“Over time I became more and more involved”
Text: Martina Hošková and M. Zisso; Photo: archive
A manager with a complex work experience, member of the ODS political party, and a family man with a passion for travel, nature, and sports – that is the newly-elected Mayor of Prague 4, Ondřej Kubín. We spoke about a decision he had to make which enabled him to get where he is today, and about his duties as mayor. He highlighted some critical issues Prague 4 is currently tackling, like the Barrandov Bridge reconstruction and the modern development of the city.
Tell us about yourself.
I would describe myself as a manager with a unique and complex work experience. I have experience in the field of state administration, at a foreign corporation, in an academic environment, and business experience – as both a natural person and a legal entity. I can therefore look at various work problems with the necessary perspective. Personally, I am a family man with a passion for travel, nature, and sports.
You are a member of ODS (Civic Democratic Party). Who is the greatest inspiration for you there?
Actually, I wouldn’t say there is one particular personality that I look up to. In the current ODS, however, I would point out the calm and patient approach of Petr Fiala. He may be too academic for some, but I am closer to a style of governing that is without big theatrical gestures and a deliberate approach than to an empty macho style. Petr Fiala, through his trip to wartime Ukraine, when he was among the first world politicians to go to Kyiv, showed that he was not afraid. At that time, I was very proud of my prime minister and the Czech Republic.
What made you become the Mayor of Prague 4?
The road to becoming the Mayor of Prague 4 was long and complicated. Of course, when I joined the ODS in 2013, I did not imagine that 10 years later I would become the mayor. I just wanted to help a party that was on the decline at the time, and at the same time represented values that are close to me politically – namely not being afraid to be responsible for one’s destiny, work hard to build our own lives, and help those in need. Over time, I became more and more involved until I reached a stage where I had to decide whether to continue devoting my free time to politics – which I could have devoted to the development of my business, and, above all, to my family – or to put aside some work activities and go into politics to the fullest extent. You can see what I decided :-).
What are the responsibilities of a mayor? How many hours do you work?
How many hours? Will my wife read this article? Well, it is not a regular Monday-Friday 8-hour or 12-hour shifts. You have to live with the role. In addition to the standard statutory roles, a mayor also has a representative and ceremonial role. It also depends on the role he holds within the council: in my case I am also responsible for finance, security, sports, and European funds.
I don’t look at the working hours. The agenda is extensive. The number of necessary personal meetings – which unfortunately are often unproductive – is also large, and various events and meetings are often held in the evenings or on weekends. Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife, who, in addition to her work, manages evening shifts with the children. I am trying my best to manage my work- life balance.
You were elected as the mayor of Prague 4 just a few months ago. Can you share some of your impressions so far?
It is a position that is very responsible and more demanding than I thought, which is probably not surprising considering the fact that Prague 4 is the largest in Prague, and would be the 5th largest city in the Czech Republic on its own. And, at the same time, I enjoy the work and it is more fulfilling than I thought :-). The more responsibility and autonomy, the more I enjoy it.
Where exactly do you see the most problems in Prague 4? Are these the same issues as elsewhere in Prague?
Right now, one of the most painful issues is traffic. That affects both Prague 4 and Prague itself. Speaking about Prague 4, we have the three major traffic restrictions, or construction sites. The biggest one is the construction of the new metro line„D“, then the construction of a completely new bridge in Podolí, and the reconstruction of the Barrandov Bridge. Well, these important buildings have an impact on the traffic situation within Prague 4.
From the point of view of Prague as a whole, the complexity of new construction is also a big problem, which results in high purchase prices for apartments and flats.
In general, the development of Prague is not easy. Prague is a historic city that experienced a long period of communism, when nothing was impossible and brutalist architecture took its toll, including insufficient planning and archiving. Add to that the wild 90s, and then you find yourself going to repair the sidewalk and running into utilities you didn’t even know existed. And, of course, the absence of the Prague circuit is a big problem. We cannot calm traffic in the city, in the style of Berlin or Vienna, when, unlike these cities, Prague lacks a transit ring.
What are the main work challenges for you and your colleagues?
Apart from the above? The biggest challenge for us is people who offer easy and quick solutions – because it doesn’t usually work that way.
What is your strategy as mayor for the next four years?
We probably don’t have the space to be completely specific here, so I will at least state the basic points. As I have already stated, we are affected by transport constructions, with a large impact. The goal is that we do not just survive these temporary negative effects in connection with the construction, but actively influence and reduce their impact on the lives of our residents. This is not an easy and small task. We also have many smaller projects that we would like to implement with our own funds, both in the social field and regarding the development of new green areas and parks, but we would also like to encourage activity among children and seniors. And we must not forget about healthy public finances.
Prague 4 has a big development area. How will you keep the quality of life for the residents, in spite of developers’ demands?
Our task should be to support meaningful and interesting projects, and at the same time to ensure that these projects fit into the whole context. Not to allow a high-rise building in a residential area, to monitor the impact on the environment, to evaluate traffic in the area, but also to demand civic amenities from developers, contributions to increase the capacity of school facilities, and other contributions beneficial to the public. Prague is a historical city, but, at the same time, we shouldn’t want an open- air museum. Vienna, Paris, Barcelona, and others are historical cities that have modern construction and skyscrapers, and still retain the stamp of world cities.
Recently, we got the bad news about the closing of many post offices. What can you do about it?
I understand the need for the restructuring of the Czech Post, which should have happened a long time ago, but I have a problem with the style of communication when local governments were only informed of how many branches would be cancelled, without being able to discuss local specifics. Disruption of branches is annoying, but, on the other hand, it must be admitted that it is not fatal. Unfortunately, this is a problem, especially for seniors who find it difficult to jump on the path of the digitization of services. However, for our part of the city, we will try to introduce courses for seniors, and to inform the public about less busy times at individual branches.
A mayor’s job comes with a lot of criticism, especially in the largest part of Prague. How will you handle that?
You can never make everyone happy. Whether you are the Pope, a sports star, or a politician, you always have your supporters and critics. I try to do things to the best of my knowledge and conscience, and sometimes you have to make painful compromises, for the good of the whole, or for the future, but that’s part of it. Knowing that, I can live with the fact that there will be critics who think they would do better. It is very easy to criticize without direct responsibility, but with the weight of decisions and consequences, you already look at things differently. I was never afraid of responsibility. The best way to handle the pressure is to compensate for it with sports, and with time with family.
Do you believe that in four years, people will say you were effective in solving the problems of Prague 4?
I hope they will, of course, I will be happy if I manage to defend the mandate. We are part of the City of Prague, therefore the political situation in Prague as a whole will have an effect on us as well.