Furious Fred: Civic Awareness

You’re probably used to seeing brown water around Krakow’s tram tracks when it rains. Maybe you’ve asked yourself why that is. Maybe, on a dry day, you’ve experienced clouds of fine, iron-red dust thrown up by the traffic. It’s rust from poor quality rails, which is not particular healthy, especially in Europe’s third-most polluted city.

You might ask yourself why they don’t clean the roads more effectively. You might wonder why other European cities with trams don’t have the same problem. I’m referring specifically to the new tracks laid since Poland became an EU member in 2004, and the European procurement rules for large projects became applicable.

Go from ul. Starwiślna over the Powstańców Śląskich Bridge and then left along ul. Limanowskiego towards Kalwaryska to see what I mean. The tracks are of such low quality that they need constant maintenance. It is not unlikely that you may think that inferior materials have been used to build these tram tracks. An idea that is supported by the dilapidated condition of what are rather new roads.

Low bids for construction, low quality materials at high prices, bad procurement procedures, poor supervision and inadequate construction techniques are the usual causes. A friend of mine asked maintenance workers on the night shift about the state of the tracks. They complained of poor materials, or a total lack of materials for vital jobs.

furious fred1Maintenance workers on the night shift

When you see relatively new roads and bridges in a dilapidated state the same questions come to mind: Why? What can be done to prevent such things? It is us citizens who pay the bills and it is us who are suffering the consequences. Why is there such an uncomplaining attitude among the public? A lack of civic awareness? Do people just not care about the city they live in?

The city authorities are responsible for the public domain, and they don’t seem to care either, which has a negative influence of the quality of life of the city’s inhabitants. The city belongs to us, its citizens, not to the authorities. If they disrespect their own citizens, the authorities can’t expect respect from the citizens. Authority is not a synonym for respect.

Civic awareness means being critical about the state and maintenance of the public domain, and holding the authorities responsible for it. This attitude can force the authorities to change their attitude. Citizens should take note of the quality of their work, and take appropriate action when it is below par. Don’t forget, we pay the bills.

2 thoughts on “Furious Fred: Civic Awareness

  • September 4, 2014 at 11:44 am

    … it’s all about empowerment. Why would the citizen take the trouble of complaining when he doesn’t expect to be heard. It will take a while to dispell 60 years of communist dis-empowerment.Why does noone complain about the punched beer that is served in Poland? the re is no tradition of claiming your rights or holding anyone repsonsible.

  • September 9, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Sub-par building materials cost so much more over time, short time at that. Poles have a voice and they need to know, without reservation, that their voice must be heard in a democracy. That is how it works. Enough time has elapsed since the end of red, let everyone get with the program here. Use that voice in whatever form you deem you can most effectively. Write to your local representatives to let them hear your voice. Show up at the representatives’ offices on your lunch break, to write a note then and there about what you wish to communicate. Hey, cannot have a complaint without offering up your own solution, that works well. Remember to smile, move your voice with the power of smiles. Poland has muscle and that muscle resides in its people. A lot of good is in Poland, keep it that way.


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