“The city is supposed to serve its residents”
Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive
Alexandra Udženija replaced her ODS political party colleague Jana Černochová as Mayor of Prague 2 in December 2020. She explains, however, that she has been “active in municipal politics in Prague 2 for 17 years” and that this city district is her “home, and means a lot”. What is she especially proud of? What are her City Council’s priorities? And how will she help the ageing population of Prague 2?
Can you tell us a bit about the relationship between you and Prague 2?
Prague 2 is my home, and a place that means a lot to me. I have been active in municipal politics in Prague 2 for seventeen years. My goal since the very beginning has been to improve the daily life of local residents.
In 2015, I was elected deputy mayor, and since then I have been focusing on health and social policy, which has always been very close to my heart. I founded two interest clubs – one for seniors, and one for children and parents – with various activities and benefits. I also established the Dvojka srdcem endowment fund, which, based on the patriotism of the residents, helps our neighbours in difficult life situations. The cohesion of our residents is very important to me, and Prague 2 is an example of how big city life does not have to be anonymous. In this sense, we will also focus more on working with local communities and associations.
You have been active in Prague 2 for seventeen years. How do you evaluate your work so far?
I am very proud that years of my work, and that of my colleagues and City Hall employees, are paying off. Prague 2 is among the best-rated city districts in terms of quality of life. Although it is a very busy part of the city, where thousands of people commute daily for work or just pass through, Prague 2 still maintains a friendly face for its residents. We have created a safe and clean place where citizens can work, raise their children, and spend their free time. We have proven that you can live in the very centre of a world metropolis while still having green parks, playgrounds, quality schools, and all the infrastructure needed for a quality life – right outside your window.
What makes municipal politics attractive to you?
The advantage of a municipal politician is the proximity to our citizens. Most of our decisions have a quick effect, so we can respond to current local issues. This is very different from the work of politicians at the national level, whose decisions tend to be lengthy and cumbersome due to legislative processes. At the same time, our policy in Prague 2 supports open and modern administration in the long term.
I have a good team of colleagues in the district council, and individual tasks are handled by real experts in the given area.
What do you envision being the top Prague 2 priorities for the next four years?
Prague 2 is a stable part of the city. At the end of January, as the City Council, we approved the Program Statement, which is our plan for the next four years. Due to the current uncertain economic situation and the energy price crisis, our main priorities are responsible management and the economy. 2023 will be a year of savings for everyone. Nevertheless, thanks to the long-term sound management, Prague 2 has enough finances to continue investing in its development.
Prague 2 is located in the city centre, and is therefore heavily burdened by traffic. At the same time, however, it falls within the urban conservation area and the Prague Heritage Area. My wish is to develop Prague 2, with respect to traditions and openness to new trends. We care for our part of the city, yet we do not forget that the city is supposed to serve its residents. Like other world capitals, Prague is struggling with the complex issue of how to solve traffic. We, in Prague 2, for example, are currently fighting against poorly set rules for micro-transport (bike-sharing companies). Scattered scooters often and dangerously lie in the middle of the sidewalk, and their careless users endanger pedestrians with their riding – these issues trouble Prague residents. Everything would be easier if traffic in Prague was managed more conceptually, and uniform rules were set.
Do you see any major challenges for you and your colleagues on the journey towards reaching your set goals?
Without a doubt, the leadership of the capital city of Prague is an important partner for city districts. In recent years, we have found ourselves in difficult situations due to different political leadership and different ideas. I believe that soon this situation will stabilize, and we will find a common way to manage our metropolis. Municipal districts need a stable partner for their planning, and the people of Prague need the certainty that Prague will only draw on its strengths.
Dealing with criticism is an inherent part of a politician’s life. What is your approach to this matter?
Politics has always been, and always will be, about finding compromises. I try as much as possible to perceive the opinions of my colleagues, as well as the opposition, and, last but not least, our citizens. I declared during my re-election that I want to continue to be the mayor for all, without distinction, and that my door is always open to everyone.
Four years from now, which tasks would you like to have fulfilled for the people to say that you were successful?
We are entering this election period at a time of high inflation, and a price crisis in the energy market in connection with the war in Ukraine. That’s why we think of everyone who might need our help. We are looking for ways to help both families and individuals. We also support entrepreneurs who do not have favourable conditions for their businesses. We are trying to hold Prague 2 together.
We are planning an economic analysis of all of our properties that belong to the municipal district. We rent our apartments through public auctions. In short, we are looking for the most efficient way to rent apartments, including their renovations.
In my particular area, I consider the most important task to be to complete the preparatory work for the construction of a new social service centre. It is an ambitious but meaningful project for the city district. The population is ageing – within 20 years the number of seniors over 75 in Prague 2 will double – and it is necessary to provide care for these people. We already have a problem in Prague, with the lack of capacity to place elderly homes in order to provide them with the care they need. At the same time, it is our duty to take care of the older generations of our parents and grandparents.