Norwegian politics is based on democratic and humanistic values: Mayor of Ski, Anne Kristine Linnestad
Anne Kristine Linnestad, since 2011 has been the mayor of the municipality of Ski . She was first elected to the council in 1979 , at the age of 17, Mayor Linnestad in a brief interview with the Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief,Hatef Mokhtar, spoke about Ski, her view on Human Rights, democracy and extremism.
Mayor Mayor Linnestad, during the interview also shared her views on how to prevent children from being lured into extremism by extremist groups and her efforts in building a society where everyone feels where everyone feel like they belong.
The excerpts below give us an insight into her views and plans in creating better living conditions for the people of Ski in the coming future:
Why was the Municipality named Ski, does it have something to do with skiing like many people presume, could you tell us about where Ski got its name from?
Ski comes from an old Norwegian word “Skeidar” which means “a place where horses run” or in a modern word a racetrack. That is why we have 3 horse heads in our logo. We know from archaeological research that there have been people living here since the old stone age.
Ski happens to be the most populous municipality in the Akershus county, what kind of challenges are you facing as the Mayor?
We expect the population in our municipality to grow from approx 30.000 today to 36-40.000 within the next 15 years. This demands good planning so we can welcome all our new citizens with good schools and kindergartens, sufficient healthcare for all groups and robust infrastructure, good public transport and a thriving cultural life for everyone.
And at the same time making sure that the public services given from the municipality to all those who live here today, are as good as we want them to be is a big challenge.In 2021 a new railway line will be opened and it will take you from Oslo to Ski in 11 minutes.
This will make Ski a much more interesting site for commercial and industrial businesses. Therefore I also plan on getting new enterprises to settle in Ski, and this high on my agenda.
You were in politics since the age of 17,what kind of challenges and difficulties have you faced in your political career?
Like many young people, I too found it difficult to combine a local, political career with my studies. As I chose to study away from home, I found it very difficult to juggle my political career with my studies. It became almost impossible to manage sitting at the county council back then. This was the situation for me so I took break for 20 years.
When I decided to come back to politics my children were 10 and 13, old enough to be alone at home for some hours and an evening or two per week. For my first period from 1999-2003 I was just a member of the county council with no special responsibility, other than speaking on my party’s behalf and keeping up on all issues, important to us.
In the next period I was given the responsibility of leading our party on the board of technical issues, area-planning, building issues and so on in addition to a seat in the county council. From 2007-2011 I was elected chairman for the Conservatives in the county council and since 2011 I have been fortunate to be the mayor.
How do you think the cultural history of Ski affects the lifestyle of its denizens, over the years how has the lifestyle in Ski changed?
Ski has changed a lot in the last 50 years. In 1964 Ski was a small municipality of 8500 citizens, in 165 km2. Today we are almost 30, 000 and in the olden days “everybody knew everybody” is no longer possible.
We have changed from a 95% rural lifestyle to 75% urban lifestyle, as I see it, and this change will just continue. By 2040 my guess is that 90% of the population will follow an urban lifestyle and only 10% will follow a rural lifestyle.
So, what is the current living standard of the people in Ski?
Well, I think most of the population in Ski are middle class and we have a small group of working class people. We have a few upper class, but we are mostly a middle class society.
This brings me to the situation of women at the work place, despite being as qualified as their male colleagues a lot of women still complain of being paid less than the men, why do you feel this culture of gender inequality is still very prevalent in the work place in the work place, across Europe. In fact According to world watch’s 2014 data, female employees in Norway earned on average 15.9% less than male employees – and this was largely unchanged since 2006. What do you have to say about this and, what kind of steps do you think should be taken to mitigate gender inequality at the work place?
I think Norwegian, and European, women need a “wake-up-call” We would like to think that we are equal in regards to pay, but as you say we are not. I think that raising awareness among all women an essential step towards changing the situation. I also think that we all need to recognize each other’s success. In that way we might all succeed and many more possibilities will appear for all of us.
Equal Pay Day is Tuesday, April 14, 2015. This date symbolizes how far into 2014 women must work to earn what men earned in 2013. This is a fact that needs to be recognized by all women and all men and by women hiring women.
My next question to you, is a question we ask all our interviewees, what does Human Rights mean to you?
It is the foundation of everything we do for our society, and as a mayor leading a county that has a thriving democracy, where are taught democratic values in schools is great. In fact, I have visitors and the best ones are the children from schools. They come in classes, and I take them upstairs to our county hall and I tell them about democracy and how it actually works, and the values of openness, respect and freedom of speech and why it is a privilege.
What kind of complaints and or inquiries do you receive from the local denizens while you are in office, if any?
I have very few complaints and most of them are due to misunderstandings. Sometimes I bring the complaints or inquiries before the county council as a topic and we work on changing regulations to help shape a society that our citizens would like to live in , and this can be done between elections.
How do you think the growth far right extremism, and other forms of political extremism in neighboring countries like Sweden, could affect Norway?
I think this affects Norway already. Our focus today is much higher on terror and extremism than only a few years ago. This awareness changed after the dreadful attack at Utøya and in Oslo July 22nd 2011 and after the horrible attack in Paris January 14 this year. Freedom of speech is absolutely basic in a living democracy and any attempt to strangle it must be fought but not with violence. Violence is, in my opinion, never the answer to any conflict.
A lot of European youth are being lured and misdirected into joining extremist groups like ISIL, what steps do you think the local government should take to prevent youngsters from joining these groups?
I think that our kindergartens and schools are the best arenas for preventing any youngster from joining extremist groups. We have to prepare our teachers and every grown up who work with children so they really see every child every day, that they keep close contact with all the parents. They have to let parents know immediately if a child is missing a lesson or a day at school without a note from a parent, they have to be very aware of any child being bullied by others and they have to alert the parents if a child’s schoolwork is changing character. I think this will prevent our youngsters from dropping out of school which I see is a common factor for those who join extremist groups. Being included in your own neighborhood is essential for staying out of reach for these groups.
Have you faced any problems due to extremism or extremists in Ski?
In Ski, I have no knowledge about anyone in extremism groups but we are very close to Oslo and we are very close to the Sweden border, so I can’t tell you 100 percent that it does not exist here, but I have no knowledge of anyone.
What is your view on Norwegian Politics?
Norwegian politics is based on democratic and humanistic values. The Human Rights, such as freedom of speech and religious freedom, ownership and freedom with responsibility is very important to Norwegians in general and it is the basic values of my work as a mayor.
What does Democracy mean to you?
That brings me back to human rights really, democracy to me, means that you have the right to vote, freedom of expression, freedom of religion. Democracy to me is to able to stand up to what I believe in and I do so every day and this is very important to me.
Okay, Can you tell me a little about yourself, who are you?
I am 53, I am married and I have got two children and two grand children. I have been the mayor since 2011.I came back to politics in 1999 and I was the youngest ever politically recruited person back in 1979, when our constitution changed and we were able to vote from the age of 18, so I have had a long political life. And I think I have the most interesting life of all.
Last but not the least, do you have a message for all our readers?
I hope that “The Oslo Times” will continue to promote human rights across the globe. I am very privileged to serve as a mayor in a democratic, open and respectful community where we tend to take the human rights for granted even though we know that this is not the situation for a lot of people in other parts of the world, and it was not the situation in Norway during the 2nd world war. On our national holiday, May 17, we will celebrate 70 years of peace in our country and I, as all other mayors in Norway, will include the value of peace and human rights in my speech. Once again, for me violence will never be the answer to any conflict.
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