In the spotlight: Local politician Jacques Bettelheim as ‘the eyes and ears’ of Amsterdam Zuid

At OPRG some of our colleagues also like to put their communications expertise to use for the greater good outside their daily work. One of them is Jacques Bettelheim, who is part of the city district committee for the Labour party in Amsterdam Zuid (south district of the city).

What is the city district committee of Amsterdam South focused on and why did you get involved?

The committee has two roles. Firstly, it provides the Board of Mayor and Aldermen as well as the district administration with advice on several policies, both solicited and unsolicited. This covers a variety of subjects e.g., traffic safety, housing, waste collection, landscaping and social services. By doing so, the committee serves as ‘the eyes and the ears’ of the approximately 150,000 inhabitants of the city district. Secondly, the committee’s task is to supervise the district administration.

I have been a member of the committee since March 2022. On behalf of the party I am a member of, I stood as a candidate and I got elected by the voters. I have had ancillary positions in addition to my daily work for a large part of my career. Taking on this political role seemed like the right challenge for me now and one which is fueled by my decades-long interest and business-driven involvement in politics.

What are you doing in your role for the city district committee and how does your professional communication expertise help you in doing so?

The work for the city district committee involves a lot of reading and meetings – both the biweekly meetings of the committee and preparatory consultations with party colleagues and other committee members. As a committee member, you study requests for advice, make proposals, ask questions and submit motions.

An important part is listening to residents, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the city district: what are their concerns, which decisions should be made, which advice should be brought to the table? The interesting part of the work is that in daily life I consult our clients on how they should convey their message to politicians and other stakeholders but as a committee member, I am in the opposite position as people convey their interests to me. When residents or others raise a lot of points in a conversation, I sometimes say, okay, what do you think is the most important thing I need to bring to the attention of the district administration? In fact, it’s the same thing we are trying to teach our clients: what exactly is the most important message that should stick?

“In daily life I consult our clients on how they should convey their message to politicians and other stakeholders but as a committee member, I am in the opposite position as people convey their interests to me.”

Jacques Bettelheim

What did you learn thanks to your role and involvement with the city district committee?

I have found that in politics you have to be patient and sometimes have to settle for small successes. I derive the greatest pleasure not so much from responding to requests for advice, but from doing something concrete for the inhabitants of the district. For example, partly due to my actions, a bicycle shop (including bicycle parking), whose continuity was endangered because the landlord threatened to drastically increase the rent, was saved. You see that people are susceptible to publicity when a representative of the district commission speaks out.

Jacques’ tip for others:

It gives me a lot of satisfaction to be active in politics; I can recommend it to everyone. But of course follow your own heart, because there are so many other ways to contribute to society. For example in a tenant organization, a neighbourhood committee, or in a volunteer position.

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