The Mayor of the City of Moss Tage Pettersen in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times
The City of Moss is known for its colorful history and culture and the lady of Moss who stands facing the sea as if waiting for someone to return. The Oslo Times International News Network spoke to mayor Tage Pettersen about the City of Moss, its history, development and the challenges modern day Moss faces.
During the exclusive interview with the Editor-in-Chief of The Oslo Times, Hatef Mokhtar, Mayor Tage Pettersen spoke not only about the City of Moss today but also the kind of challenges it faces as a truly international city with a buzzing immigrant population.
The most unique aspect of living in Moss is the location of the city. Moss is known as a central communication hub on the eastern side of our country. The city has highways, ferries, a harbor, a double rail road track and an airport. We are situated between Oslo and the Swedish border. Moss is a multicultural city where about 18% of the inhabitants are non- ethnic Norwegians.
Coming to diplomatic relations, Moss shares an interesting history, can you tell us what connects Moss to Virginia? And what is your relationship with Virginia,USA like today?
The Norwegian Lady Statues are located in the sister cities of Moss, and at the oceanfront on the coastal resort city of Virginia Beach, in the United States. They commemorate the lives lost in the 1891 shipwreck of the Norwegian barque Dictator off the coast of Virginia Beach and the lifesaving efforts of the community.
Moss has a good relationship with Virginia Beach, and we have regular contacts and keep visiting each other. And, we have a close cooperation between our schools when it comes to culture and history.
Moss is sister city with Nokia in Finland, Karlstd in Sweden, Horsens in Denmark, Novgorod in Russia, Aguacatan in Guatemala and a city on Iceland.
How do you think the cultural history of Moss affects the lifestyle of its denizens? And, over the years how has the lifestyle in Moss changed?
Moss was founded as a city in 1720 and during the first 250 years the city was dependent on industry. In the last ten years, however, traditional industries have disappeared.
Today,a lot of people choose to live in Moss and work in Oslo because of the easy access to Oslo. Unfortunately we don’t have a University in Moss and therefore we have few youngsters between the age of 20-27, living here.
As the Mayor of Moss which economic sectors are you looking to develop in your city?
In the last couple of years we have focused on getting new industries to Moss,like the Oil- and gas industry, IT and social media.
Europe over the past year, has witnessed a rise in extremism, do you think some kind of extremist elements could exist Moss, has your city been affected by it?
Probably, because I think extremism exists almost everywhere, in the Østfold county as well as the city. We have a lot of people who have witnessed and fought against extreme violence in their countries of origin, so, our main concern in Moss and in Norway is how to prevent the rising new generation in Moss and in Norway from falling out of society and into radical groups.We are therefore, working on how to introduce our ideas into the education system so that children feel a sense of belonging towards the society they live in.
Like you said, the reason many youngster’s seem to be developing extremists tendencies because they don’t feel like they belong to the society they live in, what kind of efforts are being made at schools in Moss to make children feel a sense of belonging towards the community they live in?
In our schools in Moss we are working on preventing bullying, a good educational-environment and on giving the young ones something to do in their spare time.
When we spoke to the Mayor of Halden,he pointed out that there were two people from Halden who had gone to Syria to fight for the ISIS, do you know of any such incidents in Moss?
Well I know one person an ethnic Norwegian who is in Syria today. And in Østfold county There are around 70 people that the security police know of. that are fighting back in Syria.So,it is quite a big problem.
Like you mentioned, 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 do to prevent youngsters from joining these groups?
Moss municipality has a high focus on this growing challenge, and Moss is in fact in the lead in Norway. The employers in Moss municipality get advice from competent people who teach them on to prevent and disclose young people who are in danger of falling out of the society. These days we are working on an educational program, which will start the forthcoming school year. We have a good dialogue with the police and all the different religious groups in Moss.
Education is an important sector in the development of any society, can you tell us a little more about what your main focus area has been in the education sector in Moss? And, what kinds of improvements do you think are still necessary in the school system?
We have focused on two main areas. The one area is to create a good and safe environment for learning, and the other is the importance of having competent teachers who manage to guide every child and help them through their challenges. We have managed both, the grades of our students are above average throughout the country. And, we have made it a point to to keep on working on improving the education sector in Moss.
Despite laws that ensure that women have equal job opportunities, gender inequality in terms of pay still exists in Norway. What kind of efforts do you think are necessary to ensure equal pay at the work place and what steps has your administration taken to close the gap?
The reason we still have unequal salary between men and women in Norway might be because some women still do not want to be leaders or work in nontraditional jobs. I think it is important to encourage women to choose nontraditional jobs and encourage them to get into leading positions.
What kind of complaints and or inquiries do you receive from the local denizens the most while you are in office, if any?
There are always a lot of people who think that the municipality could improve its work, but I think it is impossible to make everyone 100 % satisfied.
What would you say has been your biggest challenges and achievement as the Mayor of Moss?
Well in terms of the challenges, I feel that Moss and the areas around Moss are growing very fast. So. we need to work on a plan that ensures that everyone has jobs, place to live in and better facilities. So this is one of the immediate challenges that we face.
When it comes to my accomplishments, I think the fact that I have been able to help bring about changes that have ensured that the grades of the students in Moss has improved and students are doing much better these days, than they were in the past as their grades have improved significantly.
And, today I am also very happy about the fact that I have always made visiting voluntary organizations a priority, as one of my main priorities is to contribute in making people feel proud of living in Moss.
This is a question we ask all our interviewees, What does Human Rights mean to you?
Oh, that is a big question its a very big and important question. Norway as a country and all the people living in Norway have a big responsibility of making human rights a question that should be asked to our friends around the world,and organizations working with human rights are doing a very important job.
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