How has Novosibirsk changed and what will happen next?

Anatoly Lokot admits that there are still many problems in Novosibirsk that need to be solved. But even over these seven years, in his opinion, the mayor’s office has done a lot

On April 6, 2014, mayoral elections were held in Novosibirsk. The victory was won by the representative of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Anatoly Lokot, for whom 43.75% of the votes were cast. His main opponent, United Russia member Vladimir Znatkov, received 39.57%. In 2019, the communist was re-elected for a second term. The NGS spoke with local politicians, political scientists, officials and social activists about how prettier (or not) Novosibirsk has become under Mayor Lokt. And also we asked Anatoly Evgenievich himself to sum up the results of his work – and received an answer.

Anatoly Lokot: “There are still a lot of problems”

In 2000, Anatoly Lokot won the elections to the City Council and headed the Novosibirsk branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Three years later he became a deputy of the State Duma of the fourth convocation. Also elected in 2007 and 2011. In 2014, he won the elections and became the mayor of Novosibirsk. Elbow is still doing this post.

– In a city where two million inhabitants will soon live, many problems have accumulated that require large investments and long-term solutions. Among the active townspeople and deputies, there is a constant discussion: what should be the focus of efforts? I will try to cover several important topics.

First: 50 kindergartens and 16 schools – that’s how much has been done since 2014. This includes new construction and reconstruction of old buildings with an increase in their capacity. For many years, little attention has been paid to this problem. Whole microdistricts appeared, but schools and kindergartens were not built there. Now we are trying to catch up. Have you done enough to address crowded classrooms and kindergarten queues? Of course not. To close the deficit, you need to build 5-6 schools a year. Therefore, we participate in all programs, we attract funds from the federal budget as much as possible. More than half of the city budget annually goes to education – about 30 billion rubles.

Second, a unified approach to the development of green areas has been formed. One hears criticism often, but the fundamental changes are obvious. In 2015, in Novosibirsk, an inventory of parks and squares was carried out for the first time, and an integral concept of their development appeared. And this work allowed us to receive federal money for landscaping. Remember how the embankment, Central Park, the area that is now called Zatulinsky Park looked like? Today these are completely different spaces. This year the Zaeltsovsky park will change. In the coming years, green areas will appear on abandoned sites, which can already be seen in projects. And by the way, in addition to parks, improvement has affected more than 1,700 households.

A clear road and transport development plan has emerged. This is the most difficult area – it is possible to qualitatively change the situation only by significantly increasing investments in infrastructure. There is no such amount of funds in the city’s budget today, but there are our applications for federal money, and there are documents that protect the city from the risk of chaotic development. It is extremely important that a set of transport planning documents has been developed. They are linked to each other, they define the stages and objects required for Novosibirsk. This is a job that is invisible to most people. Changes are generally not always visible immediately, if this is not a new road, such as Titov’s sections with a tram line to Chistaya Sloboda or the new Kolonda street. But without such projects and plans, changes cannot be achieved. For the first time in many years, we began to build rather than dismantle tram tracks, build a metro station, update public transport. There are still a lot of problems. But there is a clear understanding of how the city’s transport framework will develop.

Fourth: long-term construction projects are gradually disappearing from the map of the city. For seven years, 73 problem houses have been completed – more than 7 thousand Novosibirsk residents have finally received the keys to their apartments. Mechanisms have been created to attract investors to these projects. And it is especially important that they defrost the most famous long-term construction – the hotel “Tourist”. This building skeleton will soon disappear from Marx Square.

A course towards a full and fair budget. Now many do not remember, but in the first year as mayor they had to deal with the long-term problem of the “Siberian Cherkizon”. The largest semi-legal open-air marketplace, known as the Gusinobrodskaya flea market, served as a breeding ground for criminals, a series of contract killings was associated with it, and the conditions in which ordinary sellers worked were simply terrible. Through long and difficult negotiations, we managed to convince thousands of people who were fed by the flea market of the inevitability of a transition to a new format of trade. Instead of rusty metal containers, shopping centers have appeared.

We managed to avoid significant losses in jobs and budget losses. On the contrary: if in 2014, in the territory of Novosibirsk, the budgets of different levels received 100 billion rubles, now this amount exceeds 150 billion. A large contribution to this tax base is made by Novosibirsk industrial enterprises, which showed positive dynamics even in a difficult pandemic year. And today I see my task in persuading higher levels of government to give Novosibirsk more economic incentives. So that in the process of creating a growing tax base, the city budget receives more funds to solve acute problems associated with cleaning, with the improvement of our city.

Natalia Pinus: “It has integrated into the system”

Natalya Pinus is an independent deputy of the Novosibirsk City Council. Member of the Commissions for Culture, Sports, Youth Policy, International and Intermunicipal Cooperation and Urban Economy.

– I and other people had a lot of expectations from the mayor. We hoped for some positive changes. But, unfortunately, such changes did not take place. I can state that Anatoly Evgenievich could not or did not want to oppose himself to the current state of affairs, which obviously needs to be changed. It seems to me that he was integrated into the system that existed before him. At the same time, another aspect appeared – in my opinion, also somewhat negative. Previously, our Communist Party had a strong position, in the city it acted more consolidated and distinctly in relation to some critical aspects. Now, due to the fact that Anatoly Evgenievich became the mayor, this critical component of the party naturally decreased.

The most important thing that the mayor supervises is the functioning of the city, that is, the maintenance of streets, roads, sidewalks, green spaces. It is also an urban planning policy: solving issues that relate to land plots. Now I can state that there are cases when decisions are made in the interests of a particular business, and not people. In addition, the functioning of public transport raises questions in the city. As for education, we had it at a fairly confident level, this level remains. Social services are also generally in good condition.

Another question remains to what extent the mayor listens to the opinion of the townspeople. It was expected that Anatoly Evgenievich would work in their interests. But it turned out that he often supports the interests of business, not people. At first he heard the townspeople, and then stopped – this is my opinion. The most striking example now is the square on Demakova. He, like a litmus test, shows what is happening in our city. People have been striving for a large square for a very long time, using all possible methods for this. Despite public hearings, rallies, pickets and letters to various authorities, it was decided to sell this site. The situation illustrates where we ended up.

Anton Tyrtyshny: “The purity of his hands is beyond doubt”

Anton Tyrtyshny – deputy of the city council of Novosibirsk, deputy chairman of the city council, member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation.

– I believe that a lot has been done in terms of the development of social infrastructure. In seven years, 50 kindergartens and 16 schools have been built, which is quite a lot for Novosibirsk over such a period. Against the background of what claims we hear against the mayors of other cities in Russia, no one can reproach Anatoly Lokot for being personally involved in some corruption scandals or behaving dishonestly somewhere. It is impossible to say this about Anatoly Evgenievich, the purity of his hands is absolutely beyond doubt, from my point of view.

With a lot of resistance from the construction sector of the city, several years ago, new rules for land use and development were adopted, where the minimum size of a plot for housing construction was increased. Small areas can no longer be built up with apartment buildings. I think this was a very important step. Another significant moment is the adoption of the master plan, which took place recently. The general plan, which was adopted in 2007, was no longer applicable, if only because it was impossible to understand from it where one zone begins and another ends.

The mayor is always strictly limited, because he is at the bottom of the government. How our budget system works: the federation takes money from the regions, and the regions – from the municipalities. Billions of rubles, which were withdrawn from the city budget in 2016, significantly undermined the possibilities of developing the budget of Novosibirsk and made the city dependent on the region. Therefore, not a single financially intensive facility can be built without the decision of the governor.

In fact, the mayor is responsible for the development of Novosibirsk, but this is regulated by the regional government and the governor. Without funding, which is up to 90% of the regional budget, it is impossible to build a road, school or kindergarten. This is a consequence of the budgetary system that has developed in the country. In the financial conditions that exist, the mayor Anatoly Lokot is doing everything possible. And to demand more from him would be unfair. His campaign promise to increase the budget to 50 billion rubles has been fulfilled. I believe that in such harsh conditions it works quite effectively.

Alexey Mazur: “The feeling that he gave up on everything”

Alexey Mazur is a journalist, political columnist for the Taiga.Info website, and a candidate for the city council elections from the Novosibirsk 2020 coalition.

– In 2014, the choice was between Anatoly Lokt and Vladimir Znatkov, about whom it was clear that he would continue the policy of Vladimir Gorodetsky. I did not think that he would be some kind of “miracle mayor”, but I expected that there would be more openness, the mayor’s office would focus more on the opinion of ordinary townspeople than on the opinion of developers and contractors.

The first disappointment was that Anatoly Lokot, as a manager, was completely incapable of this job. That is, he did not delve deeply into the problems, he was not interested in it, and there was no connection between the declared priorities, values ​​and what actually happened.

For about the first two years, Anatoly Evgenievich was not all the same. When there were some scandals, for example, infill development in Narymsky square, something else, he solved these problems. But the further, the less. Either he did not care, or he was mired in relations with these people, the beneficiaries of the development. And for the last two years I have a feeling that Anatoly Evgenievich gave up everything. The city is mired in snow – but do not care. Infrastructure on Krasnoyarskaya – all the same. On Demakov, half of the square was sold according to an incomprehensible scheme. A complete merger with what we hoped he would fight.

The system of management of our city, as it was under Vladimir Gorodetsky, stumbled a little during the mayoral elections, hesitated, and then went, led by Anatoly Evgenievich, in the same direction. At the moment, of course, there is no benefit from him for a long time in this post.

We elected him, hoping that he is a member of the opposition party. After some time, Anatoly Lokot became a typical mayor, as elsewhere, a representative of the vertical. In the end, it already took shape in a direct alliance with United Russia, when the Travnikov-Lokot Pact (this is an informal name) was publicly concluded. They sat down in front of the cameras, said that Anatoly Evgenievich would not be nominated for governor, and Andrei Travnikov would support the opposition communist mayor. Thus, we were deprived of a choice. I do not think that Anatoly Lokot can now be called an opposition mayor. He is oppositional only in the sense that he is a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. For the decisions that are made, opposition is not noticeable, and no communism either.

Georgy Andreev: “The city gets additional resources”

Georgy Andreev – Deputy of the City Council of Novosibirsk, Deputy Chairman of the Standing Commission on Local Self-Government and a member of the Standing Commission on Scientific and Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship.

– I worked with Anatoly Evgenievich since 2006, when he was still a member of the State Duma. Of course, when this victory happened in 2014, my expectations were extremely high. But when I began to immerse myself in the essence of the work of the municipality, I realized that the main problem in the Russian Federation is the attitude of the federal law to local self-government and to municipal authorities. By and large, very rarely the head of the municipality can radically change the situation with his actions and decisions. The most striking example now is that Novosibirsk earns about 150 billion rubles, and the city’s budget – 50 billion. One metro station costs from 17 billion, and the city cannot afford that.

For me, when Anatoly Evgenievich became mayor, the most surprising thing was the behavior of the former mayor, Vladimir Gorodetsky. He became governor and promoted an initiative to take from the city these 10% of personal income tax (3.5 billion rubles), which Novosibirsk needed. I see that in this way they showed the opposition mayor: “Look how we can.” And no one could interfere if they wanted to take not 10%, but 20%. Novosibirsk is totally dependent on the higher authorities. And the mayor, in fact, is forced, for the city to develop or simply exist, to have well-built relations with the higher authorities.

The time when the budget was cut due to such a decision was very difficult. But, surprisingly, we have passed this stage with dignity. I can highlight a few points. Certain priorities have been worked out, to which Anatoly Evgenievich is committed. Of course, the main thing is that 50 kindergartens were built in seven years. We have erected 16 schools, now, of course, even more are needed. A new approach to green areas has appeared: Mikhailovskaya Embankment, a dispersed park on Zatulinka. This year the project on the Zaeltsovsky Park will be implemented, next year it is planned to reconstruct the Kamenka River, turning the territory into a well-developed area. This is what really influences the look of the city. I really hope that this focus on improving green spaces will continue.

With regard to growth points, we are in dire need of new snow removal equipment, it is needed many times more. We see this issue. When I became a member of the City Council, the first thing I got into was the work of the road complex. I was amazed at how many artificial problems are created, including legislation.

I see that thanks to the principled position of Anatoly Lokot, the city receives additional resources. After we had problems with the budget, it increased significantly, but the city also grew. I think that the main merit of Anatoly Evgenievich is that in difficult conditions he is systematically engaged in the implementation of one of the key tasks of the mayor – attracting resources to the city. From here we see that schools are being built, roads are appearing.

Sergey Kozlov: “He was never fond of solving urban problems”

Sergey Kozlov – Dean of the Faculty of Politics and International Relations of the Siberian Institute of Management – a branch of the RANEPA.

– The position of the mayor is not political, but primarily economic. And when Anatoly Lokot took office, there were significant hopes that some changes would take place in terms of the economy. The regional organization of the Communist Party has always been critical. However, in terms of urban management, no radical or significant changes have occurred. From my point of view, this causes discontent among the townspeople.

Infrastructure development, especially in the center, continues. The main problems that worried the city seven years ago have not been resolved – these are traffic collapses and the clearing of snow from the streets. Therefore, the level of support for the mayor has not increased during this time. And the last elections showed that the total number of votes cast for Anatoly Lokot even decreased, if you look not in percentages, but in living votes.

With the arrival of the new governor, the so-called Travnikov-Lokot pact was formed, that is, there is no opposition from the regional authorities. When he was elected for the second time, United Russia did not even put up its own candidate against, and this allowed him to be elected. To say that Anatoly Lokot is a communist, and this prevented him from solving urban problems, is simply impossible.

Initially, when Anatoly Lokot came, observers said that this was an unexpected result of his career. He was never interested in solving urban problems. He was a politician on a federal scale, a deputy of the State Duma, and the economy is not what interests him. In many ways, this is why the city problems, which were not solved during his first mayor’s term, are still not being resolved. He is more interested in political issues.

I do not think that Anatoly Lokot will complete his mayorship before the end of his term, because the entire domestic political system is focused on maintaining the existing situation, that is, stability. As a rule, mayors leave their posts if major corruption scandals are associated with them. Novosibirsk is not an easy city to initiate such things, it is too big. As for the fate of Anatoly Lokot after the end of his second term, since he was the head of the country’s first municipality for two terms, I think that he will be used at the federal level. This is a recognizable person, as a politician will be in demand in the State Duma, he has a chance to get there and gain a foothold.

Anna Tereshkova: “I would bet 4 with a minus”

Anna Tereshkova – Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Youth Policy of Novosibirsk, Deputy Mayor Anatoly Loktya.

– We came with expectations of transformation and changes, including the political structure in the city. And they survived. Until now, Novosibirsk is a city, one of the few where the mayor is elected. I think this is our property. On the other hand, not only the opinion of United Russia is present here. The truth is born in disputes, I think that this is correct. I was always attracted by the fact that Anatoly Evgenievich is absolutely disinterested, he has never been associated with any corruption scandals, with what he came, with which he still remains. The mayor continues to implement the social request with which he initially went.

Another question is that it was not easy for a politician to come to manage the first city of the country. We keep the dynamics of attracting people. By the way, Novosibirsk is the only city in the region that keeps the demographic balance. People come to us, realizing that it is better here, there are much more opportunities than in their region. Strategically, I see that Novosibirsk retains its place as the first municipality.

Yes, there are drawbacks, and we can clearly see them, but the fact that we think that snow problems exist only in Novosibirsk … The situation in Irkutsk and Omsk is about the same. Probably, there are some shortcomings in this direction, but here I do not want to climb into something other than my own “clearing”, because this is not my competence.

On my part, I don’t see any problems. We do projects together with the region, with federal organizations. Of course, we would like the city to be more independent. When our team came to the mayor’s office, 10% was removed from Novosibirsk – this is the entire development budget. This money is categorically not enough, you have to stand with an outstretched hand and wait for the region to look at the decisions. I believe that the first municipality in the country should be more financially independent. Novosibirsk is the capital of our region, more than 50% of the region’s population lives in the city. All investment attractiveness is mainly located here, and therefore it is still necessary to invest in the development of the city, to attract investments and people here. We are moving in this direction. Naturally, not everything is perfect, I would bet 4 with a minus.

Regarding green areas, I think we made a huge leap forward, because before we started working on them, no one did it. Everything started from scratch. The squares were half built up, given away, at first it took only to put things in order.

In terms of culture, I am very grateful that we have preserved what we have. In this area, my main conviction is not to interfere, but to help. The Afanasyev Theater, the issue of which has not been resolved for decades, will be open next year. These are serious political decisions that we pushed through at the level of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, in cooperation with our ministry and personally Andrei Travnikov. Unfortunately, not a single mayor has been able to resolve this issue before. We made TsK-19 instead of the Fine Arts Center, which is more concerned with contemporary trends. A lot of work has been done to make people comfortable.

Mikhail Ryazantsev: “He is not interested in carrying out further reforms”

Mikhail Ryazantsev is a social activist, head of the Maimed Novosibirsk organization, columnist for the NGS.

– I was one of the developers of the program for the mayor. I cannot say that it was fully implemented. It stipulated the preservation of green areas and the fight against infill development. The construction reform was made, the requirements were tightened, new standards were introduced, but they do not always work. Green areas are still sold by the mayor’s office for construction. Infrastructure is also flourishing.

The only improvement that I noticed for myself is that a reconstructed tram runs to Chistaya Sloboda on the left bank. And a couple of parks were repaired, but this is a drop in the ocean, I think.

The mayor decided that he was not interested in carrying out further reforms. There was some kind of turnaround in a few years. If earlier Anatoly Lokot reacted to any protests of residents, signals, talked with public figures, now he does not communicate with anyone, sits locked up, does not react in any way to criticism and protests. He didn’t care around 2018.

In 2019, the NGS examined the campaign promises of Anatoly Lokot, which he made to voters ahead of his first term in 2014. We compared the mayor’s program with the results of his work for five years. After that, the journalist sent a request to the mayor’s office to find out why it was not possible to achieve some of the indicators. Officials cited nine reasons.

In August last year, Anatoly Lokot reported on his income for 2019. The NGS studied the declaration and found out how much the head of the city earns and where he lives.

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