Ljubljana odprto mesto (LOM) – Ljubljana Open City, is a platform of the citizens of Ljubljana. They were established in February 2021 after the forceful eviction of the autonomous culture zone Rog. Rog, an abandoned bicycle factory in the city centre, was a kernel of Ljubljana’s autonomous culture and numerous grassroots political activities.
Following the eviction of the many Rog inhabitants ordered by the city mayor Zoran Jankovic in the midst of the pandemic and in the winter, this LOM platform arose. There were massive protests and a letter of academics (signed by 400) to the City of Ljubljana. Because of the further ignorance of the mayor and the city council, LOM was established to help the evicted community of Rog and to not let another situation like Rog happen again.
LOM is an open platform of inhabitants of Ljubljana, shapers of the city, academics, researchers, architects, urbanists, philosophers, cultural workers, and activists from Rog. Everyone is a volunteer. Currently, there is a team of 40 active and 200 associate members.
The platform aims at strengthening relationships between different initiatives and fostering conversation and actions for the realisation of the idea of an alternative vision for the city based on democratic principles and open city values where all inhabitants can participate in urban and decision-making processes.
Current Mayor Mr. Zoran Jankovic will in November run for his fourth reelection, which would put him in office for 20 years. Under his leadership, citizens saw the significant shrinking of public spheres and the selloff of public assets without the possibility to participate in the decisions and consequently influence public and urban policy. The lack of independent reporting and news, which would check the mayor’s actions, results in a biased reinforcement of his office – dissenting voices have no space and the mainstream narrative is owned and controlled by the establishment. It is crucial for LOM to open the space for public participation and the expression of alternative views vis-a-vis the government’s position. In the space of unequal political positions, LOM represents an outlet to the currently dominant, profit-based policies of urban development.
In the past year they have been organising city-wide and community-based forums, events, and public actions around actual problems in the city, which brought together citizens, experts and other professionals to create a manifesto with a future vision of running the city.
LOM organised 4 community forums, public actions of civil disobedience, conducted 24 member meetings open to the interested public, a reading seminar of a Fearless Cities municipalist book and different workshops, which were attended by more than 2,000 citizens and community members.
The last elections saw a alarmingly low (45%) voter turnout, which indicates the lack of trust in governance and the ability to influence policies through democratic processes. Injustices are occurring in the area of housing (housing rents doubled in the last ten years), governance (since 2006 the current mayor controls the majority of public offices and governance structures), access to public services (the public transport is expensive and inefficient), access to the healthy living environment and expression of public opinion.
The root cause is authoritarian city government and corrupt media. For instance, the biggest newspaper is in the hands of construction company Kolektor, which is involved in numerous construction deals with the city government.
Most affected are inhabitants without voting rights (refugees, migrant workers, students without permanent residency status), elderly, and other vulnerable groups, which are pushed to the outskirts, because of the lack of government interest to address their problems and needs. The mayor’s political decisions and his propaganda machine cater primarily to property owners and corporations leading to increasing cost of living and gentrification.
LOM address these acute conditions through organising events and actions to counter unregulated urban development, which brings together citizens, activists, academics, and other experts giving space for free expression without usual censorship activating local neighborhoods and residents. Further, LOM will establish alternative communication channels to provide a platform for visibility and support of groups fighting inequalities, which are not represented in the mainstream media. This resulted in initial successful cases (e.g., a court case was won against developers- Fondovi vrtovi- community gardens).
This year LOM will establish a new independent democratic media outlet for a wider open discussion about the city problems, for which they are in need of funding. As 2022 is the year of local elections, it is particularly important to challenge the old ways and power dynamics.
The Guerrilla Grant 2022
LOM seek to establish a new independent democratic printed & digital media (newsletter) with the goal of addressing the most pressing local problems, voting apathy, and increasing interest/engagement in local politics. The newsletter will be an outlet for diverse and marginalized voices providing a perspective on local events in collaboration with partner organizations: refugees (InfoKolpa and Ambasada Rog), students (Študentska fronta), local initiatives (Šišenska soseska 6, Fondovi bloki, ŠD Partizan,…), and many others.
LOM will also use their media outlet to inform people of different participatory practices that happen in the country and around the world, such as participatory budgeting (through Iniciativa za mestni zbor from Maribor and Društvo za participativno družbo) and cooperative housing with Zadrugator, an NGO working in the area of housing rights.
The guerrilla grant will fund reporting (e.g., the editorial board, journalists and photographers fees), printing, distribution, and organisation of public discussions. LOM will publish six volumes of a local newsletter (with a circulation of 10,000 copies) providing a counter view to the city newsletter Ljubljana, which is a promotional outlet for the city government.
In the long run, they want to initiate the revision of the city charter, which would limit mayoral terms, implement different participatory practices and give more power to local communities.
LOM provides a platform for strengthening the network of social movements and local initiatives around the city into joint action. They give voice to numerous local initiatives that they are already collaborating with, which are organising local communities, and also migrant, student, and housing rights groups. On the 5th of March, LOM are organising the first Assembly of initiatives and organisations of Ljubljana, which will be a recurring monthly event that gathers most of the active collectives(around 30), where they will be invited to establish the newspaper and promote different participatory practices(local assemblies, participatory budget, common spaces).