Wolkersdorf im Weinviertel
#OurDemocracyLocal Erwin Mayer

Our new feature asks about your local democracy story.

Erwin Mayer is one of the 28 members of the local municipal council in Wolkersdorf im Weinviertel, Austria, where he serves as environmental council member (Umweltgemeinderat) and co-head of the subcommittee for direct democracy and citizens participation. He’s also founding member of Mehr Demokratie! Austria and Democracy International.

Erwin, what is your best story of local democracy?

"We had a citizens’ assembly in our home town, a very representative citizens assembly, the most representative in the history of Austria. With sortition. Most of the effort was put in the representation of the sample… by gender, age, neighborhood, education, andthis was the most important—attitude to the topic. We used surveys to make sure the assembly was representative of attitude to the topic in Austria.

The topic was land consumption, so land preserving too. The assembly happened one year ago, over two weekends. 18 people. The assembly made its recommendations 10 months ago.

They were more ambitious than what the council wanted. For example, they asked for taxation on buildings that are not being used, not being rented. They recommended that parking areas not all be concrete—this is called Schwammstadt or “Spongecity” so water can pass into the ground. Another recommendation was that if you use open land for a build, you have to take other developed land and restore it as it was before.

Now again we are fighting—my party and I, especially, are hoping these recommendations will be implemented. I asked the 18 people on the assembly about their own wish for the recommendations and what happens to them.... Many say they would prefer that the recommendations were directly implemented by the council, or that the citizens of the town decide through direct democracy."

As told to Joe Mathews, in Bucharest, Romania, May 15, 2024

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