by: Markus Becherer and Eduardo Leite
While the city of Saint Petersburg and European cities face similar problems, e.g., low budgets and congestion, there have been more severe issues emerging. The absence of strategic urban planning implemented by the city administration, the question of sustainable preservation and dedication of the historical city center, and the involvement of the population in the political and societal decisions concerning the future of the municipal districts and the city are major challenges that are addressed more often by activist groups rather than the public administration. The low level of civic engagement also creates difficult conditions for political newcomers to be elected in the representative bodies of the city. It seems that money can help one enter the political arena at this level.
On a more personal note regarding our trip to St. Petersburg, the solar eclipse this afternoon led to an unpredictable and surprising situation: a Russian lady ran into a group of Brandt School students and offered to lend us a very dark piece of glass to watch the eclipse. This openness and friendliness of the lady was very refreshing and unusual within the anonymity of the mega-city Saint Petersburg.