Remco (26): ‘For many, local politics is a far cry from what they are used to’
The municipal elections are approaching. Because many young people are also competing for a seat on the City Council, we would like to introduce four young candidates to you. Today, we speak with Remco van Dooren (26), who left Tilburg University in 2019 with Masters in Strategic Management and Public Governance. This election, he is leading candidate of the CDA in Eindhoven.
With exactly 1754 votes, Remco landed in the Eindhoven City Council in 2018. Since that moment, he says he has been continuously involved. Surveys, research, visiting residents; he wants to know what is going on in his city. He also likes to put items on the agenda himself, instead of meekly following the board’s agenda. This proactive attitude struck such a chord that he gained the confidence of his fellow party members to be their leading candidate this year.
Hi Remco, why do you want to stay in the Eindhoven City Council?
“I would like to be meaningful to people and continue to represent their voices. I do this by raising their concerns, receiving their good ideas and taking them further, or by getting stuck into a neighborhood’s problems until these are solved. The fact that you can do that as a council member is something I like.
“Of course, you can’t change all of Eindhoven, you have to keep both feet on the ground. What you can do is show people that you have done something with their question or idea, whether or not it has led to the desired result. Only then will people have confidence in local politics.
“Where my urge to stand on the barricades came from? I don’t really know. Not from my parents in any case, who were never that interested in local politics. I think it’s a strange kind of sense of justice: I just want to speak up for something and voice my opinion about it.”
A recent study (Dutch only) from research firm Overheid in Nederland found that barely seven percent of the approximately 8,500 council members are under the age of 30. That is remarkably low. Why are young people important in local politics?
“The City Council should be a representation of society. That is, both young and old. Both groups have their own voices and perspectives. Themes that concern young people are less relevant to older people. As a young councilor you have a better feel for these topics, and you know what is going on among your peers.
“Most older council members are equally interested in young people but find it difficult to reach them. This is because both groups live in a different world. If, for example, a councilor is featured in the Eindhoven or Brabants Dagblad, this does not automatically lead to a lot of exposure among the younger generations. They are mainly on social media.
“What doesn’t make it easy at all is that, for many, local politics is a far beyond their scope of interest. The average Dutch person only becomes interested when it hits that person close to home. That’s fine, but this lesser degree of involvement makes it a challenge for us as councilors to reach people.
“Personally, that’s why I go into a lot of neighborhoods and shopping centers. Then you show interest and show that you take someone seriously. You give local politics—literally—a face. I also think this is important because I don’t want to be just the representative of the youngsters, but of everyone. I want to look beyond my own group, and I enjoy visiting seniors or active resident organizations just as much.”
What themes are particularly close to your heart?
“The focus, as in so many municipalities, is on building a lot more affordable housing. And especially on homes outside the center. In Eindhoven, we construct a lot of high-rise buildings, but that is only part of the solution. After all, some people want a small garden and there is no room for that in the city center. Incidentally, this concerns houses for starters, young families, and senior citizens; those who are, by a small margin, not eligible for social housing and. Therefore. fall into the nonsubsidized housing sector.
“Eindhoven’s accessibility has been a major challenge for years. Eindhoven’s ring road, which connects all the city districts, is jammed too often. There must be better traffic flow. We also want people to leave their cars at home more often. To achieve that, we think public transport needs to be looked at in a completely different way. We, therefore, plan to experiment with free bus transport.”
How do you combine politics with your work?
“That’s difficult. The City Council takes me twenty hours a week while my work week takes thirty-two hours. Fortunately, I have a great employer who is flexible with this. But, as of next week, I really need to take time off; a campaign like this just takes too much time.
“Especially as a leading candidate, then you kind of have to keep the joint running. I manage all the volunteers and try to ensure that everyone stays enthusiastic. As a result, my individual campaign is on the back burner.”
What personal challenges do you see ahead of you?
“When I hopefully become group chairman soon, it will be a different role than I have had in recent years as a council member. As party chair, you bear the final responsibility, and you have to participate in the coalition negotiations—provided we become a major party. These are all new things with which I have little experience. I also don’t want to hear at the end of the term that they haven’t seen me for four years. My goal is to be approachable and visible and to make ordinary Eindhoven citizens happy with concrete results.”