 days, but by the three years he has been in charge of urban development and traffic.

He pointed to three themes that he associates with Kirsis' performance in the municipality. The first was the scandal of the misappropriation of municipal funds in the Transport Department, the second was the looming scandal of the possible loss of several million euros of European Union funds in the Skanste revitalization project, and removing roofs from public transport stops and not being able to install them back.

Compared to the previous mayor Martins Stakis (Progressives), Kossovics pointed out that the current mayor of Riga has absolutely no ambition. "Nowadays, when it's not countries competing with each other, but capitals, our mayor is without ambition, grey and unfashionable. This is what Riga looks like now," said Kossovics.

Political analyst and public relations specialist Filips Rajevskis said that the main difference between the Stakis-led City Council and the current one is that empty and loud speeches have diminished.

"There is no more empty pathos. There are no hasty ideas that are being implemented all of a sudden, like the infamous cycle path on Caka Street or the street poles," Rajevskis commented.

The citizens are tired of this and want to see real action. Initially, when looking at the work of the City Council, it seems that the face of Riga is gradually changing for the better - new centers are being built, infrastructure projects are being completed and there is no longer the feeling that things were only getting worse, Rajevskis said.

As reported earlier this year, a coalition calling itself the coalition for change broke up after disagreements between the largest factions of the Riga City Council, For/Progressives and New Unity. Stakis resigned as mayor, and Kirsis was elected in his place on August 17.