Why a superprovince isn’t the solution

I’m concerned about something for quite some time now. Currently, there’s a discussion in the Netherlands about the so called ‘superprovince’. The Dutch government is planning to merge three provinces into a single big one. This so called superprovince includes the city of Amsterdam and houses over 4 million people.

It’s not the actual merger I’m concerned about. No, it’s the reason why. Doing this based on a vision is great. But the Dutch government appears to have none… unless you count ‘money’ as being a vision. Politicians argue it’s more efficient to centralize the government, which means less managers and more efficiency, thus more decisiveness and a better competitiveness. This results in more jobs and even more money.

But… if a merger of three provinces makes governing more efficient… why not merge five provinces? Or seven? Or why not all twelve?

“We have to do this”

That’s where the “we have to do this” argument comes in. I love this argument, since it’s one of the most commonly used arguments. The beauty is, you can use it for anything. Think, let’s say, of the airline merger which was announced last week. American and US Airways want to merge because the competition merged a couple of years ago. If the argument can be used by commercial airlines, it most surely can be used by the Dutch government as well.

So, why does the Dutch government “have to do this”? Well, competition from other countries and cities is growing stronger. Think of Paris and London, who try to attract the same Fortune 500 companies as we do. If we make Amsterdam and our main metropolitan area stronger (the superprovince), we’ll stay ‘in the game’.

Well, that makes sense. Maybe the superprovince isn’t such a bad idea after all. One question: What happens when our competitors respond by growing bigger as well?

San Francisco Bay Area merger

Recently I found an example which illustrates what happens then. It turns out the San Francisco Bay Area, which is the 13th largest economy of the world, wants to merge for almost identical reasons (but on a larger scale). This merger of the Bay area, which includes the city of San Francisco and Silicon Valley (home to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and eBay) would result in a superprovince which houses 6,9 million people and gives them a lead over cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City and London.

Wait, hold on a second. London? Are the British going to be affected by this on-other-side-of-the-world-merger? If so, London has to act in order to stay in the game. And if London acts… we have to do something too. Maybe we can merge our superprovince with another one or two provinces… That’ll give us a change. Right?!

Why follow the others?

This is exactly why I’m concerned by the current situation. Ultimately, we’re forced to follow the others’ lead, grow when they grow and increase efficiency when they do the same. And this cycle repeats itself over and over again. Instead, I believe the Netherlands should focus on its own strengths. Doing so, it’s good to realize we have a major advantage. We’re a (densely populated) country with about 17 million people, which should make us competitive with about any western city or region in the world. Hence, let’s only merge things that make sense.

Why not establish a true national police force, a nationwide fire-response system, a few highly specialized hospitals at strategic locations, a nationwide public transit system which encompasses the entire country and a single national park service.

This leaves us with municipalities. They’re ideal to take care of services which require to be close to the people. Like social services, education and basic health care services. This makes it absolutely clear what a municipality is… it’s the local government.

A local and central government

I believe we don’t need another superprovince. Instead, let’s emphasize and strengthen the areas in which the local an central government excel at. Local government is close to the people while the central government is all about big plans and the big picture. Isn’t that all we need for a small country like the Netherlands?

Horse in the Netherlands - Kruiskerk Burgum - Benjamin Feenstra

Horse

I don’t go for a walk that often. But when I do, I try to bring my camera with me. Most often, the camera stays in the bag without being used. But not today.

Next to our ‘Kruiskerk’, a 12th century church, there was this great horse. He (or she?) promted me to stage a photoshoot (Hey! That’s why I brought my camera anyway). Halfway the shoot, the horse walked towards me so we could ‘chat’ a bit. Also, this resulted in the photo above. As you can see, the medieval church stands in the background.

Bolder75 met Renze Klamer - Fajah Lourens - Jan Slagter - Foppe de Haan - Otto de Bruijne - VBG Bethel Drachten

#Bolder75

I can’t tell you how much fun I had, yesterday evening. I had the opportunity to direct Bolder75, the talkshow event of VBG Bethel, Drachten. The event was hosted by Renze Klamer and included a interviews of Fajah Lourens, Foppe de Haan, Jan Slagter and Otto de Bruijne.

I wanted to include the full video in this post. But as it turns out… that’s not allowed. Which makes this website your next stop (watch the February 3rd interview, it’s Dutch only).

The Inauguration of Barack Obama

On January 20th 2009, two million people, including myself, were in Washington DC to witness one of the most historic US presidential inaugurations ever… The inauguration of Barack Obama. Since it’s been four years, I’ve been thinking about what to write about this truly historic event. Truth to be told, I don’t know.

Maybe a story about the great ‘We Are One’ concert of Bono, Bruce Springsteen and other celebrities will do? Or what about the strategic location I choose to see the inauguration and parade… I could talk about this for hours! No? A horror story about the ‘Purple Gate of Doom’ perhaps? Wait! It’s a party. No horror stories today…

I believe the story of an African American pastor from Chicago is great. While waiting for Obama, he told me about the moment when he met President Bill Clinton (in the 90s). One day, this pastor traveled with Clinton’s motorcade when the president decided to get some fastfood. He directed the entire motorcade to the nearest fastfood chain and used the drive through to order food for everyone… True story.

Or wait, I met this other great guy from New York. He told me about the unprecedented security measures in his nephews office, which is located next to the parade route at Pennsylvania Avenue. Or is it more interesting to tell the story about George W. Bush? I was near the White House when he arrived there for the last time while being president. That was quite something. We (the NY-guy and me) knew that president Bush’ helicopter, Marine One, would land on the South Lawn. But we didn’t expect three identical helicopters. All three approached the White House from the south. But George W. Bush was in just one of these presidential helicopters. I guess these three helicopters did the ultimate (real-life) shell game. It took us until the third helicopter to figure out in which one George Bush travelled. Speaking of people from Texas, our section of the parade route was secured by Texan police officers. How sad is that, being a republican police officer from Texas who’s deployed in the nations capital on that particular day. That’s a true ‘being in the belly of the beast’ situation. But I have to admit… we, including the Texans, had lots of fun together. Which is good, because it was an extremely cold and long wait…

Which leaves us with the last story to be told… which is the inauguration of Obama itself. During those days, the message of hope and change sounded throughout the United States. Everyone hoped for better times, which could easily be seen on the faces of the people attending the inauguration. It simply was unbelievable and something I’ve never seen before. And… the sound of two million people shouting Barack Obama’s name and going wild after he took the oath of office… That was quite something!

Well, I don’t know which story I should pick. But perhaps I don’t have to. Instead, I created a new OneMinute video (see above). It’s the inauguration (and preceding days) in just one minute. Enjoy!