While the coalition formed around Georges Mischo (CSV) by the Christian Socialists, the DP and déi Gréng was given no more than six months, not only has it lasted the entire term of office, but the members of the current municipal team appear to be united when it comes to defending their record. “We have worked well together” is the common theme.
For the current mayor, the coalition has “worked well together.” Despite the multi-crisis context--covid and then the war in Ukraine--“which makes it more difficult to finance projects,” he claims that the coalition has successfully completed 120 projects “without a socialist footprint.” And he jokes about Esch LSAP’s campaign slogan--“a new impetus”: “The new impetus is something we have been launching since 2017.”
He insists on the understanding that prevails within his majority: “We have always had good discussions. There has never been any open conflict or insurmountable problem.” And if there had been, no member of the coalition would mention them... Pim Knaff (DP), alderman, speaks of a “pleasant” collaboration with his two coalition partners. “We kept each other constantly informed of what was happening without the various jurisdictions.” And he would have no objection to renewing it.
I’m everybody’s mayor.
In highlighting his achievements, Mischo insists on the investments made in cultural and sporting infrastructures. His regrets include not having completed all the coalition’s projects due to covid and lack of time. “If we compare, the previous coalition had an average investment of €33.5m a year. We have €65.2m a year.”
For a--possible--next mandate, his priority will be safety, an inherently controversial issue. But he balances it with solidarity: “Alongside security, what’s important is solidarity with everyone, because we now have 37,000 inhabitants, 137 different nationalities and a fairly high unemployment rate. And I’m everybody’s mayor... Luxembourgers, Portuguese, Montenegrins, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italians, everyone. And it’s not easy to manage all these nationalities, with their needs, their ideas, their culture.”
If we want to have an attractive city centre, it comes at a cost.
For local councillor Pim Knaff (DP), the central issue at stake in the election is to create “a business-friendly environment” in Esch.
And while these are not good economic times, he hopes that by 2025--when the economy is expected to recover--the retailers will be there. To attract them, he is counting on the renovation policy for the rue de l’Alzette--a project that could be completed by 2025--as well as support for retailers through grants and a proactive policy to offer attractive rents. This policy, developed under his authority, has taken a number of forms, including startup aid of up to €25,000, depending on the initial investment, and a policy of direct leasing of premises to guarantee rents for landlords, which are then leased back to retailers at more competitive rates. At a loss, then. “But if we want to have an attractive city centre, it comes at a cost,” says the alderman. He has introduced a tax on unoccupied premises. It’s a tax that has still not received the green light from the national authorities.
2023 is an opportunity to write a new story.
Curiously, the LSAP is making support for commerce its main campaign theme.
The 2023 election is not the rematch of 2017. For Steve Faltz, the “Primus inter pare” of the list, “the rather harsh defeat of 2017” has enabled a complete renewal of the whole section. In a “peaceful manner,” he insists, with the support of the “old hands.” For him, “2023 is the opportunity to write a new story.”
Faltz may be an unknown quantity on the national political scene, but he is well established in Esch, both personally and professionally. He is in charge of town centre development at the municipality.
And that includes the highly strategic Rue de l’Alzette. “It’s a street that’s very close to my heart, both emotionally and technically.” The city centre is a central campaign issue for him, and, more specifically, its commercial appeal. Shopkeepers are his target. It’s up to him to turn around the image that the Socialists don’t listen to them. He wants to instil a pro-business culture in Esch’s Socialists.
Will the youth of the team be detrimental to the Esch LSAP? Faltz is convinced that the opposite is true. For him, the renewal was necessary. “I see it as an opportunity, not a handicap.” He even hopes that this renewal, which is taking place throughout the south of the country, will trigger a dynamic at national level.
To make Esch the capital of transition.
The dynamism of the city centre is an objective also shared by Meris Sehovic, co-president of déi Gréng and head of the party’s list. He praises the work of Knaff, whose objectives and methods he shares. And he would like to go even further by increasing subsidies and proposing a local currency, the Eschi, “to ensure that purchasing power and added value remain in the area.” But for him, the major challenge of the election is to “make Esch the capital of transition.” An ecological transition as well as a political one. “In many respects, we are a city at the cutting edge of what is being done in the country.” His objective: “to ensure a good quality of life, a good way of living together across generations and cultures.”
The challenge of the election is clearly to break with a certain stagnation.
Together with Samuel Baum, Line Wies is the head of the déi Lénk list. And for her, “the challenge of the election is clearly to break with a certain immobility,” an immobility that dates back to before 2017, according to her. “A stagnation that has deepened social and economic inequalities.” In her view, the teams in power since the steel crisis have failed to negotiate this post-industrial shift. “Esch needs to reinvent itself and ensure that the right social infrastructure is in place to support people through this transition,” she insists.
This includes developing the local community and cultural fabric, which she feels has been neglected for too long.
Her flagship measure, if she comes to power, would be to create 1,000 social housing units by 2030. She also believes that the city's housing department is undersized and unable to manage the community’s assets properly.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.