Earlier today, I was shopping at my local Auchan hypermarket when I happened upon this “2018 Gift Calendar,” featuring Russia’s well-known President for Life and foremost sovereign democrat in twelve inspiring poses.
At 37.09 rubles apiece (around 54 euro cents), the calendars are a steal. Some of my friends and relatives may balk and even barf when they unwrap their presents on Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year’s this year, but decades from now they will thank me for having given them a collector’s item that is sure to quintuple in value, at least, as its subject’s fourth term in office extends to a fifth, segues into a sixth, drags on into a seventh, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
Sure, the cashier looked at me a little funny when this and another personality pinup calendar I had found in the store were rolling down the belt towards her scanner, but she was probably just a tad envious. TRR
If you’re led around by the nose You’ll never get to see how the garden grows. And if you go for the shovel and the hoe You can’t stop and smell the roses. Eighteen things at once, You spread yourself so thin. You could not find a basket To put all your eggs in. Well, Mike, he rowed the boat ashore, The emperor got some brand new clothes, But when you walk and chew the gum You gotta lose a little of something. Jack of all trades and a master of none, How can a person get anything done? You can fool yourself, you can fool anyone. Jack, jack, jack, jack, jack, jack, jack, jack, Jack of all trades . . .
—Volcano Suns, “Jak,” from the 1985 LP The Bright Orange Years
How Things Are Going for the Municipal District Opposition New politicians searching for a new agenda Maria Eismont Vedomosti
November 23, 2017
Sergei Sokolov was the only opposition member in the previous sitting of Moscow’s Konkovo Municipal District Council.
“I could not beat pro-regime council members when things were put to a vote, but I still managed to discourage them from doing things the neighborhood did not need,” says Sokolov, recalling his preceding five-year term on the municipal district council.
In September 2017, a team of Konkovo activists, led by Sokolov, won neighborhood elections, taking eight of the fifteen seats on the municipal district council. Sokolov was named head of the district, since Konkovo’s charter stipulates a simple majority of votes by council members to elect a district head, unlike other municipal districts. In other neighborhoods where the opposition won majorities on councils, their candidates for district heads ran into problems, since they needed the backing of two thirds of council members to win the posts, but they came up short on votes.
For the first time in many years, independent candidates won majorities in several Moscow municipal districts. In several instances, they won overwhelming majorities, but the question of whether grassroots self-government is possible in Moscow remains open.
The fact that Moscow’s municipal council members have scanty means at their disposal and insufficient powers was well known before and during the campaign. Yet now the new democratic politicians, who have taken power at the lowest level of Russia’s political totem pole, must show themselves and their voters that this is, in fact, the beginning of big and important changes in Russia.
Opposition politician Ilya Yashin, now head of the Krasnoselsky Municipal District, has already gone public with the new council’s first legislative undertaking. They have suggested eliminating the current system of so-called golden parachutes for outgoing municipal district council members and municipal district heads.
Konkovo’s independent council members have gone further. Within ten days of taking office, Sokolov sent the Moscow City Duma a request for 19 million rubles [approx. 275,000 euros] in additional funds for Konkovo’s budget, paid for with an increase in the allocation of personal income tax revenues.
“There are no rational explanations for the inexplicably low, discriminatory amount of personal income tax revenues allocated to the Konkovo Municipal District’s budget,” Sokolov wrote.
Council members have proposed spending the money on neighborhood improvements, accessible legal aid for low-income people, and a Southwest Moscow History Museum.
Last week, Konkovo council members came out with a legislative initiative to amend the Moscow City Law “On the Budget’s Structure and the Budgetary Process in the City of Moscow,” proposing to set the amount of allocations to municipal district budgets from personal income tax revenues at five percent. (It is currently set at 0.96%.) Economist Vladimir Milov helped draft the bill.
“I had been thinking about this initiative for a long time, and our team was organized for this purpose,” says Sokolov.
There are traces of picture frames that once held photographs of the president and prime minister on the wall in Sokolov’s office. They have been replaced by a hand-drawn portrait of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
“I have no illusions about the bill. United Russia still has a majority in the Moscow City Duma,” says Sokolov. “I don’t yet know how we are going to lobby the bill, but we will be employing our usual methods: media outreach, rallies, and similar public things.”
It is difficult to imagine the circumstances in which Moscow city officials would meet the opposition municipal districts halfway, voluntarily giving up some of their money and authority. But it seems extremely important the reform of local self-government continues to be discussed and elaborated.