13 January 2013
On behalf of the Members and Friends of ‘Menoume Antiparo,’ we would like to wish that 2013 be a happy and good year for all of our readers, as well as for their loved ones and for the societies in which they live…
Below we present the report by our leader and Municipal Councillor Mr Sotiris Skourtis, which also appears in his column ‘The Bridge 2,’ concerning the recent Municipal Council Meeting. This is followed by two petitions submitted by our group to the Mayor and Municipal Authority, requests which have been waiting for almost two months now to make their way before the Municipal Council for discussion (and, it seems, if they succeed they will have defeated the law of probability, based on past experience).
(FROM THE COLUMN “THE BRIDGE” 2)
The Municipal Council convened on 6/1/13 (9/1/13) to discuss and decide upon the followed Items:
1) The Election of the Presidency of the Municipal Council; and,
2) The Formation and Election of the Financial Committee.
– Concerning the first Item, the Presidency elected is as follows: Mr Konstantinos Faroupos is re-elected President; Vice-President, chosen from the larger Opposition group, is Mr Antonis Patelis; and, Secretary is Deputy Mayor Ms Eleni Viazi. It is worth noting that I was offered the position, in accordance with the lawful procedure (which states that the Secretary is to be nominated from the ranks of the smaller Opposition group, if there is one). However, I refused the position (which I had held for a year now, during the course of my incumbency, and which before me was held by Mr Panayotis Sfalagakos), since to this day it simply constitutes a political office that only consents to Municipal Authority decisions, while at the same time not carrying out any of its prescribed roles whatsoever. The reason for this is that the Rules of Order governing the Municipal Council and its operation have yet to be adopted—this, despite the fact that a relevant Decision was taken a year and a half ago to put these Rules into effect.
Thus, I expressed my rationale, expecting to hear a promise of immediate implementation of the Rules of Order; however, in the end the view was presented that there is no reason for us to place ourselves into a mould, since the way we have been operating to date has allowed us to address issues more directly and immediately. Of course, there have been Council meetings where every notion whatsoever of direct democracy has been abolished, and where the enforcement of the Rules of Order would have brought the meeting back to normal. At the same time, through the implementation of the Rules of Order, the President of the Council would be obligated to include the petitions of the other groups in the Meeting Agenda, which, under the present circumstances, never come before Council for discussion. Thus, ‘direct democracy’ is fine, but even better is a dedication to the Rules that protect democracy and the institutions. Otherwise, the governing Municipal Authority itself illustrates that it views Council Meetings with a lack of seriousness, and also without being legally consistent with the laws and provisions prescribed by the state. And if the Municipal Authority itself does not seem to respect the seriousness and legality demanded by the Municipal Council meetings, how can we ever expect of others to respect us?
– As to the second matter, the following were elected members of the Financial Committee: Deputy Mayor Ms Eleni Viazi, and Municipal Councillors Ms Litsa Viazi, Mr Paraskevas Kapoutsos, Mr Paraskevas Kouvaras, Mr Yiannis Vassilopoulos and I. Fortunately, just as had occurred a few months ago, the rationale prevailed that the smaller Opposition group (‘Menoume Antiparo,’ that is) should be represented and have a voice in the Financial Committee. It is worth recalling that at the first Council meetings two years ago we were excluded from the Financial Committee owing to the decision by the larger Opposition group ‘Enotiki Kinissi Proodou’ (headed at the time by Mr Nikos Marianos) to act punitively towards our group on account of our pre-electoral ‘stance.’ At the time, we had found ourselves at intense loggerheads with Mr Marianos’ group. A year later and following the leadership changes in both Opposition groups, ‘Enotiki Kinissi Proodou’ offered me one of their two seats on the Financial Committee and I accepted it, on behalf of our group, all of us deeming that in this way democratic institutions would be better protected and a polyphony of voices and views would be safeguarded; consequently, there would be a more complete check on the exercise of power and authority. It is sad that on that occasion as well there were negative reactions—but this time from the other side: In an interview given by Mayor Yiannis Leventakis to the local newspaper ‘Phoni tis Parou,’ he stated that he viewed this ‘collaboration’ as suspect, despite the fact that the first time around the Mayor himself had proposed that we (the smaller Opposition group) be given a seat on the Financial Committee!
Following this and after the official conclusion of the Council Meeting, two very serious matters were discussed. No record of proceedings was kept, but these matters are worth relating here.
– The first concerns the question raised by Mr Vassilopoulos, the leader of the larger Opposition group, with regard to the uncontrollable situation that prevails concerning the illegal movement of motor vehicles through the pedestrian precinct (main road). It is true that the situation finds itself once again beyond any control whatsoever; however, this time around the responsibilities lie squarely with the Municipal Authority, since our group requested—a year ago now—that issues related to policing (in general) be discussed, but the matter has yet to be deemed ripe for discussion (and here one can clearly see the reasons behind and the consequences of the Municipal Council Rules of Order not being implemented). In addition to the petition lodged by our group a year ago, a similar one was recently submitted by the Parents’ and Guardians’ Associations of the Kindergarten, Primary, and Junior High and High Schools of Antiparos. Furthermore, the Mayor contends that it is not the responsibility of the Municipality that the barriers installed less than a year ago have never been operational; rather, he argues that it is the responsibility of the private business (an individual, in fact) that was commissioned the project. The search, however, for the person responsible (in Syros) for the installation of the now famous inoperative bars apparently yielded absolutely no result, since it is claimed that no details are available for that private business, other than a landline phone number that is not in use. Instead of us, then, pretending to be detectives looking for clues as to who is to blame for why the pedestrianised main road is once again a source of danger and impunity, perhaps now is the time for the Municipal Council to discuss the matter in full and courageously, with all interested parties present (the police, associations, school principals, residents, etc). Otherwise, we will continue to view the issue in a fatalistic way (‘Oh, what can we do? It is we who drive on that road!’ as is often heard at Council Meetings concerning pedestrianised main road), and we will continue to disagree about who drives on it and who does not, and whether it is a question of education or conforming to the law. Until some accident brings us all back down to earth, and this very suddenly…
The second matter discussed subsequent to the conclusion of the Council Meeting concerned the summons delivered to the Mayor to appear before the Prosecutor regarding the well-known case of the Municipality illegally providing Municipal electricity to one of our fellow citizens. Just for the record and so as to provide readers with some background information, what happened was that the larger Opposition group, by way of its leader Mr Vassilopoulos, issued a press release making the above claim; the Municipal Authority then replied with its own press release (which was written in an even worse style), in which it proudly accepted that it had committed what it had been accused of (this press release appeared only in the ‘Phoni tis Parou’); and, finally, the publisher of the newspaper ‘Ta Nea tis Parou’ (Mr Dragatis) gathered all of the published information and sent it off to the Prosecutor’s Office for examination.
Throughout this whole affair our group remained uninvolved; this, not because we did not have a view on the matter; rather, because the way the issue has been handled to date has not been to the benefit of the local community, but has been aimed once again at creating polarization and tensions. It is the belief of every democratic citizen that in society there must be equality before the law. When equal citizens have or share non-equally, or again when non-equal citizens have or share equally (goods and privileges), then society becomes problematic, as Aristotle once wrote, and this remains the case today.
So, at the recent Council Meeting the Mayor requested of the two Opposition groups that they take a position on the matter by issuing a press release, and, specifically, denying any involvement whatsoever in the sending of the information to the Prosecutor’s Office. Mr Vassilopoulos, on behalf of his group, refused to take such action; as a result, the Mayor then began to present his own interpretation of the former’s intentions, deeming that this proved Mr Vassilopoulos’ involvement in the matter. Following this, I was obliged to take a position on behalf of our group, and I stated the following: The presumption of innocence cannot and should not be abolished, and we cannot and should not be asked to state something in order to prove our innocence. Contrary to intentions, the impression that would be created by the publication of such a statement would be to make it seem (or some would present it as being) incriminating. Nor is it possible for Opposition groups to issue press releases so as to protect the Mayor regarding a criminal matter, since he has not done something similar (i.e. issue a press release in favour of the Opposition groups) to date, and has yet to bring the particular issue before the Municipal Council.
Finally, an important parameter of the aforementioned issue, to which no reference has been made to date on our part, is the inconsistency shown in how and when the Municipal Authority reacts whenever the Mayor is affected (as is the case now), or when his salaryless advisor is affected (as in the past, in reaction to an attempt by a fellow resident of ours to vilify the advisor), with Municipal Councillors in these cases being asked to clearly present their positions and disapprove of the act of holding the institutions in contempt. There has been, however, for the past two years a coordinated attempt on the part of a portion of the local press to nullify or downgrade or misrepresent actions taken by our group, to which no elected official or person of influence has reacted, their ‘democratic sensitivities’ not being affected in this case. This particular newspaper—only during the course of my time in this position—has called me a liar, dangerous, has indirectly urged me to go home, and has not published our press releases; it even interviewed my predecessor and in the end did not publish the interview, while—most serious of all—it did not hesitate to hold me responsible for the drowning of an unfortunate fellow resident of ours last summer, on a day when I was not even on duty as a doctor. This is much more serious than the illegal channelling and theft of electricity, but there has been no reaction on the part of the Municipal Authority. It is also worth remembering that there was a similar lack of action (of the kind that the Mayor is now requesting for himself), concerning the lawsuit filed two years ago against the former leader of ‘Enotiki Kinissi Proodou,’ Mr Marianos, for slander by the company which had been commissioned to carry out what turned out to be a ‘failed’ (as Mr Marianos has labelled it) disinsectization project.
And one last important observation: The Municipal Council Meeting was held in a small classroom, for the fourth time during the last while. It would be good for there to be some kind of planning for the holding of Meetings, and that these not be set at will, without the use of the Kalouda Hall first having been secured. As long as we operate like this, the more we will discourage our fellow citizens and residents from attending and following the Meetings, which started off with between 20 and 40 people in attendance two years ago and now gather only four or five residents (who are by whopping majority members of ‘Menoume Antiparo’) crammed into primary pupils’ desks (representatives of the local media constitute a rare sight, having attended just a handful our Meetings over the last two years). And, in the eyes of almost everyone, all of this makes the argument less convincing that is put forth to justify postponements of Meetings, poor planning concerning place and time of the Meeting to be held, inadequate preparation for serious matters, lack of written (printed) information and data provided to Councillors prior to the Meeting with materials related to the issues to be discussed, and much more. Are we all sincerely and truly interested in the participation of citizens and residents in the Council Meetings, as everyone had promised before the elections? By meeting under these circumstances and conditions, the answer to this cannot be affirmative.
Our group must inform visitors to our blog that we lodged two petitions almost two months ago, which have yet to make their way to the Municipal Council, just like so many others that failed in the past, concerning the Municipal website, policing, commercial signs, water sampling, the disposal of septic tank vehicle contents, the refuse and municipal cleanliness regulations, the introduction of recycling, the live internet streaming of Council Meetings, and so many others (all of these have not been discussed as a direct consequence of the non-implementation of the Rules of Order governing the operation of the Municipal Council). These two petitions are presented below, and concern the informing of residents and political groups concerning the drainage project, and the discussion at a Single-Issue Meeting of matters concerning education and the schools attended by the island’s students.
Subject: The Forwarding of a Petition by the Parents and Guardians’ Associations of the Primary School and the Junior High and High Schools of Antiparos
We request through this Petition that a Single-Issue Municipal Council Meeting be called and held on the basis of the Petition lodged by the Parents and Guardians’ Associations of the Primary School and the Junior High and High Schools of Antiparos requesting the discussion and taking of decisions on matters concerning the two schools (problems related to infrastructure and building facilities, shortage of materials, issues of health and security, protection of the pedestrianised main road).
We remind you that at the most recent Municipal Council Meeting of 23/11/12, you publicly pledged that you would respond immediately to the related request.
Subject: Information Update concerning the Drainage System Project
The Drainage System Project, a work of especial importance, has commenced and it is the wish of all of us that it be completed and put into use, to the benefit of the local population. The recent advertisement / proclamation placed by the Mayor of Antiparos in a section of the local press, as well as the articles on related issues that have been published, constitute our sole source of information related to the issue of the Project.
Given the importance of the Project and the need for the broadest possible dissemination of information and for consensus, we request that you organize a Residents’ Meeting / Update on the issue of the developments related to the work and planning on the Project, and also that you organize a discussion of these at a forthcoming Municipal Council Meeting. As is apparent, the presence of the Engineer overseeing the Project, the Contractor, as well as others related to the Project, would be invaluable.