Helsinki City Council rejects initiative to hold advisory referendum about keeping Helsinki-Malmi Airport – the Greens keep silent

Seppo SipiläFor the press, News archive

In its meeting on 28 November 2018, Helsinki City Council turned down an initiative to hold an advisory referendum about keeping Helsinki-Malmi Airport.

The initiative of Councilman Sampo Terho (Blue Reform) and 14 other Councilpersons was rejected by a 28 vs. 53 vote. Mr. Terho made a motion that the city Board’s proposal to reject the initiative for an advisory referendum about Malmi Airport would be returned to preparation and a referendum held in 2019.

Mr. Terho introduced the initiative, describing it as being a heartfelt matter to Helsinkians. He recalled that over a number of decision-making stages “the voice of Helsinkians has not once been listened to.” He also recalled the poll conducted by TNS Gallup in 2017, where 62% of Helsinki people wanted to keep the airport.

The importance of empowering the people was emphasized

The discussion highlighted on several occasions the people’s chance to influence matters and be involved in decision-making, because that hasn’t been the case even once in the matter of Malmi Airport. This issue was raised in several addresses throughout the political field. The City Board’s proposal to reject the initiative was also criticized about its argument against holding a referendum at this stage of decision-making, because no previous proposal to hear the people’s voice has ever been approved.

Councilwoman  Terhi Koulumies (Coalition) and Councilman Juha Hakola (Coalition) criticized the initiative as a trick related to the upcoming Parliamentary elections. The initiative was filed already in March 2018, but not processed until now. However, they acknowledged that they would vote in favor of returning the City Board’s proposal to preparation.

Mayor Vapaavuori also considered the initiative as an elections-related trick and stated that there has never been a referendum in Helsinki. More than 50 municipal referendums have been organized in other municipalities in Finland. Signatories of the referendum initiative contested the connection with Parliamentary elections in their addresses.

Ville Jalovaara and Maija Anttila (Social Democrats) and Silvia Modig (Left Alliance) criticized and questioned the organizing a referendum in their addresses. Thomas Wallgren (Social Democrats) opined that a referendum should come from citizens, not on the initiative of Councilpersons.

Councilwoman Laura Kolbe (Center) concluded at the end of the debate that the last word on the Malmi issue has not yet been said, and the work will continue.

Not one Green League Councilperson commented on the matter, but the group voted unanimously against holding an advisory referendum. From the left-wing parties, only Councilwoman Sinikka Vepsä (Social Democrats) and Sami Muttilainen (Left Alliance) supported the referendum.

Do decision-makers not want to hear the people’s voice?

“It is very strange that no initiative to take public opinion into consideration can be passed in the current City Council. We are preparing a municipal initiative for the next council, as called for by Councilman Wallgren”, says Timo Hyvönen, Chairman of Friends of Malmi Airport Association.

“We hope, of course, that our application to protect Malmi Airport will be approved by the Ministry of the Environment. In any case we will continue to work to keep the airport in aviation use at City, State and European level.”

Press conference on 8 December 2018 at 2:00pm

A briefing about forthcoming actions will be given at Helsinki-Malmi Airport on Saturday, 8 December 2018 at 2:00pm. On the same day at noon, Santa Claus will arrive in Helsinki via Malmi Airport. The airport restaurant is open from 10am to 4pm.

For more information:
Friends of Malmi Airport
Timo Hyvönen, Chairman
tel. +358 50 3748371
chair@malmiairport.fi

Signatory Councilpersons of the referendum initiative:  Asko-Seljavaara Sirpa (Coalition), Ebeling Mika (Christian Democrats), Kaleva Atte (Coalition), Kopra Pia (Finns), Koskinen Kauko (Coalition), Laaksonen Heimo (Coalition), Niinistö Jussi (Blue Reform), Nygård Mia (Coalition), Peltokorpi Terhi (Center Party), Pennanen Petrus (Pirate Party), Raatikainen Mika (Finns), Rantanen Mari (Social Democrats), Terho Sampo (Blue Reform), Venemies Mauri (Christian Democrats), Vepsä Sinikka (Social Democrats).

The City Board’s proposal to reject the initiative (in Finnish): http://www.malmiairport.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/asia-2018-11-28-29.pdf

Voting summary (in Finnish): http://www.malmiairport.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/aanestys-2018-11-28-19-26.pdf

Recent actions to keep Malmi Airport in aviation use include the largest-ever municipal initiative in Helsinki, a Council initiative to conduct a neutral opinion poll and nine alternative general plans that would retain the aviation activities. All of these have been rejected at different bodies of the City on different grounds, the alternative plans because “combining functions does not match the objectives of the general plan under preparation.”

At the state level, the Lex Malmi law initiative did not get to be voted on in Parliament, as didn’t the initiative for abolishing the inheritance tax. The Supreme Administrative Court ruled against the appeal about Helsinki’s General Plan concerning Malmi Airport even though it made the opposite ruling for all other RKY-designated areas (Built Cultural Environments of National Significance). Friends of Malmi Airport is now preparing an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling and further processes at the European Court of Human Rights.