Tag Archives: Longyearbyen Community Council

HOW TO GET YOUR SHARE OF 25 MILLION: Guidelines for emergency funds for Svalbard tourism businesses hurt by COVID-19 pandemic released; deadline is Jan. 22

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Photo by Jarle Røssland via Visit Svalbard

Guidelines and a deadline for 25 million kroner in grants to help tourism-related businesses in Svalbard hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic were announced Monday by Norway’s government, although the application itself is still pending.

Short summary: Just about any existing or new business/offering either individually or jointly that benefits tourism likely meet the guidelines as long funds aren’t used for “fixed costs or for a decline in income,” but there’s numerous eligibility requirements related to being Svalbard-based and meeting accounting/wage standards. However, exemptions to the requirements are possible for proposals “that obviously support the scheme’s purpose.”

The application deadline is Jan. 22, 2021.

SMALL FOLKS BIGGEST ‘WINNERS’ OF SMALL CULTURE FUNDS: Svalbard Turn gets more than recommended as others see cuts due to big COVID-19 hit to available annual Korkpenger funds

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(Editor’s note: Because Icepeople applied for a grant – and saw a huge reduction from amounts awarded in past years – the story below relies on quotes/explanations published today by Svalbardposten in order to maintain neutrality.)

During a year when most applicants for Korkpenger grants from the city got less than they asked for – and the city itself withdrew five of its applications so as not to “compete” – Svalbard Turn emerged as the one big winner as it received an extra 55,000 kroner in addition to the 500,000 recommended in a preliminary report for its variety of recreational programs.

CATCHING UP ON COVID-19: Local leaders answer questions about resident/visitor travel, what happens if an outbreak occurs and more during webcast (includes full Q&A)

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Local political and heath officials hosted a digital Q&A meeting about the COVID-19 situation in Svalbardone of the few places in the world with no diagnosed cases, last Thursday.

The 45-minute webcast was shorter than similar meetings this spring when the pandemic was new and all visitor traffic cancelled at the peak of tourism season. But there was a lengthy and dominant focus during the most recent meeting regarding precautions for residents and visitors now allowed to travel here, and how officials will handle an outbreak when the virus reaches Svalbard as many expect is inevitible, especially with a surge of cases in Norway, Europe and elsewhere.

Below is a list of questions and replies by officials representing The Governor of Svalbard, Longyearbyen Community Council and Longyearbyen Hospital submitted before and during the meeting, translated from the Norwegian version posted at the city and governor’s website (some questions are mostly or entirely identical, but the full list is provided).

DOG CREMATORIUM FOR SVALBARD: Majority of 70-110 dogs that die every year dumped/buried illegally, city says. With only legal disposal facility closing, furnace OK’d as long-term fix

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Between 70 and 110 dogs in Svalbard die every year, and “probably more than half of the dogs are dumped or burned illegally,” according to Longyearbyen city officials. With a waste facility in Adventdalen that is the only legal means of disposal closing soon, the city’s community council on Tuesday approved a dog crematorium in next year’s budget envisioned as a long-term and self-funded solution.

4.5M KRONER IN SUPPLEMENTAL CRISIS AID SOUGHT FOR SVALBARD: Local council asks Parliament for help targeted largely at high number of ‘exempt’ residents

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A request for 4.5 million kroner in emergency unemployment assistance has been sent to Norway’s Parliament by the Longyearbyen Community Council, citing Svalbard’s high number of residents exempt from public assistance to those affected by the coronavirus epidemic on the mainland. The city is also seeking compensation for reducing fees for muncipal services.

“This group does not have rights and it will be contrary to Norway’s Svalbard policy to introduce them on a permanent basis, but right now we must set aside principles and provide assistance,” states the letter, first obtained and reported Wednesday afternoon by Svalbardposten. “This is the local government’s clear recommendation.”

NRK reported Wednesday that 90 percent of Longyearbyen’s tourism workforce is facing layoffs and about 300 of the estimated 500 people affected are exempt from benefits because they are from non-EU/EEA countries.

POLITICIANS TARGET TOTS AND TOURISTS: Visitor tax, private kindergarten among priorities for new city council majority

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A tax on tourists, separating the harbor from other local government operations and allowing privately operated kindergartens are among the proposals in a platform drafted by the new, more conservative majority of the Longyearbyen Community Council as it officially took office Monday.

SHAKE AND MAKE UP: Labor-led local council forms new alliances and names committees at first post-election meeting

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Plenty of handshakes, smiles and congratulations – along with lots of pro forma yea/nay votes – were exchanged by former and newfound rivals as the newly elected Longyearbyen Community Council met for the first time Monday night to formally vote on leadership and committee positions.

WHEN BALLOTS GO BONKERS: How did Liberals narrow the vote gap with Labor, yet lose a council seat? Say hello to the Webster/Sainte-Laguë method

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The simple version is Labor Party supporters were more inclined to be straight-ticket voters, while those inclined toward the Liberal Party spread more of their votes among other parties.

That’s how the Labor and Liberal parties went from five seats each on the Longyearbyen Community Council, when there was a nine-vote difference immediately after the election, to Liberals losing a seat a day later in the official count, even though they narrowed the vote margin to a mere five ballots.

Beyond that, trying to explain the formula used to allocate seats or ponder “what-if” scenarios if a person (or three) had voted differently is easy to explain only (and then only maybe) if you’ve got a PhD in mathematics (and then only maybe). Or if you actually are familiar with something called the Webster/Sainte-Laguë method.

ELECTION 2019: Labor get big boost from a few final votes, gaining one council seat advantage over Liberals in official tally

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A few uncounted votes significantly and strangely shook up the Longyearbyen Community Council on Tuesday evening, as the Labor Party’s lead over the Liberal Party shrank to five votes (from nine in the preliminary count), yet the 350-345 tally was enough to give Labor a one-seat advantage on the 15-member council with five members compared to four for Liberals.

Both parties got five seats in the preliminary count announced Monday, but the seat Liberals lost a day later was given to the Conservative Party which finished with 190 votes and three council seats. The Progress Party with 130 votes retained its two seats and the Green Party with 97 votes retained one.

The question now is how much, if at all, the official count affects negotiations to form a majority coalition on the council. 

ELECTION 2019: Labor barely wins most votes (for now), but Liberals poised to take over leadership of local council

Labor barely won the most votes as of now, but Liberals are the ones who may be claiming victory for the next four years.

Who will lead Longyearbyen during the next four years remains very much in doubt following the local council election, as a preliminary vote count Monday night shows Labor edging Liberals 342 to 333. Both parties will get five of the 15 council seats with those totals and, while Labor has presided over the majority for the past 16 years, Liberals may have the advantage in forming a majority coalition during discussions in the coming days with the three other parties on the ballot.