“This is what democracy looks like!”
For protesters around the world, that’s become a popular chant at rallies. Here in Ialoveni, it’s what I saw Thursday evening at a community meeting, one of whose livelier moments is captured in this brief video clip:
Nearly 50 citizens gathered to discuss a proposed high-rise building project in the center of town that would add residential and commercial space but affect traffic, municipal services and the environment. It also would disrupt a neighboring park and church. Some residents are concerned about the project’s impact on their own homes and property.
I didn’t understand everything people were saying, and sometimes shouting, in Romanian. I may have missed something essential, not to mention whatever people were saying privately. But the meeting was both impressive and fascinating nonetheless.
Both men and women participated. Everyone was dressed comfortably for the late-summer heat, including the mayor, Sergiu Armașu, who presided at the end of the table in a short-sleeved red shirt.
People took turns standing to speak around a long table in the meeting room on the second floor of Ialoveni’s Primăria, or town hall. Some held up documents. Some tended to children. Some listened quietly, sipped water or tapped on smart phones. A city expert pointed to one of several maps on the wall, explaining the project in detail. A local journalist recorded everything. A woman from the Primăria’s newspaper snapped photos and took notes.
The meeting began at 5 p.m. and broke up shortly before 7 p.m. The mayor shook hands with citizens as they exited. Several people remained behind to argue about the project. As best I could tell, the situation remained unresolved, with a decision about the project still pending. On this one night in Ialoveni, Moldova, it’s what democracy looked like.