Municipal council elections are never all that popular, turnout has been relatively low for years. “I think that many people don't know what municipal council issues are,” says Amsing. “They think that everything is decided by national politics. But the ways in which you might enjoy your city, for example, is a matter for the municipality.” Eva de Bruijn, municipal councilor for GroenLinks in Eindhoven, recognizes this, “Before I went into politics, I too thought the council busied itself with loose paving slabs and people collecting their new passports, but it does so much more than that. They work on housing, addressing the climate crisis locally, even racism and discrimination are dealt with at local authority level.” Says Amsing, “Local politics is actually about everything that happens all around you, things that happen in your daily life. TU/e too is used to working with the local authority. On what the campus looks like, or whether a license has been issued for an event, how public transport serves the campus, public safety.”
The step into politics hasn't come out of the blue for Amsing. After all, she has already gained plenty of experience at TU/e on the University Council and with Groep-één, but Jong040 has also inspired her. “I got in touch with municipal councilor Eva de Bruijn through Jong040, an initiative to get young people more involved in politics. It worked for me; I felt keen to do more.”
De Bruijn, who got her master degree Industrial Design at TU/e in 2018, has held her seat on Eindhoven municipal council for the past four years and is committed to involving young people in local politics. “At public consultation evenings you see the same people again and again while what you want is to hear diverse opinions that represent everyone. Local politics is as important for young people as it is for our older community members: it's about decisions that affect you, such as what the environment looks like where you live or the facilities that are available to you.” Amsing understands that it is not easy to involve young people: “Ordinarily, you don't have much to do with politics. At most you'll see snippets on TV from the Lower House. The uproar you sometimes see there is enough to put you off. But you don't know what really goes on there. What the people are really like. At Jong040, on the other hand, you get to know real people who share an interest in politics. That makes it a lot easier to go into politics yourself.”
Amsing is ambitious: she wants to involve everyone in her political career. “Everyone should feel involved, and think, ‘I've got something to say too, it's also about me.’ But you don't have to put your name on the candidate list to get involved, you could just go along to an event.” Of course, Amsing's experience on the University Council and with Groep-één make it a little easier for her to move into Eindhoven local politics: after all, she already knows how things are done. But experience isn't essential, says De Bruijn, “At GroenLinks what we really value is having people who are committed to their ideals, like wanting to solve the housing crisis or the problem of inequality in our society. You don't need any political experience to help bring about changes like these.”
Being a municipal councilor is not a full-time job, by the way. It is a part-time position, so that councilors are motivated to stay connected with society. So Amsing won't be leaving the university if she is elected. “I'm still a board member of Groep-één and I'm also completing my master's. Whatever happens, I am keen to stay connected with students once I've graduated, that's important to me.” At the moment Amsing has various ways of maintaining ties, among them her side hustle as student assistant to Lara Hofstra, student diversity officer. “I help Lara with the theme of social safety, something that I personally feel is important and that I don't yet see getting enough attention.”
Whatever happens, I am keen to stay connected with students once I've graduated, that's important to me
De Bruijn hopes to be re-elected this year. And so she'll continue to work on behalf of students. “I have always enjoyed involving them and working with them. Take the Rental Team Eindhoven, for example. That was the idea of a student who came to me and said, ‘This is in other cities, couldn't we have it here?’ And it was set up! And take the rainbow crossing that TU/e had approved but which failed to materialize. I distributed the petition in favor of the crossing, added some chalk to the sidewalk chalk protest (see video below this paragraph, ed.) and wrote an opinion piece on the subject that Cursor had a link to.” In politics you can take action in various ways to make a difference. Another option is to put a question to the municipal council to raise a matter on behalf of students, as happened with the student flat on Vestdijk. “This shows the importance of having this connection with students and of knowing where to find each other. Students came to tell me they had to leave even though the renovation work had been postponed. I then asked questions about this in the council meeting. Now the students can stay put for longer.”
It seems like a mistake to say that politics is not very popular among young people given that alongside Amsing, Eva de Bruijn (GroenLinks), Viktor van ’t Klooster (CDA), Lucas Vreeswijk (CDA), Cyrille Gijbels-Janssen (D66), Finn Timmermans (GroenLinks), Luc Tissingh (VVD), Rutger Rauws (GroenLinks) and Frederik Ondrikov (GroenLinks) are also standing for election to Eindhoven municipal council: all present or former TU/e students.
De Bruijn hopes that having students taking part in the elections will encourage other students to get more involved in voting. “When I stood for election, I got in touch with international students about voting and organized an event with SG. You see, Eindhoven residents newly arrived from EU countries are allowed to vote during municipal council elections, as are non-EU internationals who have lived here for at least five years. Not everybody knows this, but it is important for them that they use this right. After all, it's their city too.”
You can vote on March 14th, 15th and 16th, 2022 at a polling station near you. In advance, a ballot paper will be sent to you at the address where you are registered as living.