Bus Station and Bridges Hot Topics in Tartu Debate
Candidates running for the top job in Tartu concentrated on the proposed coach station and bridges over Emajõgi in Wednesday's televised debate on ETV.
Social Democrats and election coalition representatives criticized the new coach station solution, which will see the 10-year-old bus station building demolished and a new facility opened in a extension of the Emajõe Business Center.
Gea Kangilaski, who leads the election coalition Vabakund at the local elections, said that the town's people should have been invited to take part in the planning process, while Social Democrat candidate Heljo Pikhof said that people will have to go through the shopping center to get to the new coach station.
IRL candidate for mayor, Margus Tsahkna, said that every Reform Party mayor in the city has built one bridge, adding that although the 0.5-kilometer-long bridge that is currently in construction on the east side of the city is necessary, previous bridges have been far too expensive.
He said the city should have invested that money in kindergartens, while current Mayor Kruuse said the lack of openings for children at nursery schools is due to many people commuting to work to Tartu, and putting their children into kindergartens in the city, not in their own municipalities.
Aivar Riisalu, the Center Party's candidate for the top spot, said that Tartu should restore the Stone Bridge that was destroyed during World War II, as it would be a symbol for the whole of southern Estonia.
Tsahkna criticized the current government for not creating enough kindergarten places, forgetting to mention that IRL is part of the ruling coalition in the city; while Kruuse said that they have created 1,500 new berths.
A panel of Tallinn University political scientists and ERR journalists voted Tsahkna the winner of the debate with an average score of 4.2 points from five. Kruuse and Riisalu were second and third, scoring 3.9 and 2.9 respectively.
The Reform Party won the 2009 local elections in Tartu, claiming 17 places in the 49-seat council. IRL, which rules the city with the Reform Party, won 13 seats, followed by the Center Party, the Social Democrats and the Conservative People's Party (which was the People's Union of Estonia in 2009) with nine, eight and two seats respectively.
A two-mayor party?
A kerfuffle occurred over who exactly is IRL's Tartu mayoral candidate.
Delfi published IRL internal e-mails from the party's Chairman Urmas Reinsalu, where he said that Tsahkna is the official candidate for mayor. The e-mail came after Rein Kilk, a high-profile businessman, said that if the people vote for him, then he will be the mayor.
A week ago Tsahkna also sent an IRL internal email, saying that the debate which one of the two is the top candidate has turned into a farce, and could affect election results around the country for the party, prompting the response from Reinsalu.
In another bit of Tartu news, the Conservative People's Party withdrew its mayoral candidate, Henn Käärik, after accusations of KGB collaborations in the 1980s, Käärik denied the claims but agreed to relinquish his top spot on the list.