Days Three and Four of the Swiss Briefing Tour
By Johanna Herman
Day three was spent in the city of Rapperswil-Jona, two cities that decided to merge to meet mutual benefits offered by the other. In the morning we got to listen to Andi Gross, a member of the swiss Parliament who talked about the history of Direct Democracy in Switzerland and mostly concentrated on the Swiss Parliament and how democracy grew in the country. Lots of questions were asked by members about parties in Switzerland as well as comparing the system to California and how things differ and if they are for better or worse. Lunch was then had with the former mayor of Rapperswil, he mainly talked about democracy locally in the city and the history of the city and neighbor Jona. He then went on to explain how the two cities merged and what benefit democracy achieved and how it was accomplished.
Day four began with a trip to the only ballot station in Lucerne, most people mail their ballots in before hand, where we saw a few older residents dropping off their ballots. We then got to sit and hear about the Alpine Initiative, a measure the government of Switzerland did not think would pass but did so with great enthusiasm. The initiative called for a timeline to reduce the amount of truck transporting goods across the Alps for environmental reasons and switch the cargo to the rail lines instead. Although the initiative passed, it has been a larger undertaking then first imagined and has taken the government longer to implement than foreseen.
Our group then headed to Bern, the last city on our agenda, where we got a wonderful walking tour of the city that was conducted by Claude Longchamp, who also gave us a comprehensive history lesson about the country including how democracy was started, the wars that preceded it and how it developed. He used the various important historical buildings to tell his story, adding a rich element to the history. Although it was a long walk, it was very informative and interesting. Another day ends and two more are left to learn about the democratic process in the country of Switzerland.