Björk to be Honoured with Statue in Reykjavík

björk 1997

Icelandic musician and artist Björk has been named an honorary citizen of Reykjavik. The City Council of Reykjavík has decided to commission a statue in her honour as opposed to holding a traditional ceremony.

City honours Björk

At a City Council meeting yesterday, Icelandic singer Björk was named an honorary citizen of Reykjavik. As noted by RÚV, Björk is the eighth individual to receive this honour. Other recipients include Reverend Bjarni Jónsson, ophthalmologist Kristján Sveinsson, former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, chess grandmaster Friðrik Ólafsson, music teacher and choir director Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, and artists Erró and Yoko Ono.

Read More: Iceland Review Interviews Björk

Instead of a traditional ceremony, the city council agreed that artist Gabríela Friðriksdóttir would be commissioned to create a statue of Björk. The project will be a collaboration with the Reykjavik Art Museum, and a proposal for the statue’s location will be announced later.

A long and varied career

In a statement from the City Council of Reykjavik, it’s noted that few people, if any, have helped to elevate the name of Reykjavik more than Björk. She boasts a successful career spanning four decades, in both the Icelandic and international arts scene. In her work as a singer, composer, record producer, actress, as well as a pioneer and activist in various fields, no other Icelander has garnered the same international recognition as Björk.

Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known mononymously as Björk, is an Icelandic musician and artist who was born in Reykjavik in 1965. Beginning her music career at a young age, she first gained prominence as a member of the Sugarcubes, an influential alternative rock band. After the band’s dissolution in 1992, Björk embarked on a successful solo career, known for her experimental musical style and unique voice.

Björk has released a series of critically acclaimed albums, including Debut, Post, and Homogenic. Her work spans a variety of genres and incorporates elements of electronic, pop, classical, and avant-garde music. Beyond music, Björk has also made a mark in acting and music production. Renowned for her artistic innovation and powerful stage presence, she has received numerous awards and accolades and has established herself as a leading figure in contemporary music.

Reykjavík Delays School Start for Teens in Sleep Health Initiative

Reykjavík City Council has approved a three-year pilot project, starting in autumn 2024, to delay school start times for teenagers, Vísir reports. The initiative is the result of two studies led by Dr Erla Björnsdóttir on teen sleep duration.

Mental well-being on the decline

Following two studies on the sleep duration of teenagers in Reykjavík City primary schools, led by Dr Erla Björnsdóttir, the city council of Reykjavík has approved a three-year pilot project to delay the start of the school day for adolescents.

Beginning in the autumn of 2024, the school day for teenagers will start no earlier than 8:50 AM. Each school will be free to choose how best to adapt to this change, having the option of beginning the day later than 8:50 AM if it suits their school’s schedule.

Read More: Mad World, on Iceland’s Mental Health Crisis

In a statement from the City of Reykjavík, it was noted that despite increased awareness of the importance of sleep, many teenagers still do not get enough. Moreover, the number of those not sleeping sufficiently is growing annually.

“At the same time as more teenagers are sleeping too little, studies show that their mental well-being is deteriorating. It is clear that there are significant connections between sleep and mental health,” the statement notes.

As noted by Vísir, a working group was established to propose the implementation and details of this delay, leading to the decision described above.

Read More: Stop All the Clocks, on the too-fast Icelandic clock

Reykjavík City Council Approves Sale of Iconic Perlan

Perlan Öskjuhlíð haust autumn

The Reykjavík City Council has authorised the sale of the landmark Perlan building and two adjacent water tanks in Öskjuhlíð, with a combined real estate value nearing ISK 4 billion ($30 million / €28 million). Acquired by the city in 2013, Perlan has since transformed from a financial burden into a profitable tourist attraction, according to a press release from the City of Reykjavík.

Property office greenlights sale

In a meeting held yesterday, Reykjavík City Council greenlit the finance and risk management division – also known as the property office – to initiate the sale of the iconic Perlan and two adjacent water tanks in Öskjuhlíð. The properties boast a combined real estate value nearing ISK 4 billion ($30 million / €28 million).

According to an official press release, Perlan was constructed by Hitaveita Reykjavíkur, the city’s district heating company (which later merged with Rafmagnsveita Reykjavíkur to form Reykjavík Energy). The landmark building, inaugurated in 1991, was acquired by the City of Reykjavík in 2013, along with two water tanks from Reykjavík Energy.

At the time of acquisition, Perlan was a financial drain, generating revenue barely covering its real estate taxes and land rent. However, the past decade has witnessed a remarkable operational turnaround, according to the press release, with revenue now significantly exceeding costs. The property is currently leased to Perla norðurins ehf., which has transformed it into a popular Reykjavík tourist attraction.

The press release further highlighted Perlan’s evolution over the years, noting its diverse offerings, including exhibitions, restaurants, and a viewing platform that provides panoramic vistas of the capital and surrounding mountains. “The venue also features an array of attractions such as an ice cave, an observatory, and interactive exhibits on Icelandic nature and culture.”

“The properties present substantial opportunities for future development, and it’s not necessarily in the city’s best interest to spearhead that growth,” the release stated. “The total area of the building and tanks is approximately 5,800 square metres, with a real estate valuation of ISK 3,942,440,000.”

The case will go to the City Council for final approval on September 19.

New Daycare Providers to Receive ISK 1 Million in Start-Up Funding

Reykjavík City Hall ráðhús

Reykjavík’s City Council recently passed a proposal stipulating that new daycare providers receive a startup grant of ISK 1 million ($7,300 / €6,700). The Chairman of the Council believes that the proposal will result in significant cost savings for parents, Vísir reports.

Same fee for daycare and kindergartens

On Thursday, June 15, the City Council of Reykjavík approved a proposal stipulating that daycare centres that commence operations in Reykjavík will receive a start-up grant of ISK 1 million ($7,300 / €6,700). ISK 250,000 ($1,800 / €1,700) will be paid upon the signing of a service contract, and ISK 750,000 ($5,500 / €5,000) a year later. In addition, the City of Reykjavík will organise and pay for an accident prevention course every two years for all daycare providers, Vísir reports.

Einar Þorsteinsson, the Chair of Reykjavík City Council and future mayor, highlighted a significant change in the recently agreed proposal; under the new arrangement, parents will pay the same fee to the daycare centre as they would for kindergarten once their child reaches 18 months of age. As noted by Vísir, the ruling coalition had previously promised that children as young as twelve months could enrol in kindergarten.

“The city’s rules stipulate that children should be admitted by the age of eighteen months,” Einar told Vísir. “Ensuring equal treatment for parents, regardless of whether they opt for daycare providers or the preschool system, is important. The new proposal aims to achieve this by implementing a uniform fee structure. It also aims to support families who have been on the kindergarten waiting list for an extended period by covering their expenses.”

Einar maintains that parents’ payments are being reduced by tens of thousands of króna per month. “Alongside this proposal, we’re also advertising for housing among private parties. We are specifically seeking ground floors, mobile units within open-air playgrounds (i.e. gæsluvellir), and unused retail spaces that could potentially serve as suitable locations for daycare facilities. These spaces may not be suitable for kindergartens, but they meet the requirements for daycare services.”

The new proposals are not unfair to those who already work as daycare providers, according to Einar: “These proposals are aimed at increasing the number of daycare providers, improving their working environment and conditions. Reykjavík’s School and Recreation department had a good meeting with both of the two daycare parents’ associations, and the proposals take into account their views.

Reykjavík Municipal Archives to Be Closed Down

Yesterday, the City Council of Reykjavík approved the mayor’s proposal to close down the Reykjavík Municipal Archives. The operations of the Municipal Archives would be incorporated into the National Archives of Iceland. Historians and archivists have criticised the decision, RÚV reports.

Operations to be transferred to the National Archives

Yesterday, Reykjavík City Council approved Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson’s proposal to close down the Reykjavík Municipal Archives. The mayor’s proposal was presented at a city council meeting six months ago, although its formal processing was postponed until yesterday.

The proposal was predicated on a summary authored by KPMG, which reviewed the operation of the Municipal Archives and assessed three possible options to cut down costs: one, to continue running the Municipal Archives in its current form; two, to increase cooperation with the National Archives of Iceland, which would imply the construction of a new archive; and three, to close down the Municipal Archives and transfer its operation to the National Archives. The last option was considered, by far, the cheapest.

Mayor Dagur told RÚV that the city council had made “a policy decision,” but that the matter would go before the city executive council. “The [path] that was chosen was to start discussions with the National Archives about joint digital preservation and, in effect, the merging of these institutions. That would mean that the Municipal Archives, in its current form, would no longer be an independent entity.”

According to available analyses, operational changes will not be felt over the next four years, Dagur noted. “It will depend on the progress made during discussions, on the outcome of those discussions, and the overall outcome regarding these preservation issues in the country as a whole.” On this latter point, Dagur referred to the global discussion concerning the digital preservation of documents. He hopes that museums in Iceland will unite to ensure safe and accessible document storage.

“Our discussions have solely been positive and constructive,” Dagur said of his relationship with the state. “The National Archives is, in many ways, facing the same challenges as the Municipal Archives and the city itself. If we look to other countries, we see that they’re facing similar challenges, as well.”

Dagur observed that there was no reason to believe that ensuring access to archives would not improve if matters were handled properly. The goal was to translate a lot of data into digital form so that individuals weren’t forced to look to a single place in order to access documents.

A misguided decision based on limited understanding

As noted by RÚV, the proposal to close down the Reykjavík Municipal Archives surprised Svanhildur Bogadóttir, an archivist employed at the institution, when the media reported the proposal in the middle of last month. National Archivist Hrefna Róbertsdóttir further commented that, to the best of her knowledge, this would be the first time that a municipality’s archives were closed.

Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon, professor of history at the University of Iceland, told RÚV that the proposal was misguided and showed a limited understanding of museum issues.

Mayor Proposes Closing Reykjavík Municipal Archive for Budgetary Reasons

Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has proposed that the Reykjavík Municipal Archive be shut down for budgetary reasons, RÚV reports. Per the proposal, the archive’s primary functions would be assumed by the National Archive and the dissemination of, and educational outreach related to the archive’s holdings would become the responsibility of the Reykjavík City Museum. If the proposal is approved by the city council, Reykjavík would be the first municipality in the country to close a district archive, and perhaps the only European capital not to maintain its own archive.

The Reykjavík Municipal Archive was founded in 1954. It stores over 10,500 shelf metres of documents and has also increased its digital holdings and services in recent years.

Under Icelandic law, municipalities are permitted, but not required, to operate a district archive. Iceland’s National Archives already oversees archival duties for municipalities that do not maintain their own archives. The mayor’s proposal suggests that the capital simply follow suit, as costs of effectively maintaining an archive are only expected to increase in order to keep pace with the demands of record keeping in the digital era.

In 2022, it cost the City of Reykjavík over ISK 170 million [$1.18 million; €1.10 million] to operate its Municipal Archive. It is expected to cost an additional ISK 10 million [$69,587; €64,910] to operate the archive in 2023. According to archivist Svanhildur Bogadóttir, however, the actual cost to run the archive is relatively low; a third of their budget goes towards the rent they pay the City of Reykjavík.

Reykjavík Archive does not have resources to fulfil its mandate, says private audit

The mayor’s proposal comes in the wake of an assessment conducted by auditing and accounting firm KPMG, which states that based on current funding, the Reykjavík Municipal Archive does not have the resources to fulfil its mandate. KPMG’s assessment suggests that beyond the basic savings associated with greater cooperation between the Municipal and National Archives, this arrangement would also lend itself to a number of additional benefits: better facilities, better use of staff expertise, and improved services.

Although they were aware that KPMG was conducting an assessment related to “strategic planning” for the Municipal Archive, none of the employees had any idea that there was talk of closing their place of work all together before the mayor submitted his proposal. One plan that had been on the table was for the Municipal and National Archives to be relocated to the same building, but in that scenario, they were intended to remain separate entities.

The mayor’s proposal does not outline will happen to the Municipal Archive’s staff—nine full-time and two temporary employees—in the event that the archive is closed.

Reykjavík City Council Approves Extensive Budgetary Measures

City of Reykjavík strike

At a meeting yesterday, Reykjavík City Council approved measures intended to save over ISK 1 billion in operational costs over the coming year, RÚV reports. Among the measures are the expansion of paid-parking zones and decreased subsidies for electric-vehicle charging stations located by apartment buildings.

92 budgetary items

At a City Council meeting yesterday, the majority submitted an amendment to Reykjavík’s 2023 budget. The amendment comprises a total of 92 items, which are expected to save over ISK 1 billion ($7.1 million / €6.7 million) over the coming year.

As noted in the meeting’s minutes, City Council deems that the measures reflect “sensible financial management,” noting that the pandemic has impacted municipalities all over the country. “The reaction is natural and befitting the occasion, serving to protect front-line services and vulnerable groups.”

Among the measures are amendments to meal purchases for preschools; reduced opening hours for youth centres (which will close at 9.45 PM as opposed to 10 PM), museums, and swimming pools (during holidays); expansion of paid parking zones; and decreased subsidies for electric-vehicle charging stations near apartment buildings; among other things.

In an interview with RÚV on Wednesday, Einar Þorsteinsson, Chair of City Council, stated that the residents would “feel these changes.” These budgetary cuts were not fun but necessary in order to improve Reykjavík’s finances.

Operational losses of over ISK 11 billion

During its meeting yesterday, the City Council also reviewed an interim financial statement for the city’s operations during the first nine months of the year. The statement revealed that the city’s “A Section” – primarily funded by taxpayer money – was operated at an ISK 11.1 billion ($7.1 million / €6.7 million) deficit.

In a press release published yesterday, City Council stated that numerous factors had impacted its finances: “A new variant of COVID-19 at the beginning of the year put temporary pressure on operations, especially on the school and welfare system. The war in Ukraine, in addition to the pandemic, led to a shortage of raw goods and slowed down production time, which has negatively impacted global markets and led to increased inflation among our trading partners. The Central Bank, owing to rising real-estate prices, high inflation, and overheating of the domestic economy, raised key interest rates; all of this has had an impact.”

As noted in a press release on the City’s interim financial statement, however, the City’s A and B sections – the “B” section includes businesses in part or whole ownership of the city, such as Reykjavík Energy (OR), Associated Icelandic Ports (Faxaflóahafnir), Sopra bs. and Strætó bs., among others – produced a surplus of ISK 6.8 billion ($48 million / €46 million).

This article was updated at 11 AM.

Strætó’s Reykjavík Night-Time Service Could Resume Next Year

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to the operations of Strætó (Iceland’s public bus service), RÚV reports. The increased allotment is intended to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service in Reykjavík during the weekends.

An unsuccessful trial period

In early July, Strætó announced that the Reykjavík night bus, Næturstrætó, would return to service on July 9 following a two-year hiatus in response to low demand during the pandemic. During this hiatus, many capital-area residents had called for its return, arguing that it provided an affordable and safe alternative to taxis.

During a trial run between July and October of this year, however – when the night bus departed downtown Reykjavík every hour and stopped at the capital area’s seven suburban neighbourhoods – demand once again proved wanting. As noted in a press release from Strætó in October, an average of 15 passengers travelled aboard the night bus during each trip, which amounts to approximately 300 passengers over a weekend:

“In light of this, and given the finances, Strætó’s board has agreed that continuing night-time service during the weekends, now that the trial period has concluded, cannot be justified. The service will, therefore, be discontinued.

The mayor takes a u-turn

At a city council meeting yesterday, however – roughly six weeks after Strætó announced that it would be discontinuing its night-time service – Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service.

As noted by RÚV, Strætó’s night-time bus service was a key campaign issue for the Progressive Party, which went on to form a majority coalition, during municipal elections last spring.

City Council Introduces Proposals to Address Preschool Crisis

In the wake of parent-led protests, Reykjavík’s City Council has introduced proposals to expedite the admission of preschoolers. As reported last week, hundreds of children are currently waitlisted for preschools around Reykjavík.

A press conference at City Hall

Last Friday, parents of waitlisted children gathered at Reykjavík City Hall to protest; nearly 700 hundred children aged 12 months and older are waiting to be admitted to preschools around Reykjavík.

In response to the growing crisis, members of the council held a townhall meeting yesterday morning, introducing six proposals to expedite the admissions of waitlisted preschoolers. The proposals, approved of by City Council prior to the meeting, are as follows, RÚV reports:

  • Expediting the opening of Ævintýraborg

The Ævintýraborg preschool on Nauthólsvegur is to be opened ahead of schedule, or in early September. While the school’s playground and outdoor area are being finalised – expected to be complete in early October – Ævintýraborg will emphasise “diverse outdoor activities” in Öskjuhlíð, Nauthólsvík and near-lying areas. Once completed, Ævintýraborg will admit 100 children.

  • Utilising city-owned housing

Available housing owned by the city is to be utilised to meet preschool shortages this fall. Work has already begun to evaluate whether Korpuskóli school can serve as temporary facilities for preschoolers. Two additional departments are to be opened at the Bakki preschool, in the Staðarhverfi neighbourhood, in the hopes of accepting up to 160-200 additional preschoolers. Furthermore, community centres, along with other housing owned by the city and its collaborators, is to be utilised for preschoolers. This proposal is made on the condition of the parents’ interest in agreeing to these proposals and on the condition that these facilities can be staffed.

  • A new preschool in Fossvogur

Reykjavík will take advantage of an option-to-buy clause in order to purchase land in the Fossvogsdalur valley, adjacent to the city’s Cultivation Centre (Ræktunarstöð Reykjavíkur). The council will request the reclassification of the lot, and if said request is granted, an additional Ævintýraborg, capable of accommodating 100 preschoolers, will be opened next year.

  • Expansion of Steinahlíð

The Steinahlíð preschool is one of the city’s oldest preschools, currently accommodating 55 children. The council will enter into talks with Barnavinafélagið Sumargjöf, the school’s proprietor and landowner, with the aim of expanding the school, whether temporarily or for the foreseeable future. The will of the two parties to consider this expansion was addressed in an agreement regarding possible reclassification changes with regard to the Borgarlína transit system, which was approved June 18th.

  • Increased subsidies to daycare

Subsidies to daycare providers will be increased in order to strengthen their operational conditions, lower the cost of parents, and increase the number of daycare providers. Base subsidies will also be increased and further avenues to improvements, i.e. instructional or housing subsidies, will be explored.

  • Application protocols

Preschool admission protocols will be reviewed with a view to improve the dissemination of information to parents, simplify the application process, and work toward greater transparency. It is also necessary to review the possibility of integrating the application process between Reykjavík preschools and independently-operated preschools.

“Their disappointment has not escaped our notice”

Einar Þorsteinsson, City Council Chairman, and acting Mayor in the absence of Dagur B. Eggertsson, conducted the town-hall meeting, which was well attended by parents of waitlisted children.

According to Einar, the parents’ disappointment had “not escaped the council’s notice.” “I’m happy that there was a consensus among council members regarding the proposals … everyone’s doing their best to ensure adequate accommodation.”

Parents are not “systems enthusiasts”

Kristín Tómasdóttir, who has organised the protests at City Hall, took to the podium after the proposals had been introduced. Kristín stated that while she welcomed the meeting, and the fact that city council had finally introduced their proposals, she expressed the parents’ dismay that they’d been forced to expend energy  ensuring that city council do its job.

“You’re here to introduce proposals that you never intended to introduce,” she said, suggesting that if it weren’t for the protests, the proposals would never have seen the light of day.

“We were simply supposed to be understanding of the fact that you didn’t intend to keep your promises,” Kristín remarked.

Eyþór Will Not Run in Mayoral Primaries

Eyþór Arnalds, an Independence Party city councillor who ran for mayor in the last municipal elections, has announced his withdrawal from the primary elections of the party next spring. Eyþór announced his decision on Facebook, where he emphasised that the reasons for his withdrawal were personal, not political.

Eyþór, who is currently the leader of the Independence Party in Reykjavik, had previously announced his decision to run for re-election in 2022. However, his party colleague Hildur Björnsdóttir said she had decided to run against him in the primary elections two weeks ago. She secured second place in the last primaries and has been working side by side with Eyþór for the past term.

In his announcement on Facebook last night, Eyþór implied that his decision was not influenced by Hildur’s candidacy against him.

“I am sure that the Independence Party will have great electoral success this spring and those who know me are aware that I am not afraid of negative results in the primary elections. It should also be emphasised that the decision is unrelated to the arrangement of the elections that is currently being favoured by the party, and the members of the party who have announced their candidacy,” Eyþór said on Facebook.

The primaries will take place in the spring of 2022, followed by municipal elections in May. If Hildur’s candidacy remains unchallenged, she will become the mayoral candidate for the Independence Party.