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Rathaus

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Rathaus December 2008 001

The Rathaus (Town Hall), located on one of the side of the Marktplatz, faces the Kirche, and is the seat of Government of the Confederation of Democratic Simulators, although currently (late 2008) the Representative Assembly is moving its meeting place to the larger Praetorium in Colonia Nova.

During the days in Anzere, the original plan called for the seat of government to be at the Schloss, where every one of the three branches would have their own meeting place. This primitive Schloss was never totally built, only a "Round Tower", which had at the top floor the "Senate Room", which was the first meeting place of the Representative Assembly. It was quite bare and had circular benches, which made avatar sitting quite hard, so it was customary to bring your own pillow and rez it on the stone benches.

The place where the Rathaus now is was originally a series of three "warehouses" (interconnected Fachwerks) with no defined purpose. They were thought to be special shops — perhaps for selling souvenirs — but they were neither completely finished nor used (this picture on Flickr shows those three warehouses and adds some additional historical notes).

In 2005, when the Anzere lease from Linden Lab expired after 8 months, Neualtenburg (as it was still called at that time) had to move to a private sim. It was a period when most of the original founders left the city, and the city treasury was quite short of cash. In a bold move, the Representative Assembly decided to convert the empty warehouses into the Neualtenburger Casino — probably ironic, since the legislation effectively turned gambling a state monopoly, to cover the monthly costs. The gambling machines were a generous gift by Eggy Lippmann, who had quite an assortment of devices done in the early Beta stages of Second Life. The three warehouses didn't really change their exteriors, but the ground floor was opened to allow easy access to the gambling machines in plain view from any visitor that came from the nearby telehub.

It was a fiasco, and the Neualtenburger Casino was probably the only casino in the history of Second Life that operated at a loss! It still persisted for several months, until at last the Representative Assembly gave up and decided to remove it on September 18, 2005.

At this time, the city went through some major redevelopment, following the Summer Strike of the Guild, where Guild members — the builders and artisans doing almost all public works in the city — demanded payment for their past services. As part of the process, it was decided that the old Round Tower would be demolished, and a new building erected in its place, the Schloss (vaguely inspired on the crazy ecletic styles of mid-19th century Bavarian castles built by "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria). It was built by Kendra Bancroft and would probably be acquired by Ulrika Zugzwang for her own private purposes once the public land where it stood would be declassified and turned into private land (a decision which was never made, and the Schloss still remains as a landmark of the city, hosting all the official balls, of which there are at least three: two after every election, and one during the Winter Holidays).

Having no official place to meet, the Representative Assembly, on October 2, 2005, authorised the Guild to demolish the Casino and build a new Seat of Government in its place for L$20,000. There was some pressure to do a quick job, so Kendra Bancroft opted to do a façade using photorealistic texturing.

The building has two floors. The ground floor — replacing the exact spot where the Casino stood — has a hall and a Registry Room. The hall was used for holding the Nota Bene notary system, developed by Zarf Vantongerloo in 2005. Since Zarf joined Linden Lab, he discontinued the support of Nota Bene and the device doesn't work any more (but it's still there!). The Registry Room once held all deeds for all citizens of the CDS, signed by a member of Government, a witness, and the new citizen. These days, there are no "signed deeds" any more, but the Registry Room is used for the automated payment system handling the monthly tier fees for citizens with a plot in Neufreistadt.

Neufreistadter Rathaus- Sixth Representative Assembly Term - Inaugural Session

The first floor is the meeting room for the Representative Assembly. It's not a large space, featuring 12 unscripted green chairs (also created by Kendra Bancroft who were felt to be enough to deal with an eventually growing RA (currently with 7 members). A table holds a recording device (for chat transcripts), a Bierstein (Bavarian jug to hold beer) which usually has the agenda for the current meeting, and a book with a copy of the Constitution for easy reference. One of the walls features the coat-of-arms for the City of Neufreistadt (designed by Moon Adamant as part of her admission test to the Guild in 2005) — a golden chicken (not an eagle!) in the centre, a crown on top of it, and the mysterious Latin inscription ab ovo beneath. Like any good coat-of-arms, it's full of puns. The chicken, of course, was the old sign for Neufreistadt, deliberately chosen because it's a ridiculous animal to have as an official mascot — an eagle would be more appropriate — but also to boldly claim that CDS citizens are not afraid of engaging in democracy and self-government ("we're not chickens"). The golden colour points to "yellow", or being a coward. The crown is an irony — the Confederation of Democratic Simulators is a representative democracy and has no Head of State, much less a "crowned" monarch. "Ab ovo" is a triple pun. It means "from the Egg", since Neufreistadt was the "egg" from which democracy in Second Life was born. Of course it also plays on the "chicken-and-egg" problem. But it is also a subtle reference to Eggy Lippmann, who in the early stages of Neufreistadt, being both a good friend to Ulrika Zugzwang and Kendra Bancroft, helped out with some initial scripting (and a huge Ulrika statue — which Kendra later shrunk in size and created the "Ulrika Plushie"), as well as the mentioned gambling machines for the Casino. Eggy also designed the first working clock (with moving hands) for the Clock Tower.

Since the Scientific Council never had a place of its own, it's customary that they use the Rathaus as well for their own meetings.

As the CDS grows, the cramped Rathaus is quickly reaching the limit of its usefulness. For a while, when Colonia Nova was built, the Representative Assembly rotated their meetings between the Rathaus in Neufreistadt and the much larger and roomier Praetorium in Colonia Nova. Over time, the RA even started to meet on the new sims as well, to symbolically show that there is no "predominant" sim in the CDS, but all elect the same government, for all citizens. This soon has become unpractical, specially when there is a large attendance by citizens and visitors on the publicly held meetings on the Rathaus — which is too small, and Neufreistadt too laggy (it runs on an old Class 4 sim and has very high texture density around the Marktplatz, where the Rathaus is) to make it practical long-term. Although a final decision was not met, it's very likely that the Rathaus will simply become another historical landmark and repurposed for other types of events, and the Representative Assembly move out permanently to the Praetorium complex, which has space not only for meetings, but also features two courtrooms for the judiciary functions of the Scientific Council, as well as a walled garden which is often used as a gallery showing urban planning projects by the Guild for public discussion.

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