Today municipal elections will be held on Sunday to elect delegates to municipalities for the next four years.
But how is municipal policy done in practice? How do we really change the direction of cities? How much can an individual ultimately influence things?
We asked the long-term delegates in the metropolitan area who are giving up politics what they have learned about municipal politics during their careers.
Coalition Party Jaana Pelkonen has been a member of the Helsinki City Council since 2008 and has served as a Member of Parliament for a decade. In February last year he announced, will no longer run in the upcoming elections.
At the forefront of Pelkonen’s career as a municipal politician is a great appreciation for all the people who work for Helsinki. He is grateful to have been involved for so long.
“My understanding has grown that this is a really important job.”
Pelkonen has learned that things can really be influenced in the municipal council, but it requires perseverance, patience and familiarity with things. You can never know too much about things.
“I’m a pretty impatient person, and I want everything to happen right away. This has been a good lesson for myself that sometimes temperance is a trump card, ”he says.
“Still, it’s never worth giving up on running important things.”
Pelkonen also swears in the name of cooperation. Different perspectives need to be taken into account, and sometimes one needs to be prepared to re-evaluate one’s own views.
“Politics is never about collecting feathers in your own hat.”
He has made friends on the council across party lines and finds it really valuable. Over the years, Pelkonen has increasingly learned to understand and listen to the opinions of different people.
For first-time politicians, he hints that it’s always worth talking to others so your own understanding expands.
“Your own views and values are important, but it’s also worth trying to figure out why someone thinks differently.”
Pelkonen reminds that love, dedication and fire for a common hometown must be adhered to.
“I will raise my hat for all municipal election candidates who want to start building a better future with passion. Such people are needed. ”
Timo Soini has been the Espoo City Councilor since 2001, first in the Basic Finns group and later in the Blue group. Over the course of 20 years, like Pelkonen, he learned that co-operation produces results and that political power matters.
“You have to know what you want and be able to justify it to others. Then you have to be able to jump and work on the message so that it can be taken through, ”Soini says.
According to him, an individual’s opportunities for influence increase if he is social and takes others into account. Signing the initiatives and questions of others ensures that when you have a case, others also listen.
“Even if I disagree on things, the direction of the head with opposition to everything is not terribly far off.”
At the age of 59 Soini has a long political career behind him, and he has had the opportunity to serve as a city councilor, member of parliament, MEP and minister. At the beginning of his career, the challenges were that he didn’t know people yet.
As key political actors got to know each other, the sky became much easier. Soini says that he has received good acquaintances from the council across party borders and intends to continue to attend Espoo council meetings, on the part of the public.
He hopes that the “hellish remote meetings” of the Corona era will soon be overcome. When you are physically present in the council hall, you also learn to engage in informal interaction.
In addition, Soini points out that delegates need to be well-informed so that officials do not have too much control over decision-making. He urges that you study the solution solutions, for example.
“If the delegates are not awake, the officials will lead the country.”
Sdp: n Pirjo Ala-Kapee has served as Vantaa’s municipal politician and mayor, Member of Parliament, Minister of Education and Governor of the Province of Eastern Finland.
For Ala-Kappe, who once read municipal policy at the University of Tampere, the council’s practices did not come as a surprise.
“Municipal things are as mundane as they can be. Take care of you, your health and your school: everything in life. ”
Ala-Kapee, who previously sat in the Ylöjärvi council, got to Vantaa after changing the city’s municipal policy as early as 1976. Over the decades, he has seen the entire rapid development of the city from the side and been involved in influencing it.
“There was enough work in Vantaa’s municipal policy. When I moved here, there was a shortage of kindergartens, school places, and youth facilities in every area, for example. And there is still enough work in growth areas. ”
Also Ala-Kapee emphasizes that municipal policy is, above all, cooperation across party lines to achieve the best possible solution.
Of the concrete possibilities for influence, he highlights the municipal budget, which closes the long-term plan and for which the delegates should be awake.
“Connecting with people is crucial.”
In the final games, the role of the commissioner includes, according to him, acting as the voice and representative of the people. There are a lot of contacts, and the work is often about taking care of people’s affairs on many different levels.
“In the store, someone can come to give criticism or good feedback, for example, about the operation of their children’s kindergarten. This work must be done with heart and a genuine desire to develop the lives of the people in their municipality. ”
According to Ala-Kape, contact with people is the most important thing in the task of a municipal politician. For example, he has never had a secret phone number in any capacity while working.
“I’ve had this same phone number since Cell Phones came. Connecting with people is very important. ”
All in addition to the municipal commissioner, the veteran politicians interviewed have acted as members of parliament. The washes are somewhat different.
According to Ala-Kapee, the biggest difference is that at the national level, laws are applied to everyone, but at the municipal level, these laws are enforced among local people.
Although Timo Soini thinks that municipal politics is a hobby, it is more fruitful than national politics, which has a strong government-opposition situation.
In the opposition, even good ideas do not necessarily move forward, while in the government you have to make big decisions, which you yourself may not like, Soini says.
“Furthermore, in municipal politics, it is not necessary to wave the flag in public for every achievement that I did this. When things go first, there is a mark. ”
According to him, the experience of municipal politics is of immense benefit when going to parliament. Then know on a practical level what the prescribed laws can cause.
“It must also be understood that in both washes, power is only on loan from the citizens.”
For a long time there have been both bitter and comfortable moments along the lines of politicians in the line. According to Soini, a funny memory was created when the director of education and the SDP were elected in Espoo. Aulis Pitkälä became elected.
“I went to the speaker and said that again we are in a situation of choosing a qualified or a Demari. I saw the faces stretch to the left, ”Soini says.
“Then I added that once we have a qualified Demari to choose from, we will be chosen. I thought it was a lot of fun. ”
According to him, interjections and colorful language are important in politics, but no one should, of course, be offended in an outrageous way.
One Soini’s best memories of his career were born again when he was foreign minister Juha Sipilän on the board and in his hometown of Kaita in Espoo, there was artificial turf on the football field.
“Personally, I had once played there on the sand field with my knees ruv. It was a nice kick to go in leather shoes to growl. ”
Moments of disappointment have also been experienced. Soini experiences a loss, for example Espoo Electricity sales at several different stages as well as their opposition western subway project throughput.
“Of these, the lower lip remains.”
Large some of Pirjo Ala-Kape’s good memories as commissioned are related to children’s sincere reactions and encounters, especially during kindergarten visits. He gives a much-talked-about example of the daily life of a municipal politician.
“Once on the street, a kindergarten group met and the little girl shouted,‘ hey, you look like Pirjo Ala-Kapee, ’” she says.
“That’s when I realized that as a municipal politician, people really get to know people and even children might recognize it.”
The 77-year-old politician no longer ran for the municipal elections, as he feels that he has done his job. According to him, it is good to stay out of politics when things are on a good model.
“President of the United States Joe Biden is not much older than me, but I think I will continue the municipal policy in the role of a side follower, ”says Ala-Kapee.
“Now I have to look for a new candidate.”
Timo Soini after this term of office, relinquishes its day-to-day policy and has set up its own communications company. The end of a political career brings with it at least one clear challenge.
“Before, there was always a good delegate to vote for. Now I have to look for a new candidate. ”
Soini says he appreciates people who are nominated in the municipal elections and put themselves in the game. He reminds past candidates that the election pot is always collected together.
Soini’s message to the new delegates is clear:
“It’s just perseverance in the bowl.”