Hundreds of thousands of people help city authorities monitor local issues and processes, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told delegates of the 9th Congress of the Council of Municipal Entities. Many city residents use custom-made online services, including the Active Citizen and Our City websites and others, he added.
It is very important to involve the public in running the city through interactive online networks. “I’m confident that you and all the deputies, and many other concerned people in the city are actively using this tool,” Mr Sobyanin said.
He also discussed the city’s development over the past few years, including the great volumes of road construction. Over 500 kilometres of roads, dozens of interchanges, overpasses, viaducts, underpasses, pedestrian crossings and other structures have been built. “Moscow has outpaced every other leading mega-city, including rapidly developing cities like Beijing, Shanghai and others, in terms of road construction,” Mr Sobyanin said.
The public transit system continues to develop. The city has opened dozens of metro stations and the Moscow Central Circle (MCC) railway, upgraded trains, buses, trolleybuses and trams and also established designated transit lanes. There are plans to open 30 more metro stations soon and to build about 300 kilometres of new roads, including ambitious projects like the North-West and North-East Expressways, the Southern Expressway, efforts to upgrade and resurface Kaluzhskoye Motorway and many other major road projects.
Education quality has improved in the past few years. Reforms have made it possible to solve a number of problems, including school-funding discrepancies and the elimination of shortages of kindergarten space. City schools now rank among the five best school categories worldwide. “Over these years, we have built hundreds of education facilities, changed the funding system, almost doubled funding, improved the level of school technical equipment, and established major education centres. The quality of education has doubled by most indicators, as shown by the results of the Unified State Exam, nationwide school-level Olympiads and school ratings, as well as by international indicators,” Mr Sobyanin said, and added that there are plans to integrate preschool, school and professional education in the next few years.
Regarding healthcare, we need to focus on boosting service quality standards, Mr Sobyanin noted. City clinics are no worse than those in most European countries in terms of their equipment levels. Average local life expectancy has reached 77 years. Child and infant mortality rates, as well as those caused by strokes and cardiac arrest, have dropped considerably. “In the next few years, we must boost the healthcare sector’s technical equipment levels, which is an absolute must, and we have to also boost service quality standards and retrain doctors and other medical personnel more effectively. We will cooperate with leading national universities on this issue, while creating a new standard for the city’s healthcare sector and doctors,” Mr Sobyanin said.
The housing and utilities sector is another major issue facing any city. “Warm winters sometimes make us feel complacent, but subzero temperatures remind us that we have no reason to relax. The sustained provision of this kind of city energy is a highly important task for city agencies and utility workers. Thank God, we have worked without any major accidents all these years,” M. Sobyanin noted.
He instructed the municipal deputies to monitor the work of the city’s management companies. "Their directors must report to you. They face many problems related to petty theft, poor work organisation and unskilled personnel. However, these potentially strong agencies are well-equipped and get plenty of funding. Therefore it is our job to ensure high-quality and conscientious performance,” Mr Sobyanin stressed.
Speaking of the social sector’s achievements, he noted that funding volumes had increased by 50 percent in the past few years reaching 347 billion roubles. “This is linked with minimal city-level pension standards and extra breaks, including those related to residential building overhauls and electricity bills for people with disabilities. People in this category should pay actual, rather than preset, electricity consumption volumes,” he said.
It is important that we draft targeted support mechanisms for needy people, Mr Sobyanin noted. Billions of roubles are being spent on this each year, and we need to cooperate with municipal deputies in this area.
The same concerns local improvement projects. “We have determined various sources for funding the comprehensive improvement of courtyards and districts, and we have allocated this funding to our districts. For example, they can now use business, metered parking and housing rental tax revenue, etc. Therefore the heads of all districts know their local improvement potential early each year,” Mr Sobyanin said. In addition, the city will set aside extra funding for improving complicated projects each year. For example, there are plans to improve and upgrade Leninsky Prospekt.
During the Congress, municipal deputies asked Mr Sobyanin to improve the territory around the monument to Yury Gagarin. They believe that, despite a recent improvement project, the square lacks a special atmosphere.
Council Presidium member Alexei Lisovenko, Head of the Babushkinsky Municipal Council, asked Mr Sobyanin to help municipal deputies resolve issues that are linked with residential building overhauls. They have been monitoring overhauls for the last 12 months, and they sometimes face problems linked with the buildings’ structural specifications. Builders are sometimes forced to dismantle walls, and this creates unacceptable conditions for tenants.
Municipal deputies also suggested extending the programme for demolishing the obsolete five-story residential buildings. “The city has completed a good, ambitious, large-scale and powerful programme to demolish five-story residential buildings. After consulting with the heads of many municipal districts, we would like to ask you, Mr Sobyanin and members of the Moscow Government, whether it is possible to draft a new programme in this category?” Pyotr Petrov, Head of the Presnensky Municipal Council, said.
While discussing this issue, Deputy Moscow Mayor Marat Khusnullin said the city has faced several problems during the relocation programme. The absence of vacant construction sites is the first problem. “Second, some residents of these buildings refuse to relocate. Court battles account for about 20 percent of the programme’s volumes, serving to delay the relocation programme. Of course, most people want to relocate, but some are absolutely adamant,” he said.
The city will have to contribute huge resources, which is our third problem, Mr Khusnullin said. “If we take a look at the 2010 Targeted Investment Programme, we can see that we are spending almost 50 percent of our funding on this programme and very little on transport. Today, almost 70 percent of this funding is being spent on solving the city’s transport problem,” Mr Khusnullin added.
The programme being suggested by the municipal deputies is more expensive than the transport programme. “Each year, we spend almost 300 billion roubles on the metro, roads, and railways, and this programme will become even more ambitious. This entire programme seems impracticable and calls for extremely unconventional decisions in the current situation,” he said.