kalevikamarainen

Malmi Airport and Ways of the Country

1. Introduction

Recently, I updated my proposition of the previous year to save from destruction both Malmi Airport and the Vartiosaari-island villa community. Now, the city of Helsinki “pleads guilty” as “defendant”.  So, my proposition to cover the Ilmala railway yard and to construct residences above it is possible. No doubt, even Vartiosaari can be rescued, if there is the will to do so.

As a sequel, I shed some light on the oddities of the destruction project at Malmi Airport. The decades long history would be too long for a blog, as even this report is not short. That is why I focus on recent events starting at the city of Helsinki getting its way to convert the area to residential use.

All the events I mention do not directly concern Malmi, but they describe the way in which we are treated. On the other hand, the extravagance about Malmi could be told more, but I am happy to “pick the juiciest cherries from the tree” - one of many is the present Mayor Vapaavuori’s own statement:

"Minister of Housing Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) supports the preservation of the current field. He presents the turn of the runway of the field so that it is parallel with the Helsinki-Vantaa runways. This solution would free the land for construction. Defenders of the field accept this proposal."

2. Curls in political decision-making

The Cabinet decision on the implementation of the structural programme as part of the fiscal plan on March 25, 2014 states (p. 8/33):

"In order to enhance residential construction in the Helsinki region, the State will withdraw from its functions at Helsinki-Malmi Airport in such a way that the area can be taken for housing no later than the early 2020’s. This change requires transferring the Border Guard as well as civil aviation to a compensatory airfield. The Border Guard will launch preparations for the acquisition of a base at Helsinki-VantaaFinavia Corporation and the Border Guard will agree arrangements in such a way that the move to new premises from Malmi is done cost neutrally."

Glancing at the statement’s order of its sentences on those decisions, it would be reasonable to assume that the aviation-related functions stay put if no substitute field is found. However, next day the message of the official bulletin starts to trample on its own statement:

"Malmi Airport will be taken for housing. State functions will be terminated in the area as quickly as possible, by 2020 at the latest."

The letter of intent on August 25, 2014 between the State and the Helsinki Metropolitan Area municipalities to boost large-scale infrastructure projects and the promotion of housing says.

"The starting point of the Agreement

- - -

3. Prime Minister Katainen's Cabinet decisions on spending limits March 25, 2014:

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Malmi Airport will be taken for housing. State functions will be terminated in the area as quickly as possible, by 2020 at the latest.

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7. The state will cease its operations at Malmi Airport by 2016 but not later than the end of 2020, after which the area will be returned to the City of Helsinki. "

Although the original decision document states otherwise,

"According to the information received by the Committee by the committee, the City of Helsinki and the state have developed the aviation industry in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area for 20 years, having moved from Malmi Airport to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport or have been reduced and partially terminated activities at Malmi. The 2015-2018 fiscal plan outlined that Malmi Airport would be used for residential use and that state activities will be stopped at that field as soon as possible, by 2020 at the latest. For its part, the City of Helsinki has planned, in the framework of the agreements concluded, to intensify its buit-up area by planning construction at the Malmi Airport area. According to the plans of the City of Helsinki, the area of Malmi is intended to build housing for approximately 25,000 inhabitants. Construction measures have also been estimated to bring jobs and investment into Helsinki. "

3. Intricacies even on municipal level

Old hands in politics, Jan Vapaavuori  (MP since 2003, Helsinki City Councillor since 1997) and Anni Sinnemäki (MP since 1999, Helsinki City Councillor since 2005) met each other in a Helsinki restaurant in 2011, both in the role of the minister (the exact date remains obscure). Probably interviewed sober (temperance was on the back burner during the supper), Vapaavuori frolics:

"Minister of Housing Vapaavuori (NCP) does not consider it intriguing that two ministers drank two litres of red wine in the joint ministerial supper. He appeals to the minister's busy life.

- It's such a rare treat that you can soak your lips with a glass of wine in this job.

Minister Vapaavuori does not want to tell about the agenda of the meeting, so why the ministers were sitting together in a long and boozy evening in the traditional artist restaurant Elite in Töölö.

- It is true that the publicity law also applies to our receipts, but fortunately the publicity law does not apply to inter-ministerial discussions. Yes, a number of things were browsed over during the evening."

As the mayor of Helsinki, Vapaavuori has shown great "open mindedness" when taxpayers' money is concerned. For example, he has not been bothered by the increased cost of the West Metro. And by the way, nor did Sinnemäki criticize herself for the behaviour at the dinner.

In turn, the then Helsinki City Councilor Matti Niiranen, thinks aloud in his blog on 29 May 2015 “The City Rail Loop and other transport projects in the Helsinki region must be implemented”:

"It is desirable that government negotiators will already behind the scenes agree on a balanced and rational regional political package that is crystal clear to safeguard the prospects for growth and prosperity in the Helsinki region.

- - -

The City Rail Loop, Malmi and Östersundom packages agreed between Helsinki and the Government last year have to be upheld. My disappointment is great if it is not done."

4. Beneficiaries galore?

Tuomas Telkkä, Social Relationship Manager of the OP Bank Group's Public Relationships and Strategy team, which lends to home buyers and building companies, rejoices even before the final decision:

"A fine decision from Parliament! Helsinki can grow - soon we hope to put a hook on the ground. I would like to go out in the evening to ski for a "lap of honour" around the field of Malmi Airport. #LexMalmi"

Whether it is either coincidence or not, according to reporter Tommy Pohjola, Tuuli Kousa, Director of responsibility for OP Bank Group's influence, media and financial communications, deviated from the practice of applause for Helsinki City Council when discussing the airport:

"When you want to talk in the Council Meeting, you have to press a button. Pressing the button conveys the desire to the council information system. So, the speeches are logged correctly. You must not do wrong. Koskinen did wrong. Koskinen forgot to press the button. Instead, Kauko Koskinen, whose seat was just under the nose of the Chairperson of the meeting, Tuuli Kousa (Green Party), collected his documents and stood up, looking like he was going to talk. To reach the speaker’s stand, located about two metres from the right of the Chairperson, Koskinen had to walk about six metres. Koskinen found his way and thought he was allowed to talk. But he was not.

Koskinen was not allowed to speak, because Chairperson Kousa did not understand that Koskinen wanted to talk as the desire to speak was not logged in the information system. All the other councillors understood that Koskinen specifically wanted to speak as he was there at the speaker’s stand.

Chairperson Kousa waited for six seconds. In that time, she decided that no discussion about the celebrations of the Malmi field will occur, even though Koskinen stood next to her, because that was not known by the information system.

Chairperson Kousa could have acted differently.

The Chairperson could have believed her own eyes and see that Koskinen has something to say, but that he should first go back to his seat and press the talk button. It would have been polite, sincere and humane action by the Chairperson of the meeting. And this has been done before. The Chairperson has helped absent-minded townsfolk representatives in their work."

5. Attorneys on the matter

Defenders of Malmi Airport have also resorted to the law enforcement officers in their fight. Of those, the Chancellor of Justice has issued a resolution in September 2015 which states that the preparation of the airport's extinction case was sufficient. Indeed, several surveys have been completed over the years.

Later the defenders noticed that the Government decision was changed in their own terms and turned to the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland. This legal guardian has already twice gone back to the Chancellor of Justice. So, it seems that the decision in itself can change however it wants, as long as it is adequately prepared.

6. What does it look like?

I, at least, get the impression that we are not so precise about what things are decided and how. Taxpayers' issues can be discussed in seedy lighting without the need to tell the taxpayers about the details. The relevance of the discussions to the actual decision-making process as well as connections with the business world remain obscure.

In addition, it is difficult to know the interests of decision-makers in municipal and state dual roles. And even the Parliament does not care what has been decided: oral deals are enough, even if documents tell another story. Mr. It’s-agreed seems to have a strong presence in the background (at the age of equality it can also be Ms. - as has been observed).

This “talk-over-dinner method" is not unique. Some years ago, for example, officials of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, together with VR's representatives, decided on the obligated train services in a Helsinki restaurant so that draft decisions were submitted directly from the restaurant to the minister for signing. And neither the legal overseer at that time had any remarks on the procedure. At one time, VR also bought extra time for the company’s passenger train monopoly and Jyri Häkämies, the Minister in charge, requested his subordinates (Finnish citizens that is) to be silent about it.

The legal overseers do not care how our State’s highest leadership deals with common affairs. Or then they do not dare to intervene? On that side, even the "rank and file" in the civil service seem to enjoy soft treatment when the lying does not bring any penalties.

Even the media, considered to be watchdog of power seems to slumber almost totally. The "best" example is Helsingin Sanomat, which was at the forefront in the past (Hufvudstadsbladet and  Iltalehti, both in Helsinki, have tried to maintain the mission of critical press). Of the general magazines, Suomen Kuvalehti with its expert journalist, has educated its readers about the events at Malmi.

Tsar Alexander I of Russia moved the capital of his Grand Duchy to Helsinki, because Turku was in his opinion too Swedish-minded. It seems that domestic decision-makers at that time adopted Russian practices in order to please the new ruler and that the practices are still in use (it seems that the administrative machinery also was indoctrinated).

7. International comparison (addition to the English version)

The 386-hectare Berlin Tempelhof airport lost its aviation functions in 2008. Since then it has been converted into a recreational area, but nothing has been built over it. So, in theory, aeroplanes are perhaps able to land and take off, even today. But the most striking thing is the distance to the city centre (Mitte). It is only some six kilometres and the park is easily reached by public transport.  

However, Malmi Airport is situated approximately 15 kilometres from Helsinki city centre and the public transport infrastructure must be constructed there to serve new residents. So, how is it possible a really world-class metropolis such as Berlin can afford to preserve a huge green area next to its’ centre while in contrast this “country village” must destroy a world-class rarity to make way for more housing (Green Party members, along with their deputy mayor Anni Sinnemäki, have been some of the most fervent of the destroyers of Malmi Airport in Helsinki City Council)?"

8. In conclusion

In my opinion, being a world-class rarity Malmi Airport must be rescued from destruction as a functioning entity, and the ways to do it must be found. Or do we really want to sink to the level of Afghan’s Taliban?

In addition, the State’s decision-makers should look at themselves in the mirror and ask whether this is a country of the West or is it only a pretence (the same question could be made by the people of Helsinki of its decision-makers, at least, but probably in other municipalities too). I may possibly accept that we really live in “Western Russia”. But let's just say the things directly - or then fix things in the ways of the West.

This is an English version of my blog entry in Finnish.  It contains more hyperlinks than the Finnish version so that foreign readers might have the chance to get the whole picture.

Regards, Kalevi Kämäräinen

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