The newly formed Citizen’s Referendum Committee “Nothing About Us Without Us” (Obywatelski Komitet Inicjatywy Referendalnej “Nic O Nas Bez Nas”) has started to campaign for a city-wide referendum to be carried out at the same time as the next local elections, due to be held towards the end of the year.
They want ordinary Cracovians to have the opportunity to discuss and evaluate how the city could and should develop and how this is to be achieved, so they have developed four referendum questions that touch on what they believe to be the key development issues facing Krakow today. The issues to be raised are the vision for the city’s development, the roles and responsibilities of district councils, the protection of Krakow’s dwindling green space from development and the protection of the green space in Zakrzówek in particular. For the referendum to take place it now needs either the city councillors to vote the motion through or a petition signed by 10 percent of the residents of the city.
Poland has had an unhappy history with referendums: they were usually falsified by the communist authorities in order to justify their decisions, so the Committee faces an uphill struggle to mobilise Cracovians and persuade them that this isn’t just more political game-playing but a valid and valuable tool for building a strong citizen-led democracy. Local businessman and long-term social activist Andrzej Madej, chairman of the committee, said: “This is just the start. We want regular referendums to become a standard procedure in determining how Krakow is governed.” Over the coming months, the committee plans to get the debate started by organising a series of four conferences to be held on each topic. The first, on green spaces in Krakow, was held in late May, and the next two will be held in June. Further details can be found on the committee’s website: www.niconasbeznas.krakow.pl.