“We all strive for a safe and stable society. That is our (daily) work in progress. The challenges we face (whether they are economic, social or environmental) have to be met in collaboration with all our citizens. In times when people tend to be divided in groups, it is important to build bridges and understanding for the common good.”
– Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb
Mayor Aboutaleb was first elected Mayor of Rotterdam in 2008. Prior to his election, he served as State Secretary for social affairs, as alderman in Amsterdam and director of the Forum organisation, an institute dealing with multiculturalism in the Netherlands. Mayor Aboutaleb started his career in media and public relations. He came to the Netherlands from Morocco at the age of 15 and is the first mayor of a large city in the Netherlands who is of both immigrant origin and the Muslim faith. Mayor Aboutaleb has often been in the media spotlight for his stances on issues including immigration, race, and faith. He is well-known for his confident way with words, having famously denounced extremists after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
In Rotterdam South, the municipality, partners and central government are investing in housing and the living environment to diversify the types of housing available locally enabling people who live in Rotterdam South and want to live in larger homes. In Frans Bekkerstraat in Oud-Charlois, the city is merging, enlarging and refurbishing homes, in order to broaden the current housing stock to provide larger accomodation units for families. The city is collaborating with Steenvlinder, a social developer that, on a voluntary basis, purchases and merges or enlarges the homes and then sells them. The City of Rotterdam has purchased some residences on Frans Bekkerstraat, meaning that any resident later wanting to sell their property there will need to first offer it for sale to the municipality.
Rotterdam runs an Expat Centre to help migrants arriving in the city to integrate. The centre operates as a one-stop-shop immigration office and in-house bank to help complete the formal registration process for new arrivals. It provides individuals with practical assistance about education, healthcare, housing, employment and paying taxes, and provides businesses with information to facilitate the process of hiring migrants and helping them to settle in Rotterdam. Language courses are also available to help migrants learn Dutch, and the centre organises social events to help migrants meet people and network.
To encourage children to participate in and contribute to democracy, Rotterdam has a children’s council, and a children’s mayor, that represent young people living in Rotterdam and advise the city council on policy relating to youth. The children’s council has four members in addition to the children’s mayor. Local children can contact the children’s mayor to discuss ideas they have for the municipality. The children’s mayor then highlights issues to city council that children find important. Topics on the children’s council agenda are chosen by children’s council members and include bullying, climate, housing, safety and exercise. The children’s council initiative is part of the Committed City program that seeks to increase community engagement in the development of the city.
The Rotterdam municipality is working with local businesses and organisations to tackle climate change and improve sustainability and environmental conditions for city residents. More than 100 local companies and social organisations signed the Rotterdam Climate Agreement in 2019, committing to the transition to a circular society and climate-neutral city by 2050. Almost 50 new measures to reduce greenhouse gases and stimulate a CO2-free economy include zero emission mobility, enhanced building sustainability, electric public transport vehicles, embracing circular economy, converting waste into fuel, climate-proof urban planning, and renewable energy. The agreement focuses on six key measures: port and industry, clean energy, mobility, built environment, circular, and healthcare.
Rotterdam also aims to improve the city’s future resilience by investing 233 million euros in a 10-year project to develop green spaces in the city. The project called Rotterdam sterker (Rotterdam, onwards stronger) will develop seven areas across the city to counter the negative effects COVID-19 had in Rotterdam, and to improve the quality of life for residents and attractiveness of the city. The seven city locations of the project are Alexanderplein, Rijnhavenpark, de Hofbogen, Maashavenpark, Hofplein and Blaak, Schouwburgplein and Getijdepark Feyenoord. The projects aims to ensure homeless people have coronaproof housing, ensure all playgrounds and sports fields have enough space and make summer camps for students.