22 February 2013
Petition Lodged by the Opposition Groups concerning the Drainage Project, and an Invitation to yet another Municipal Council Meeting that is to Discuss all Matters— With the Exception of the ones that we have Lodged Petitions for…
Unfortunately, the countless Petitions lodged by our Group have proven to have no place on the Agenda of business to be discussed and voted on at Meetings of the Municipal Council of Antiparos. For those who may be unaware, the Municipal Council Meetings that have been held over the past two years now—taking place even in small school classrooms at times—have been held without the Rules of Order being enforced (it is more than obvious by now that their implementation is not desired—for obvious reasons), have had fewer and fewer attendees from the general public, and, most importantly, have taken place without the complete and transparent briefing of Municipal Councillors as to the Motions that are to be presented, and also without the written documentation that should accompany every Item of Business to be discussed. In light of all of the above, it would be naïve on our part to continue to hope that the Petition we lodged so long ago now requesting that Municipal Council Meetings be transmitted live via internet streaming will ever be discussed—let alone passed—when one considers that not even the Rules of Order have ever been implemented or enforced. One could even go as far as to argue that it might be better this way, considering the fact that the way Meetings are held and run, and the image they present, does honour to no one. On the contrary, all of this downrates our political life, all the more.
Yet another Municipal Council Meeting, then, which we are posting below, exactly as we, too, received it. On this occasion, as well, we hope that we will receive a formal Update on the Business to be discussed at the Meeting in writing (and not verbally—which is consequently non-binding—from the Mayor) concerning the Items below. Finally, we hope that the Petition that we, all of the Municipal Councillors of the Opposition, lodged just a few days ago (22 February) concerning the big Drainage / Sewage project will find a place for discussion before the lapse of the legally-stipulated deadline for discussion (after the submission of such ‘all-Opposition’ petitions). This all-Opposition Petition is a re-submission of a Petition lodged by our group, Menoume Antiparo, a few months ago now, which failed to receive the prescribed legal and institutional ‘handling’ and ‘care’ of the President of the Municipal Council, and is now being re-submitted, in cooperation with the larger Opposition group. This is taking place in the spirit of what is clearly stated in the Petition (which appears below): ‘[…] the special significance of the Projects also creates the need for the broadest possible transparency and updating, as a related precondition for the broadest possible bipartisan and social consent’. The fact that this Petition was lodged prior to the Municipal Authority’s sending of Invitations to the Municipal Council Meeting (as evidenced by the Register Numbers), will not be commented upon at present, as we await to hear when the One-Item Special Municipal Council Meeting we have requested will be held…
Date 22/02/2013 Reg. No.: 453
INVITATION TO A MEETING
Taking into account the provisions of Article 111 of Law 3463/2006 ‘concerning the Municipal and Community Code’ and Law 3852/2010, we invite you to the Meeting of the Municipal Council of Antiparos, on Tuesday 26/02/2013 at 19.00 at Kalouda Hall, for the discussion of and the taking of decisions concerning the following Agenda Items:
- Amendments to the 2013 Budget of the Municipality of Antiparos.
- Approval of the Budget of the Public Benefit Enterprise of the Municipality of Antiparos (KEDA).
- The Taking of a Decision concerning Procurements for the 2013 Financial Year.
- The Organization of the 25th of March Event.
- The Approval of Travel Expenses for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
- The Renewal of Annual Newspaper Subscriptions for the Year 2013.
- The Allocation of Subsidies to the School Committees in the Municipality of Antiparos for the Maintenance of School Buildings (2nd and 3rd Allocations for the Year 2012) and for Operational Expenditures.
- The Taking of Decisions for the Establishment and Operation of the Lifelong Learning Centre (KDVM).
The President of the Municipal Council
Reg. No.: 442 / 22-2-13
SUBJECT: Petition for the Immediate Convocation of the Municipal Council, in Accordance with Article 67, Paragraph 2 of Law 3852/2010, on the Matter of an Update in Relation to the Course of the Drainage and Sewage Projects
Through the present Petition, and taking into account Paragraph 2 of Article 67 (‘Convocation of the Municipal Council’) of Law 3852/2010, we, the sum of the Municipal Councillors of the Opposition, request the immediate convocation of the Municipal Council of the Municipality of Antiparos, with the sole Item of Business on the Agenda being an Update on the Course of the extremely important Drainage and Sewage Projects, as well as the Taking of Decisions concerning the regulation of motor vehicle traffic and the stopping and parking of vehicles, and also on the more complete Updating of Citizens concerning related matters that arise from time to time (e.g. interruptions to water supply and electricity services, etc).
We would like to remind that the Mayor of Antiparos had also publicly agreed to an update on the matter, despite the fact that a similar Petition on the matter had been lodged by the group ‘Menoume Antiparo’ two months ago but remains unanswered. These important Projects are underway and the Municipality is obliged to formally update the Municipal Council—and well as citizens and residents—directly, immediately and to provide every detail concerning the course of the Projects, their time-frame and planning, as well as concerning the parallel replacement of the antiquated water network (which was also referred to in the recent press release issued by the Mayor), and on many other related matters.
As is evident, the presence of the supervising engineer, as well as of other competent persons or specialists, at this Meeting would be of benefit, as it is commonly accepted that the special significance of the Projects also creates the need for the broadest possible transparency and updating, as a related precondition for the broadest possible bipartisan and social consent.
Yours sincerely, the Municipal Councillors
IOANNIS VASSILOPOULOS SOTIRIS SKOURTIS
ANTONIS PATELIS DAMIANOS PALAIOLOGOS IOANNIS TRIANTAPHYLLOS
13 JANUARY 2013
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.
The Extraordinary Meeting of the Municipal Council of 11-7-12
The meeting lasted just a few minutes and concerned the issue of the leasing of sections of beaches. The same motion had not been passed at the previous municipal council meeting, as several Majority councillors had been absent that day, and the representative from our group, as well as the members of the other Minority group, voted against the motion for reasons that were specific and absolutely clear.
The president of the municipal council explained that today’s meeting was an emergency session owing to the failure to reach a (positive) decision at the previous meeting and the need for a solution to be found, even if this were late in coming.
The mayor proceeded to issue statements along the lines of the wavering arguments he had presented in his most recent (and unworthy of mention) press release (it is worth noting that any councillor asked denied writing it); that is, the mayor reiterated that the Opposition groups, in voting against the specific motion, showed that they were not in favour of these beach areas being leased.
I pursued the exact same line of argument today as I had done then, emphasising the fact that we are being called upon to vote in favour of decisions that have already been taken, since the businesspeople involved have already set up their equipment and other installations on the beaches, without councillors receiving any information on the matter, even at this stage when the same item is back on the agenda for discussion and a decision. Certainly, the later a decision is taken the more urgent the issue becomes, according to the interpretation that has been given to the word ‘urgent’; however, on the one hand the reasons noted above, and, on the other, the populist generalising on the part of Mr Leventakis, who seems not to be learning from the lessons of his more recent political career, did not permit me to vote in favour of the motion.
I stressed that I do hope that next year the issue will be brought before council earlier and also accompanied by information that befits the institutional rules governing municipal council sessions, in order that I be able to vote, without, at the same time, councillors (even those belonging to the Majority) voting in favour but with the explicit reservation that the next time the issue come before council in a timely fashion (this occurred at the meeting of 27/6/12).
At the same time, we were provided with information today concerning the three environmental issues of the extraordinary meeting to be held this Friday, a novel gesture but one certainly positive, which came just a few hours following our post on that issue.
THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL MEETING OF 27-6-12 AND 28-6-12, AND THE FINANCIAL COMMITTEE MEETING OF 28/6/12
There is no need to comment in depth on the press release issued recently by the mayor, a text which was published just the other day in the Parian weekly newspaper ‘Foni tis Parou’ (and handed out door-to-door on our island, in what could be seen as a sort of hopeless bid to distort the truth and sweep the various problems facing our municipality under the rug). The press release could simply be described as a very general volley of abuse chiding and chastising the ‘satanic’ role being played by the entire Opposition, of which we are a part. Whoever would like an answer to the farcical claims, allegations and statements made in the aforementioned press release may read our extensive press release that reveals the entire truth, which the mayor clumsily tried to conceal during the course of his talk—one of an unacceptable tone—at the square a month ago. There is also no need for us to prove that there is no affinity between us and the larger Opposition group above and beyond the often common stance of opposition that the mayor himself obliges us to take. And, naturally, we are in no need of history lessons from press releases drafted by advisors to the mayor, which rehash basic principles concerning democracy, the proper administration of public affairs and transparency, with references even made to Nero.
Our island is currently in its second year under the mayoralty of Mr Leventakis and we are still awaiting all that which we stated clearly in our recent press release—to which no reply was ever issued, but which, fortunately, the greater part of our fellow citizens became aware of (despite the fact that the ‘Foni tis Parou’ did not even publish a summary of it, in keeping with its unwavering stance of supporting the present mayor and his administration and repudiating or not publishing every press release, action or position held by our group, contrary to the basic principles of journalistic ethics).
Finally, setting aside our supposed great similarity to the other, larger Opposition group headed by Mr Vassilopoulos, one could discern in the figure of the mayor and the members of his inner staff a clear parallel to all that which is taking place in our country at the moment, through the prism of a deep party state that appears to be working hard but is, in effect, ineffective; one that praises cooperation and transparency without implementing these in practice; one that swears to uphold meritocracy but serves the principles of ‘rule by families,’ nepotism and clientele relations; and one which, ultimately, attributes to the Opposition anything that turns out wrong owing to its own askew administration. The similarities are too many in number to be coincidental.
So now, the ‘Bridge 2’ column finds itself back in full swing. Over time, outstanding past summaries will be posted covering the municipal council and financial committee meetings held recently, prior to the meetings of late June (whose summaries follow below), in a bid to continue the attempt that has been made to date and which was begun by my predecessor Mr Sfalagakos to record the decisions and discussions taking place at the meetings of the aforementioned two bodies in which our group is represented. The need to do so becomes even more imperative at the moment: There has been no posting of the minutes (or records of proceedings) of the municipal council or financial committee on the municipal website (which, it must be noted, has been very poor and extremely lacking to date), despite the fact that this is required by law (‘Kallikratis’ Law 3052/2010, Article 75, Paragraph 10 and Article 71, Paragraph 3). The website, despite being a top priority, remains ‘under construction’, and, in fact, has been directly commissioned by the mayor himself to a private individual of his choice, despite the fact that many other noteworthy bids had been submitted and that significant preliminary work had been done by the unofficial committee that had been formed and in which we had taken part. Yet another year lost concerning the digital promotion of Antiparos via the internet. It is evident that this does not concern the mayor, as he neither possesses a fundamental knowledge of this field nor has he ever lent weight to the ‘digital life’ of the island; instead, he contents himself with the printed-out texts from our group’s blog (and that of the other Opposition group) with which his bloodthirsty political friends supply him. If he did care, he would have created a website for his group, instead of polluting the air with his consecutive foul press releases, which are ready to be placed directly, just as they are, atop the ‘sinful’peak ofAkonitos.
Unfortunately, the non-posting of the records of proceedings on the municipal website is but one of the irregularities observed, as it is an open secret that municipal councillors (including, of course, those of the Minority) do not receive information on the agenda items prior to the meetings—something that is illegal; the result being (as has been previously raised and discussed on many occasions in this column) that one’s vote is based upon personal research and (mainly) improvisation during the course of the meeting, a fact that annuls the possibility of a decision being taken by our entire group, and this after consulting with citizens and experts on each matter.
At the same time, the set of rules of order for the municipal council meetings continues to remain unimplemented. About a year ago, the financial committee commissioned the project of drafting a new municipal set of rules of order for meetings to Mr Grispos. It was publicly stated at that meeting that the latter was being commissioned the project because he had volunteered to undertake it free of charge, requesting only that the person (of his choice) who would be typing up the rules would be paid about 450 euros for their time. Since then, we have received only a preliminary draft (based, in large part, upon the sample set of rules available on the ΕΕΤΑA [national local administration association] website), a preliminary draft for which our grουp immediately voiced our approval—but unofficially, as (for reasons unknown to us) the preliminary draft has not been tabled before the municipal council for official discussion and approval. All of this makes even the most ‘bona fide’ citizen consider that the implementation of the set of rules of order is being put off intentionally, in order to uphold the state of anarchy, recrimination, populism and sometime de facto substitution of the mayor himself for the council president during the meetings.
In addition, at that same financial committee meeting last year, Mr Grispos was also commissioned with the drafting of the set of rules governing refuse collection, recycling and municipal ‘cleanliness.’ Concerning this project, we have yet to receive even a preliminary draft… And here, too, one cannot but help thinking that the lack of a set of rules and regulations on refuse collection and so forth is in the interests of the ‘policy’ and the ‘strategy’ being implemented by the municipal authority concerning Akonitos, recycling, refuse collection and disposal, and other environmental issues. In addition to this, it is a fact that the official implementation of rules and regulations on the part of the municipal council would facilitate anyone wishing to make complaints and level charges against the incriminatory handling, on the part of the municipality, of all of these matters in general…
We have also noted on many occasions up to now that the vast majority of petitions and proposals officially lodged and submitted by our group have yet to be responded to—let alone discussed in council; the very few that have been answered have been responded to long after the deadline for receiving an official reply has elapsed (in either case, a delay officially carries hefty fines, which we have not sought to receive, for obvious reasons). As stated before, according to the law, the municipal authority is obliged—in the event that it does not include the matter related to the petition on the agenda—to respond to the submitted petition within one month. In fact, concerning environmental issues (which include recycling, a licence for a second vehicle to collect and dispose of septic tank waste, Akonitos, the drainage and sewage treatment projects and systems, the illegally restricted-access beaches, etc) the municipality is obliged to respond immediately (according to ‘access to environmental information’, the Aarhus convention).
A final unfortunate fact is the time of day when financial committee meetings are held, which had started off during the evening hours (around 6 or 7pm), thus facilitating the attendance of most citizens and residents, but has ended up, many months now, being in the early afternoon (usually 1pm), and even on weekdays. Despite the fact that we have officially requested, in writing, that the time be changed (and thus this tactic of excluding our group—owing to the time that meetings are held—from the official gatherings of the financial committee be stopped), the indifference on the part of the mayor is provocative and certainly not random. What has just been described above also occurred at the recent financial committee meeting, held at 1pm, despite the fact that one day previous to it I had petitioned the mayor (who is also the committee president) in writing requesting that the time be changed to later on that same scheduled afternoon, as I (and many other citizens) would be unable to attend, owing to my employment in the public sector.
THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL MEETING OF 27-6-12 AND 28-6-12
Although the official date of the meeting was 21/6, the session was moved informally (that is, by telephone) owing to a personal impediment of Ms A. Palaiologou, the secretary (clerk). In fact, the meeting was held in two parts—specifically, on 27 and 28 June—with different members present on each of the days, despite the fact that it was the same meeting (on paper, at least)!
Although 10th on the list of agenda items, it was discussed 1st. The corresponding decision last year was taken on 6 June 2011, but this year, despite the fact that the Municipality of Antiparos now considers itself ‘organised,’ the decision was delayed even more, with unpleasant consequences (as will be seen below).
I stressed, on behalf of our group, that yet again we did not receive any information prior to the meeting, the result being that none of us knew which beach areas were to be leased, what the sums of these leases would be, or what the exact duration of the contracts would be. However, an even graver issue was that we were being called upon to vote on a decision that had already been taken, as the lessees had already installed their equipment (umbrellas, sunbathing chairs, etc) from the start of the season. As one would naturally expect, I voted against the motion. The members of the larger Opposition group did the same. The result of this, owing to the absence of several Majority councillors from the meeting that day, was for the motion to be rejected; this meant that the businesspersons involved now found themselves in a vulnerable and compromising position, having already (informally and unofficially) leased the areas of the beaches to be leased, and, of course, in any way not responsible for the delayed and awkward bringing of the issue before the council by the municipal authority.
In fact, the mayor, in keeping with his beloved tactic, made sure to create impressions in his favour, to the effect that, by voting against this particular (and absurd) motion, we were indicating that we did not wish for beach areas to be leased. This, of course, bore no relation to reality, or to the motion in question; this purposely skewed interpretation only constitutes a show of defensive populism on the part of Mr Leventakis, who has put this into effect in the past (the high [or, rather, low] point being the issue of our group’s voting against the studies for the drainage project—not because we were against this much-needed project, but again owing to the lack of provision of related information). Unfortunately, there are certain municipal councillors who are prodded to distort the truth, and naturally in the process make a laughing stock of themselves as they present lies as truths, obstinately slandering us at the ‘congregations’ down at the port and in the local cafés.
Amendments to the Budget for the 2012 Financial Year
Owing to the lack of information provided prior to the start of the meeting, the Minority municipal councillors were forced to pose questions requesting details related to the budget. This, in turn, obliged the council president to invite Ms K. Faroupou, the head of the municipal financial department, so as to provide some clarifications. Following this—but despite the fact that the initial off-handedness concerning the subject still remained—the motion was passed unanimously.
The 2nd part of the Municipal Council Meeting took place on 28/6/12. Prior to the start of the meeting, the following items were discussed as urgent business (oddly enough, considering that the meeting in question constituted a continuation of the meeting held the previous day):
Α) The Hiring of Employees on Two-Month Contracts (1 refuse collection vehicle driver, 1 refuse collection employee)
Β) The Determination of Employment Fields and Specialties of Employees on Eight-Month Contracts: Of the 5 positions that had been requested, 3 were approved, and specifically are the following: 1 water supply employee, 1 refuse collection vehicle driver, 1 refuse collection employee.
All positions are to be filled through ASEP (the independent council for public sector employee hiring).
C) Concession to ‘EGNATIA SA’ of the Project ‘Desalination and Accompanying Works.’ A question was posed as to whether this concerned the payment of an unofficial ‘fee’ to speed up the process (as had occurred in a similar case with drainage system), and the answer given was that this was not the case.
All three motions were passed unanimously.
The remaining agenda items were then discussed as follows:
Expression of Interest for the Acquisition of the Collection held by the ANTHEMION Folklore Museum
The President of the Municipal Council read a letter/call for expression of interest for the acquisition of the collection. I stated that, once more, we are being forced to improvise concerning such a serious matter, not having received any prior official information on the subject. I explained that, in theory, no one is opposed to the intention of the municipality to express interest in acquiring and housing the notable collection on our island. However, we must also take the following into consideration: a) The precise financial sum that is required, and to what extent the acquisition constitutes a priority for the municipality during this crucial period; b) Does it include notable exhibit items related to our island?; and, c) In what space would the collection be housed, and what would be the cost for rent, security and the conservation of the items in the collection? It is worth noting that there is already a ‘forgotten’ collection of books that had belonged to the family of G. Roussos, which was donated to the municipality last year, and it would be good if the two collections were housed under the same roof, in the event that the undertaking were to come to fruition. Until then, however, all of the related details noted above must be presented, and not impressions simply be created through articles in the press bearing lofty headlines such as ‘The cultural upgrading of Antiparos is unanimous: The creation of the Parian writer Kyriaki Ragoussi changes hands,’ considering that such a decision has yet to be taken.
The motion was passed unanimously, and it was decided that a committee of specialists would be formed to evaluate the proposal and the prospect of purchasing and acquiring the collection.
At this point I had to depart owing to an emergency. Unfortunately, the meeting had begun at 20.00 instead of 19.30 owing to the delayed arrival of the mayor and his advisor, the result being that there was no possibility of our group participating in the items that followed. However, these items and the related decisions taken are presented below, in the aim of informing everyone, and some related comments are also made.
Expenses for the Holding of Sporting and Cultural Events for the Month of July
This concerned the celebratory and sporting events for the Ayia Marina celebration to take place in a few days, the swimming contest (channel crossing) and biking race both organised by ΝΟΑ (the nautical society of Antiparos), the awarding of a plaque to Ms M. Nafpliotou, the president of the Paros and Antiparos Volunteer Blood Donors Association, in honour of her many years of altruistic contribution to local society, as well as the procurement of 30 small commemorative Despotiko Kouros statuettes to be handed out in the future as gifts to guests of honour and other visitors to the island.
Concerning the Ayia Marina races, it would be useful for one to note the need for these to be better organised, as their organisation is declining with each passing year (mainly concerning the time-keeping and the publication of finishing times, and also as to the advertising and promotion of the event). Those who remember the first edition (2001), organised by Carlos Capalbo, would agree that the race has been on a downward trajectory over time, and this on an island that lends itself to road races, a fact illustrated by the successful half-marathon race organised by the ‘Antiparos En Plo’ society this past May.
Expenses for Accommodation and Hosting related to the Musical Event entitled ‘Tribute to the Poet Gatsos’ in the Lanes of the Kastro (Castle)
Bids were collected and the best ones were selected concerning this item, as well as the previous two. It is a bright exception that on accommodation- and dining-related issues, bids are sought so as to avoid negative social reactions; however, on issues that are more serious but less ‘dangerous’ and less likely to create citizen complaints, direct commissioning is selected without hesitation (eg the municipal website, insect control programmes, etc), and this many times behind closed doors, in fact.
It is also worth noting that it was mentioned that the members of the Lyriki (National Opera) dined for free at Anargyros’ taverna, a generous and polite initiative and offering on the part of its owners.
Expenditures and Expenses for Accommodation and Hosting related to the Event ‘Inflatable Vessels Club’ from the Island of Crete
On this issue, too, bids that had been collected and selected were presented, the lowest having been chosen for the needs of the event. Without doubt, such initiatives promote our island; however, one cannot help but observe that there is an absence of a drafting of a more general strategy concerning issues of tourism for the island—with a rudimentary website, inactive/depreciated Tourism Committee, poor operation of tourist sites (such as the cave) and an ‘upstart’ tourism strategy, however many inflatable vessels (or Harleys; see below) may come, they will still be fewer than the number that our island deserves.
The councillors of the larger Opposition group expressed their justified reaction to the ‘methodology’ involved, since, on most issues, the council is called upon to vote on previously decided expenditures that have already been made; that is, exactly like what occurred with the leasing of beach space earlier, and on many other occasions and items.
Expenditures and Expenses for the Accommodation and Hosting related to the Event ‘Harley-Davidson Club’
Setting aside the unanimous approval of the motion to pass the accommodation and hosting expenses of the musicians who put on the rock concerts and the expenditure for the sound equipment (140.00 + 950.00 euros, plus VAT), the handling of the whole affair on the part of the municipality was beyond any reason, since (justly so) the discussion revolved around the permission granted by the municipality for the noisy motorcycles to make their way up to the square, with the supposed agreed opinion of citizens. In fact, the selection of the square as the site for the event (parade of Harleys and concert) was entirely misguided, for many reasons. In the end, the event was a success, held at the port owing to negative reactions on the part of citizens (a fact proving that they had not given their consent for it to be held at the square). Characteristically, however, the mayor of Antiparos stated at the municipal council meeting that he approves of ‘whoever comes to the island, because they bring money to the place.’ This statement very clearly illuistrates the lack of direction concerning the tourist ‘product’ offered by the island, and echoes fortune-hunting strategies for tourism that belong to decades past.
The motion was passed by majority, as the members of the larger Opposition group voted against the proposal.
Grant to School Committees
A sum of 2,000.00 euros was granted to each of the two school committees from Municipal funds.
Transportation Expenses of Advisor to Mayor
It was noted by Mr Vassilopoulos that on the days when Mr Haniotis, advisor to the mayor, claimed to be Athens(and was now requesting that his expenses be reimbursed), he was in fact in Antiparos. The motion was passed unanimously, on the condition that the dates would be corrected (a difficult task, as it concerned tickets issued for specific dates). All of this constitutes yet another indication of the off-handedness with which items continue to be brought before the municipal council, a year and a half following the assumption of duties by the present municipal administration.
Ratification of Expenditures for the Holding of the Parliamentary Elections
This concerned expenses totalling 300.00 euros (250.00 for meals and 50.00 for water and refreshments).
Ratification of the Financial Committee Decision concerning the Issue of the Organisation of Events for 2012
This concerned the commissioning of the organisation of events to Mr Golemis for the sum of 5,000.00 euros.
THE FINANCIAL COMMITTEE MEETING OF 28/6/12
Unfortunately, yet again I was unable to attend the meeting owing to its starting time (1pm). The day before the meeting I had sent a letter to the mayor (and president of the committee) requesting that the meeting time be moved, as it is impossible for any public servant to attend—even more so during the ‘high season.’ My letter was utterly ignored, I have not received any related update since, nor was my letter read before the members of the financial committee or the municipal council of that same evening! This is not simply a case of an unethical type of behaviour that comes to be added to the ‘tough’ and anti-democratic profile that the mayor has adopted the last while; it constitutes an insult to the institutions and to our fellow citizens who wish to attend a meeting. The fact of the matter is that this particular meeting ended up lasting less than an hour, something that means that it could have been pushed back by one or two hours. It appears, however, that the mayor of Antiparos himself has once again deemed undesirable the presence of our group on the financial committee.
Approval of Commitment and Voting of Apportionment of 2012 Budget Credits
Awarding of Competition for the Procurement of Electrical Supplies for the Project ‘Extension of the Water Supply and Electrical Street Lighting Networks’
Approval of Commitment and Voting of Apportionment of Credit for Pavement Traffic Markings in the Port of Antiparos
It is worth noting here that our group is still waiting for a reply to an official petition we submitted to the municipality in writing more than three months ago concerning measures related to policing and to the prevention of road accidents. Our petition was accompanied by a specific proposal, which includes the painting of zebra crossings for pedestrians. Despite the fact that the traffic markings carried out are more than a welcome sight, the need is even greater to mark the pedestrian crossings at the second entrance to Psaralyki 1, at the entrance to Psaralyki 2 and at the two entrances to Panayia (aka Psaralyki 3, or Periyiali).
Approval of Commitment and Voting of Apportionment of Credit for the Maintenance of the Municipal Electrical Street Lighting System
Near the end of the meeting, the discussion became polarised and aggravated following a petition by citizen Mr Grispos that the committee re-examine the issue of the expenses related to the charting of the island and the marking of footpaths. University students and faculty members had generously offered to carry out the project free of charge, asking that, in return, the municipality pay only their expenses. When the matter recently came before the municipal council for approval, the budget presented totalled 8,000.00 euros—many times higher than the amount originally forecast—leading all Opposition members to vote against it. At that meeting, our group had voted against the proposal because the sum was large and also owing to the fact that the mayor had previously pledged to inform us as to the final sum prior to the council meeting—something that never happened, in keeping with this seemingly favoured tactic employed by the municipality to date.
The list of expenses presented by Mr Grispos at this financial committee meeting totalled less than 2,000.00 euros; he also made reference to a second phase in the project that would cost about the same amount as this. The issue will be discussed in greater detail when it comes before the financial committee again. The discussion that ensued and the recriminations between Mr Grispos and Mr Vassilopoulos and tolerated by Mr Leventakis (president of the financial committee) in no way bring honour upon the body, and even more so do no justice to the principles governing any sound dialogue, mutual respect and democracy itself. We do hope, however, that we, too, as a group receive the same treatment as that enjoyed by a citizen (Mr Grispos, in this case)—that is, that the petitions we submit for urgent discussion at council and committee meetings be discussed immediately and on the spot!
‘The Bridge 2’
The Bridge 2 16-3-2012 THE EXTRAORDINARY MUNICIPAL MEETING OF 7-3-12
Note: On Tuesday 13-3-2012, the Mayor granted us access— for the first time— to the study related to the drainage/sewage system and to its related tender—documents all stored in his office. Menoume Antiparo member and candidate councillor Mr Spyros Kambasis and I requested and received a copy of the study, and then we overtly photographed the survey map, or plat, of the project, as the Municipality does not possess a photocopier able to copy such documents. The same evening, we posted the photos we took of the plat on our blog, thus providing all citizens with the opportunity to have a look and gain information about the project; after all, the map is a public document, with free public access. However, owing to the intense opposition (concerning the matter of posting the photos) expressed by the Mayor himself –who astonishingly argued that the interests of the Municipality were being undermined by this action—the post in question was removed, as a goodwill gesture on our part. It is, however, a public document, and the Municipality should want its citizens to become informed about such a significant project; so, it makes one wonder: Why such an acute reaction? In fact, in a local radio interview today, the Mayor accused us of taking the photographs illegally, something which is, of course, untrue, as was also the case with many other untrue statements he made, and that with great ease. His interview was clearly conducted in order to make an impression and not for reasons of substance; it was an often ‘colourful’ monologue that reaffirmed all that had been written in relation to the stance adopted by the Mayor following the Municipal Council Meeting, in which not only did he not own up or apologize for the lack of information, but also went as far as to make inaccurate judgements, shifting the burden from the fact that Municipal Councillors were not informed, to a supposed dispute over the project itself. You are invited to have a look at the official Meeting Record to see what the Mayor stated, and then consider the reason why, from that moment on, he has been fiercely attempting to label our group as being opposed to the project (the Record may be viewed here, where his initial stance at the Municipal Council Meeting can be seen clearly: ‘The Mayor took the floor and, replying to Municipal Councillor Mr Skourtis, said that he did not wrong [Menoume Antiparo] because they have doubts as to whether the drainage project will be carried out or whether it will be executed correctly or not. They are doing this out of concern…). The relevant survey map, however, as well as the study, both of which have legally come into our possession, are at the disposal of any citizen who so desires to view them, and any citizen may also request to view these documents at the Municipality, as well. Every responsible citizen has this right and obligation— though in an environment that sometimes seems to prefer obfuscation and disinformation to truth, transparency and the dissemination of information. THE EXTRAORDINARY MUNICIPAL MEETING OF 7-3-12 ON THE SUBJECT OF THE STUDIES RELATED TO THE DRAINAGE AND SEWAGE TREATMENT SYSTEM PROJECT One Urgent Item was discussed prior to the sole Agenda Item of the Municipal Council Meeting. It was unanimously passed that Municipal employee Ms Kyriaki Faroupou would collect, on behalf of the Municipality, the sum of 80,000 euros earmarked for a Municipal water vehicle; this is aimed at addressing instances when water shortages may arise (it had been passed in the 2010 Budget, under the code 1322.003). A discussion ensued on an array of issues, raised by the larger Minority group, but also by the smaller one, which I represent. Mr Yiannis Vassilopoulos, head of the other Minority group, informed Council that he had submitted petitions concerning homeless animals and the condition of the ring road, and he requested that there be a Municipal Council Meeting to address these issues. Taking the floor after the leader of the larger Minority group—in accordance with the commonly accepted procedure—I asked once again that the rules of order finally be enforced, in order that we be aware of the framework within which we are to operate. The President of the Municipal Council stated that in the days to come, a meeting between the three group leaders would take place, in order that the wording of the text be finalized. As Mr Vassilopoulos had not been informed concerning the proposed text (which had been compiled by Mr K. Grispos, in accordance with a Financial Committee Decision), I sent it to him by electronic mail that same day. Until the set of regulations and rules of order concerning Municipal Council Meetings is drawn up and passed (our group lodged a petition to this effect on 3-2-2012), I stated that it would be reasonable to assume that the previous set of regulations and rules of order published in the Government Gazette remains in effect; consequently, we have the right to submit questions before the Mayor, as well as to receive replies from him concerning unanswered petitions we lodged more than one month previously (the Municipality is obliged to provide an official reply to petitions within one month of receiving them). Thus, concerning the condition of and damages to the ring road that recently came to light, the Mayor stressed that he is awaiting the findings of engineers sent from the Regional level to assess the situation. Shortly afterwards, the Mayor argued that a big deal is being made about ‘a little pot-hole’; We believe, however, that if he himself had not publicly championed the quality of this particular road (‘a road like an airstrip,’ ‘a road that will be the last one of them all to crumble’—statements made to the Parian radio station Echo FM), and also had he not publicly offered an estimate for the repair that turned out to be well off the mark (50,000 euros, but the final cost was double that), then perhaps the Opposition would not be so demanding—and a section of the local population would not be so disgruntled—concerning the end result. With reference to the petition lodged by the larger Minority group concerning homeless animals, the Mayor emphasized that no one had come to the Municipality to make a related complaint or to lodge a petition. Mr Vassilopoulos correctly replied that, as an elected Municipal Councillor, he had the right to gather citizens’ complaints and protests; and I can personally confirm that I, too, was the recipient of these as well in the days that followed the Meeting. The Mayor also stated that he was still waiting for Menoume Antiparo member and candidate councillor Mr Bram van Spronsen to come to the Municipality to discuss matters related to homeless animals, as such a meeting had yet to take place. At a meeting I subsequently had with PAWS official (and founder of AWA, which is under establishment) Mr Van Spronsen, who can truly and significantly contribute to issues related to the well-being of the homeless animals found on our island, we decided to visit the Mayor together, in order to lodge some specific petitions/proposals on the part of Mr Van Spronsen and the two local societies under establishment—AWA and Antiparos En Plo. Mr Vassilopoulos’ group also raised the issue of the existence of pot-holes along the length of the roads leading to Ayios Yeorgios and Kambos. The Mayor stressed that the sum of 40,000 euros had been approved by the Regional Authority to this end, and that all necessary repairs would be taking place following the end of the rainy season. Our group’s petition concerning all illegally-placed advertising signs was also discussed—in part. The Mayor stated that the matter falls under environmental and refuse regulations (our group has lodged a relevant petition concerning this issue as well, also dated 3-2-2012); My response to this, however, was that we would like to request that it be put to debate at a public meeting, as our group had publicly stated during the pre-election period that we had a specific proposal for the replacement of the illegal and unsightly private business road signs, which offered a more stylish and environmentally-respectful alternative. Another unanswered petition of ours (lodged many months ago) was also discussed, concerning the live streaming of Municipal Council Meetings over the internet. The reply we received was that the matter will be discussed along with that of the official Municipal website in the future. Finally, in light of the fact that Minority Municipal Councillor Mr Antonis Patelis had recently resigned his seat as Permanent Member of the Financial Committee, and following the offer made by the larger Minority group that I assume his seat, I proposed that the matter be voted upon at that particular Meeting. The proposal was accepted by all, so our group is now represented (with the right to vote) on the Financial Committee, thus correcting the irregularity created by the ‘Kallikratis’ law itself—but also maintained by the predecessor of Mr Vassilopoulos, who had refused Mr Sfalagakos the Permanent Member Seat; he had done this based upon his own rationale, which had been commented upon in depth at the time. Thus, at this moment, all of the groups are represented on the extremely important Financial Committee—something in favour of democracy and in favour of many voices being heard. There followed a discussion concerning the Agenda Item entitled ‘Approval of Studies for the Project “Drainage and Sewage Treatment Facilities of Antiparos”’. The Mayor introduced the Item, without, however, going into technical details—being a non-specialist on the matter. Thus, essentially there was no introduction to such an important issue, although there should have been, as it concerned the most significant project of recent years. After half-an-hour was consumed by an attempt on our part to perceive and understand just what it was we were being called upon to vote on (we had not been furnished with any sort of document with related information, and this despite the fact that the Meeting had been labeled as ‘Extraordinary’), it became clear that the proposal concerned Municipal Council approval of two studies approved at a Financial Committee Meeting in September 2011—one had been to hasten the issue of the tenders, the other to amend the original study for the drainage system, downsizing the number of residents to be served by the project from 6,000 to 3,000 persons, in order that it correspond to the number planned for the sewage treatment system project. When I took the floor to express the views of our entire group, as our representative, I began by recounting events at the Financial Committee Meeting of the previous September. I noted that our vote against the proposal at that Meeting had been issued on the grounds that we had felt it necessary that a public dialogue / consultation be entered into, in order that specialists be given a forum to certify the sound operation of the project, expressing supported opinions as specialists. I stressed that since that day (25/9/2011), we had been given no official update, while, at the same time, an official petition had been lodged by our group on 5-10-2011 (that is, after the Financial Committee Meeting; the Mayor falsely stated in his radio interview that we had been given an update at the Financial Committee Meeting, after we had submitted our petition), requesting access to the studies and a copy of these—another petition never answered. On the basis of all of the above (lack of public dialogue / consultation, incomplete information, unanswered question put before the Municipality), there were objections—concerning the project—which remained unaddressed, specifically the following: – The type of sewage treatment facility (the open wetland method), which is not used anywhere else in the Cyclades islands, and the other possible alternative solutions that could have been promoted and used (e.g. compact); – The two legal cases—initiated by a private citizen—now before the Council of State seeking to have the project annulled, which concern the technical study of the sewage treatment facility and the site of the drainage system; there is the issue of construction company Egnatia A.E. giving priority to a project for which no final ruling has been issued and which is not clear of the courts; and, – The question of information concerning the steps taken by the Municipality to date so as to coordinate the construction activities of Egnatia A.E. and the electricity corporation DEH, in order to place the latter’s cables and wires underground. It is typical that after I expressed our views—and reservations— concerning the matter, no one took the floor to reply to my questions, even at this ‘very last moment’. Instead, the Mayor confined himself to taking the floor and entering ‘end-of-the-world’ mode, issuing a dilemma of the type that runs ‘we either vote in favour of the project, or else it’ll never happen’, stressing, however, that he could relate to our concerns—but we had to trust him. I truly would like to act in the manner he stated, but that would presuppose a corresponding trustworthy and transparent stance on the part of the Mayor and the Majority over the course of the previous months. In addition, his stance following the Municipal Council Meeting—and through this day—related to the matter indicates that it was not trust that he was seeking but discipline and unanimity. In his aforementioned radio interview, the Mayor named Mr Grispos, a civil engineer, as a specialist on the matter; the latter was also present at the particular Municipal Council Meeting, so it would be reasonable to assume that he could have introduced the topic as a specialist, and also could have offered his views in response to my questions. During the voting process I reiterated our concerns, adding that a 3,000-person system was too small, if one considers that since 2004, there is a provision in the project for sewage to be brought to the facility from areas outside the village (from Soros, Ayios Yeorgios, Kambos, etc), something that seemed to be news to some Majority Municipal Councillors, judging by their reactions. Thus, on behalf of our group I voted against the proposal, making it clear, however, that we were not voting against the project, but were voting against because of the lack of information related to it. The truth is, that with more complete information, a public dialogue / consultation with specialists and the provision of all of the facts—while keeping in mind, however, that there is not enough time for the project to change, but being informed that it could at least undergo modifications in the future—we could have voted in favour of it. Under the present circumstances, unfortunately, there was no such possibility. This would run contrary to the basic principles of our group concerning transparency and the dissemination of complete information. This is what I also stated in a radio interview on Echo FM on 13/3/12. However, even this rationale—so simply logical—was distorted by the Mayor and by some of his Councillors in the days that followed, in an attempt to make our group—and me personally—a scapegoat for anything undesirable that may arise in the future related to the project. One can read more about our group’s policy regarding the issue in the Press Release that was sent out shortly thereafter so as to present our arguments concerning why we voted against the proposal, without this, however, meaning to say that we said ‘no’ to the project; besides, no one could say ‘no’ to the realization of such a project, but only concerning the provision of information related to it. If you bought a small system—e.g. a sewage treatment unit—for your home (THE PROJECT) or, even more specifically, if you were called upon to sign for the purchase of a sewage treatment system that you had not seen because the previous owner of the house (THE PREVIOUS LOCAL ADMINISTRATIONS) had selected it, would you not wonder if the purchase was the right one or not? Even if you knew that you did not have the right to change the product (EGNATIA-PROJECT TENDER), would you not request to be informed as to the system that you were to install, and at the same time inform your entire family (CITIZENS) about it? No counterarguments were heard to these rational arguments, unfortunately. Concerning all the rest, I would like to put forward the last tract of the press release we issued on the matter; we released it in the aim of anticipating the actions of ill-affected individuals who indeed have already hastened to identify our position with anything that might go awry in the future in relation to this extremely important project—A project so significant that it deserved a complete presentation of information as to its whats, hows and whys, if the Mayor were to obtain the covetable unanimous vote in favour…. The drainage and sewage treatment project is undoubtedly a lifeline project for our island. It is not sufficient, however, for us to want something; we must also know what exactly makes up what we want. As it is to be constructed just once, let it be done correctly, with certainty as to its design and scheduling. This is how it should have been viewed by all elected officials during the past decade. The approach taken to it through the years—that is, as a pre-election announcement or attempt at post-election fame—in no circumstance guarantees a project of good quality, which is, in fact, the aim. Our ‘no’ at the recent Municipal Council Meeting and at the relevant Financial Committee Meeting last September were and are a ‘yes’ to a sound project.
The Municipal Council Meeting of 17 February 2012
Prior to the discussion of the Items on the Agenda of the Meeting, Mayor Ioannis Leventakis took the floor and informed Council concerning the change in leadership of the larger Minority group, following the resignation of its leader, Mr Nikos Marianos. After this, Mr Marianos’ letter of resignation was read to Council (Mr Marianos had submitted the letter to the Mayor with the request that it be read aloud at the next Council Meeting). The text of the letter may be found on the Enotiki Kinissi Proodou website; it will not be discussed here, as it clearly constitutes an internal matter for that political group. The same also applies in the case of the response that members of that same group addressed to their resigning leader / Municipal Councillor, in response to his letter of resignation and its content.
Following this and still prior to the start of the discussion on the Agenda Items, the President of the Municipal Council, Mr Konstantinos Faroupos, proposed that the Budget of the Paros and Antiparos Port Fund be voted on and approved. The (new) Enotiki Kinissi Proodou group leader, Mr Ioannis Vassilopoulos, who by right is next to take the floor, requested that the Item not be discussed, as no information related to it had been provided. I requested the same—not only because we were being called upon to vote for a Budget we had not even seen before the Meeting, but also for an additional reason: Owing to an oversight on the part of the Mayor, I was absent from the planning of the Paros and Antiparos Port Fund Budget (concerning the issues related to our island), because I was not invited by the Mayor—as he had promised in public—to a meeting he held with the then leader of the other Minority group, and the representatives of the local fishermen’s group and the ferryboat consortium. This brushing aside of our group (which has occurred on more than one occasion) coupled with the lack of information we received concerning the proposed Budget, made the situation even more acute, necessitating the demand for the postponement of the voting on the Budget and making such a stance more than justified. In the end, it was decided that the discussion and the voting on the particular item would be postponed until the next Council Meeting.
There followed a discussion of the Agenda Items:
1. Municipality of Antiparos Resolution concerning the Abolition of the Reduced VAT rate for the Islands.
The Regional Union of the Municipalities of the South Aegean letter to the head of the government concerning the ‘Abolition of the reduced VAT rate for the islands’ was read aloud at the Meeting. The letter may be viewed here.
In my statement, I stressed that most municipalities have exhibited delayed action in opposing the ‘Troika’ Memorandum (against decisions that have pretty much long been decided). ‘Insularity’ is not a privilege for the residents of the islands, it is not an advantage that has been granted to the islands; rather, it is a counterweight to adverse living conditions. It is aimed at creating a fair balance by addressing the difference in conditions. At the end of my statement, I could not but touch upon the inconsistency of the MPs representing the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, who, on the one hand, align themselves with the above proposal, but, on the other, have voted in favour of Memoranda 1 and 2 (in principle and in part).
Approved by unanimous vote.
2. Nomination of Members to the Board of Directors of the Public Benefit Enterprise of the Municipality of Antiparos [KEDA], in accordance with Government Gazette 212 Β.
The relevant issue of the Government Gazette was published on 9/2/2012, and can be accessed here. Only Article 8 is quoted below, since it describes the composition of the KEDA Administrative Board:
Article 8 Composition and Term of the Administrative Board
The Enterprise shall be administered by an Administrative Board, consisting of seven (7) Members, who shall be appointed, along with their Alternates, by the Municipal Council. Of its Members, four (4) shall be elected representatives of the Municipality, of whom three (3) shall originate from the Majority and one (1) from the whole of the Minority. One (1) Member shall be a representative of a society based in the local area falling under the geographical competence of the Municipality of Antiparos. The two (2) remaining Members shall be citizens or residents of the Municipality of Antiparos, who have experience or knowledge related to the business of the Enterprise.
The Municipal Council appoints the President and Vice–President from among the Members of the Administrative Board. The term of the Administrative Board is for two years. It is possible for Members of the Administrative Board to be replaced during their term, after a justifiable decision is taken by the Municipal Council which has appointed them; the decision is taken by an absolute majority of the total number of its Members.
A Director may be employed through a decision taken by the Administrative Board of the Enterprise, following the issue of a related proclamation. The qualifications that the Enterprise Director must possess are laid down in the personnel regulation.
A Member of the Administrative Board of the Enterprise or of the Municipal Council cannot be appointed Director. The President and/or Vice–President of the Administrative Board may receive financial compensation, in accordance with services rendered to the Enterprise, which is determined by a Decision by the Administrative Board following a proposal by the Administrative Board of the Enterprise. Through the same procedure, financial compensation may be provided to the Members of the Administrative Board for their participation in its Meetings. For the determination of the level of compensation cited in this paragraph, the financial state of the Enterprise during the previous fiscal year must necessarily be taken into consideration, as well as any given Ministerial Decisions that have been issued and are in force, in accordance with Paragraph 5 of Article 255 of the D.K.K.
The Mayor, yet again, briefly touched upon the difficulties he encountered when he assumed office and the problems that arose owing to the non-operation of the Municipal Enterprise in 2011.
According to the KEDA charter excerpted above, the seven Members of the Administrative Board, as well as their Alternates, are appointed by the Municipal Council. Four of these are Municipal Councillors (three from the Majority and one from the entire Minority), one Member is a representative of a society in the area that falls under the authority of the Municipality of Antiparos, while the other two Members are citizens or residents of the Municipality—individuals who are experienced or knowledgeable in the field of operations of the Enterprise. The Administrative Board is appointed to a two-year term, and there is also a provision for the hiring of a Director.
The Mayor proposed the following individuals as Members of the Administrative Board:
President: Ms Emmanouilia (Litsa) Viazi (Majority Municipal Councillor);
Vice-President: Ms Filothei Marianou (Majority Municipal Councillor); and,
Members: Ms Eleni Viazi (Majority Municipal Councillor and Deputy Mayor), Mr Grigoris Marianos (as representative of a society–The Merchants’ and Professionals’ Association of Paros and Antiparos), Ms Fotini Pantazi (citizen) and Mr Efthymios Haniotis (Advisor to the Mayor; appointed as citizen).
Mr Vassilopoulos, speaking on behalf of the Minority (his group holds a majority within the Minority, thus his proposal also constitutes the proposal of the Minority as a whole, without there being anything I could say or do about this), nominated Minority Municipal Councillor Mr Yiannis Triantaphyllos for the position, with Minority Municipal Councillor Mr Damianos Palaiologos serving as his Alternate.
Many objections were raised concerning the non-selection of an individual from societies based on the island, both by the larger Minority group and by ours, as well as by citizens in attendance at the Meeting. The matter, of course, could have been discussed earlier, and this would have prevented a proposal coming to Council that did not allow any scope for discussion. In my statement I said that no one can judge the selection of the specific individuals, but that for the position of Member from a local society there should have been a person from a group like the Nautical Club (without this implying that Mr Grigoris Marianos is not an upstanding citizen). In typical fashion, the Mayor hastened to move the Council towards a vote, bypassing the concerns raised about the absence of a Member from the Nautical Club or some other society. In fact, after the Mayor called upon the Councillors to vote, it was ascertained that not only had no Alternate Members been proposed, but that no thought had been given as to who would be nominated for these positions. Thus, after last-minute nominations and changes to these, and also after a lot of scurrying to find individuals even from the members of the audience, people were eventually found to serve as Alternates (my name was also proposed, as an Alternate to Mr Grigoris Marianos—the member from a society—but my nomination was rejected on the grounds that I am not even a member of any society. My name was later put forth again, as an Alternate to a citizen Member, but the Mayor’s characteristic rush to head for a vote led to my nomination being set aside). The off-handedness was such that at some point the Mayor proposed Majority Municipal Councillor Ms Emm. Viazi as Alternate Member to Mr Grigoris Marianos, despite the fact that he had already put her name forth for the office of President.
Finally, after the Alternate Members were found, the composition of the Members of the Administrative Board was unanimously approved, as follows:
President: Ms Emmanouilia (Litsa) Viazi (Majority Municipal Councillor), with Mr Paraskevas Kapoutsos (Majority Municipal Councillor) as Alternate;
Vice–President: Ms Filothei Marianou (Majority Municipal Councillor), with Mr Yeorgios Marianos (Majority Municipal Councillor) as Alternate; and,
Ms Eleni Viazi (Majority Municipal Councillor and Deputy Mayor), with Mr Panayiotis Faroupos (Majority Municipal Councillor) as Alternate.
Mr Grigoris Marianos (as representative of a society–The Merchants’ and Professionals’ Association of Paros and Antiparos), with Mr Ioannis Lechouritis (from the same association) as Alternate.
Ms Fotini Pantazi (citizen), with Mr Paraskevas Kouvaras (Majority Municipal Councillor) as Alternate.
Mr Efthymios Haniotis (Advisor to the Mayor; appointed as ‘citizen or resident of Antiparos’), with Mr Konstantinos Faroupos (President of the Council, and Majority Municipal Councillor) as Alternate.
Within this haste and the general confusion which existed, it was not discovered at the time, at least on my part, that most of the Members—both Permanent and Alternate—belong to the Mayor’s inner circle. The very few exceptions confirm the above. Even concerning the positions of the Alternates for the two citizens, other choices could have been made, rather than two more Municipal Councillors from the Majority being chosen. At some point this was stressed by the other Minority group, but this too was not responded to. A question mark lingers as to whether or not it is lawful for another two Majority Municipal Councillors to take over as Regular Members in the event that the two citizens resign, while Mr Haniotis’ appointment as citizen or resident of Antiparos must also be looked into. Finally, it is typical of the deficient preparation that had been carried out that at the last moment Mr Lechouritis—who happened to be present—was nominated for the position of Alternate to Mr Grigoris Marianos, thus helping the Council escape the tragicomic impasse it was facing.
Our group is of the opinion that, overall, there could have been a more correct management of the human resources and potential found on the island, as there are societies here that are active (the Nautical Club, Ai-Yiannis Spiliotis, the Women’s Society, and also the Antipariotes Society of Athens), as well as citizens who have shown that they are active (to these one could add all those who ran as candidate Municipal Councillors with the three groups in the elections about a year and half ago).
We agree with the idea of the societies and associations themselves meeting beforehand and selecting their own representative. Thus, encouraging their participation would constitute a minimum indication that a democratic spirit exists and that there is respect for these groups, and for their work and existence. The excuses that were heard were illogical.
In addition, at least some appearances could have been kept up in order that the impression not been given that KEDA as well (on the heels of the School Committees) constitutes a group formed from the Mayor’s inner circle. It is a Municipal Enterprise, one which belongs to the whole Municipality.
It is also worth noting that at the Municipal Council Meeting of 2-2-2011, a temporary Administrative Board of the Community Enterprise for the Tourism and Cultural Development of Antiparos (the former KETPAA, which has now developed into KEDA), had been appointed. Its Members, who had been nominated by the Mayor and approved by Council vote, were the following:
1) Majority Municipal Councillor Ms Emm. (Litsa) Viazi (President, representative of a society [the Women’s Society]); Mayor Leventakis as Alternate; 2) Majority Municipal Councillor Ms Filothei Marianou (Vice-President); Deputy Mayor Ms Eleni Viazi as Alternate; 3) Majority Municipal Councillor Mr Yeorgios Marianos (Member); Ms Fotini Pantazi (Citizen) as Alternate; 4) Minority Municipal Councillor Mr Damianos Palaiologos (Member); Minority Municipal Councillor Mr Ioannis Triantaphyllos as Alternate; and, 5) Mr Spyros Tsimbidis (Member, Citizen); I was appointed as his Alternate, nominated by the Majority, being a Citizen at the time.
As becomes apparent, many names have been carried over from that temporary Administrative Board (which, as had been said at the time, would continue, succeeding KETPAA and becoming KEDA in the near future), the exception being the members of Menoume Antiparo. It is obvious that we are being brushed aside. We believe that all of the elected political groups should be represented on the KEDA board.
Approved by unanimous vote. The only reason I did not vote against the proposal was owing to the weight a unanimous decision carries concerning such a serious matter—irrespective of the fact that the issue was not approached with the necessary seriousness.
3. Nomination of Minority representative to the office of Vice-President of the Municipal Council, member of the Financial Committee and representative to the Inter-municipal Port Fund of Paros and Antiparos.
Municipal Councillor Mr Ioannis Vassilopoulos, the new head of the Enotiki Kinissi Proodou group, was nominated to assume the same offices as those that had been held by his predecessor, Mr N. Marianos.
Approved by unanimous vote.
4. Nomination of members to committees to accept public projects and works, and procurements.
This particular Item and a number of others constituted subjects for which I had absolutely no prior information, as the President of the Municipal Council is obliged to provide. The same obviously applied in the case of all other Municipal Councillors, since at some point a Majority Municipal Councillor requested that the names of the outgoing Members be read out, because that Councillor did not remember them.
I will not go into the composition of each Committee, since the Members comprising these will be announced officially on the Municipal website. These Committees are the same as last year’s—with only one exception.
I stressed my opposition to the procedure followed, as I had been provided with absolutely no information, and thus it would not be possible for me to vote on any matter whatsoever. As there were no Member changes relative to last year being made, I would have voted in favour, but I suddenly met with a reaction—not on the part of the President of the Council, but rather on that of the Mayor, who deemed this matter to be a show, on my part, designed at making an impression, and not as the demand of a Municipal Councillor to have information on the Agenda Items, which s/he is entitled to according to the rules and regulations. As I characteristically noted, ‘the year of the Municipality getting organized has passed,’ as the Mayor himself has stated. I expect that this year, at least, I will be able to arrive at Council Meetings informed about each Item and not face the sarcastic comments of the Mayor. Besides, it is not the first time that we see this happening. On many occasions, my predecessor had issued warnings related to the lack of or deficient information he received on the Agenda Items of Municipal Council Meetings, and at times he had been forced by circumstance to vote against proposals. A number of times the Mayor has invoked his ‘good memory,’ but this is one thing he does not wish to recall, it seems. It is unacceptable for Municipal Councillors not to be COMPLETELY informed concerning issues they are called upon to vote on, as they represent not only themselves, but a political group and many of their fellow citizens.
The other Minority group approved of my stance, but I think anyone with any common sense would have agreed. It was not by chance that I had written in my introductory remarks that common reason and common sense must prevail over emotion.
Approved by unanimous vote.
5. Committee to draft the annual Registry of Males.
The same Members as last year were approved by unanimous vote.
6. Nomination of elected official to participate in committees to accept public projects and works.
This concerned a document by Municipal Topographic Engineer Mr Th. Tsolakis related to the appointment of a Municipal Councillor to participate in committees to accept public projects and works of the contracting company SMILI ΑΤΕ:
1st project: ‘1 – Coastal Road with Intersection. 2 – Repair of Damages to Existing Pier. 3 – Flagging of Sidewalks and Dirt Road in the area of Ayios Spyridonas’;
2nd project: ‘Construction of Sidewalks along the Coastal Road of Antiparos’; and,
3rd project: ‘Construction of Water Tank and Works to Extend the Aqueduct of Antiparos.’
Concerning the 1st project, the engineer explained that its 3rd part (Flagging of Sidewalks and Dirt Road in the area of Ayios Spyridonas) was not executed and the sums were expended within the rest of the project.
Deputy Mayor Ms Eleni Viazi was nominated for the position.
Approved by unanimous vote.
7. Nomination of members to committee to resolve taxation disputes.
This concerned a Committee to which any citizen may turn to when s/he wishes to contest a levy that has been imposed. The Committee is composed of two Municipal Councillors (Deputy Mayor Ms Eleni Viazi, Ms Filothei Marianou—both of the Majority), a Secretary (Ms Kyriaki Faroupo—Municipal Employee) and an Alternate Member (Ms Chryssoula Christopoulou—Municipal Employee).
Approved by unanimous vote.
8. Establishment of overtime employment for civil employees.
This concerned the hours of overtime set by the Ministry of the Interior (4,420 in 2011). The 70 hours of overtime per month that Municipal Employees had been permitted to work until now are being reduced to 30 hours for those working in waste management and 20 hours from administrative employees. This information is not from any official announcement, but is based on what the Mayor said at the Meeting, and this because on this Issue as well, there was no previously provided information. The other Minority group stressed that for this reason it was forced to investigate the matter on its own initiative, with the Mayor responding to this by saying that ‘it is the job of the Opposition to search.’
Besides the serious procedural issue, the matter that arises in this ‘Memorandum age’ is serious, because with the new limitations set by the Ministry of the Interior, Municipal Employees are essentially being called upon—especially in summer months—to work unpaid overtime.
I asked that the Issue be postponed, as I had received no information concerning it. My request was not accepted, thus I voted against it, for the aforementioned reason. The Mayor, in fact, suggested that I ought to have telephoned the Ministry of the Interior or have passed by the Municipality. I stressed that this, of course, was not an institutional or official answer, but one given at an informal level. A Municipal Councillor requests something that he is officially entitled to by right, and is furnished instead with excuses and sarcastic remarks by the Mayor himself, with exhortations to pass by the Municipality to discuss things behind closed doors.
9. Nomination of fund administrator.
Unfortunately, the Decision had already been posted on the official government site ‘Diavgeia’ (here) prior to the particular Municipal Council at which the Item was discussed. Speaking first, the head of the other Minority group stressed this, and then I repeated it as well, voting against the proposal—not owing to a disagreement with the individual selected (Municipal Employee Ms Chryssoula Christopoulou), but because, on the one hand, for yet another Item I had not received any information whatsoever; and, on the other, on account of the reverse order of the procedure—that is, the paradox of the Mayor first signing and issuing a Decision, and then the Item coming to the Council for a vote. It is a strategy that very clearly undermines the institutions in place.
Approved by majority vote.
10. Planning of hiring of personnel to address the needs of a public-benefit nature.
These were proposals made by the Municipality to the Regional Authority, which are later adjusted according to needs and approval. The following positions were proposed (on eight-month term contracts):
1 plumber, 1 civil engineer, 1 water network worker, 1 waste collection vehicle driver, 1 lifeguard and 2 workers in the waste management department.
Approved by unanimous vote.
11. Nomination of a Commerce Committee and its members.
The following were nominated as Members:
From the Cyclades Chamber of Commerce: Mr Yeorgios Morakis (Permanent Member); Mr Ioannis Sgardelis (Alternate Member).
From the Regional Union of Municipalities: Majority Municipal Councillor Mr Panayiotis Faroupos (Permanent Member); Majority Municipal Councillor Mr Paraskevas Kouvaras (Alternate Member).
From the Merchants’ and Professionals’ Association of Paros and Antiparos: Mr Grigoris Marianos (Permanent Member); Mr Apostolos Aliprantis (Alternate Member).
From the Police Department: Officer Konstantinos Kormas (Permanent Member); Officer Aristeidis Kalakonas (Alternate Member).
Approved by unanimous vote.
12. Nomination of Property Rental Committee and approval of terms of Notice for the rental of a property.
This concerns the establishment of a Committee dealing with the rental of properties belonging to municipalities (Presidential Decree 270 of 11/30-3-1981). It was proposed that the seats be assumed by the Mayor and two Majority Municipal Councillors (Mr Paraskevas Kapoutsos [as Permanent Member, Mr Panayiotis Faroupos as Alternate Member], and Deputy Mayor Ms Eleni Viazi [as Permanent Member, Ms Filothei Marianou as Alternate Member]. At some point the Mayor nominated me, but naturally it was not possible for me to accept to become a part of a Committee against whose establishment I would now be voting, as I had been given no information related to the matter prior to the Meeting (as well as on other Items discussed and decided upon at the Meeting); besides—as I would like to add now—there were many other opportunities both in the past and during the Meeting that day for the Mayor to nominate individuals outside his circle to take up more important positions and participate in committees, but he failed to do so.
I voted against the proposal, owing to the lack of information I had received prior to the Meeting.
13. Conclusion of a Contract with the Certified Body for the withdrawal of vehicles from circulation for the Municipality of Antiparos.
The Item was withdrawn. The President of the Municipal Council stated that he would re-introduce the Item in a more complete form in the future, along with that of recycling. At that point I asked when the document concerning Waste Regulations would be implemented, a question that I had also officially asked the Municipality a few days prior to that, and to which I had received the vague written reply ‘as soon as the set procedures are completed.’ The Council President stated that this Item would be addressed along with the above.
At this point, and given the fact that I had received the same exact reply to a similar question concerning the implementation of the Rules of Procedure for Municipal Council Meetings (namely, ‘as soon as the set procedures are completed’), the Council President intervened and called upon the group leaders to meet, so that the Rules of Procedure be implemented. I shall soon be discussing, at length, these questions and all of the others (both those that have been responded to and those that remain unanswered) which we have addressed to the Municipality. There is no scope for excuses, particularly in the case of the Rules of Procedure for Municipal Council Meetings, as this delay is both typical (being the rule, and not the exception), and also because its non-implementation has afforded the Mayor the ‘right’ to regularly proceed to ‘handle’ or ‘manage’ discussions, to intervene, to be sarcastic and make comments that often misinterpret what a given speaker has stated.
14. Commitment of the sum of €400,000.00, at the National Bank of Greece.
This concerned a deposit of the aforementioned sum into a closed bank account for three months in order to gain 4% interest, with another additional benefit. Of course, I was informed about it at the very moment the discussion on it took place.
I voted against the proposal, for the same reasons as those cited above, as this was yet another issue for which I had not received information ahead of the Meeting. The other Minority group also voted against—with the exception of their Councillor Mr Ioannis Triantaphyllos, who abstained from the voting.
As for the Issue of Policing, owing to the late hour and also the non-presence of those directly involved (mainly from the Police force), I requested that the Item be postponed, in order that the interested parties be informed and the Item be discussed as a scheduled Agenda Item. The request was accepted.
THE MUNICIPAL COUNCIL MEETING OF 30-1-2012
The Municipal Council convened on Monday 30 January 2012 at 7pm in the Kalouda Hall, with two Items on its Agenda: 1) The drafting of the 2012 Technical Programme; and, 2) The Vote concerning the Budget for the 2012 Financial Year, and its Approval. The second Item had already been discussed earlier the same day at a meeting of the Financial Committee.
Prior to the discussion and voting on the aforementioned Agenda Items, the Council discussed an Urgent Item, and subsequently voted unanimously in favour of the transfer of the balance from 2011 to the new year (Regular 399,076.40 euros; Non-specific Extraordinary 10,912.26 euros; and, Specific Extraordinary 527,149.19 euros).
Following this, I asked for and was given the floor, and requested the following: a) That the rules and regulations governing the operation of the Municipal Council be applied, in order that democratic principles and procedures, and civilized political dialogue, be safeguarded henceforth; b) That in future meetings of the Financial Committee not take place on days and at times that exclude attendance on the part of those at work during office hours—as also applies in my case (the meeting had taken place at 12 noon of that day); and, c) That I be informed by the Council as to whether or not in replacing Mr Sfalagakos, my predecessor, as Municipal Councillor, I have also automatically assumed all of the other offices he had held (i.e. Alternate Member of the Financial Committee and of the Paros and Antiparos Port Fund, as well as Secretary of the Municipal Council). This last point was noted in the official proceedings, and theCouncil voted unanimously in favour of my assumption of the office of Alternate Member on both the Financial Committee and the Paros-Antiparos Port Fund, as well as that of Secretary of the Municipal Council.
In his opening remarks, Mayor Ioannis Leventakis described 2011 as a year of getting better organized and 2012 as a year of works and infrastructure projects. In addition, he informed Council that the issues of tender for the drainage and sewage treatment project would soon be published, adding that these would call for the expression of interest on the part of construction companies and would determine the winning bid and the contractor who would be undertaking the project.
1) TECHNICAL PROGRAMME
The President of the Municipal Council, Mr Konstantinos Faroupos, read aloud the contents of the Technical Programme to the members of the Council. The head of the other Minority group, Mr Nikos Marianos, in keeping with the procedural rules, spoke after the President, and reiterated some of his group’s positions as had been expressed earlier that day at the Financial Committee Meeting. Following Mr Marianos’ remarks, (being the next person in line with the right to speak) I took the floor and asked that a number of points in the Technical Programme be clarified or interpreted. The following are some of the most important issues that were discussed, in general:
The project to redesign and enlarge the Municipal Office Building: I stressed that any addition to the Municipal Building in its present location must take into full account the position and space occupied by the Health Unit, as this has been deemed insufficient. I reminded Council that the enlargement of the Health Unit had been the subject of a pre-election promise on the part of all three local groups contesting the last elections. I added that—irrespective of whether or not an extension to the health unit is included in the project—one sees that for the second year running there is no provision in the Technical Programme for the much discussed ‘multi-purpose hall’, a space regarded by all as necessary for the cultural development of the island, and one which should have already been created many years ago.
The Mayor’s response to this was that there is a sum of 45,000 euros in the ‘Theseas’ programme earmarked for a study looking into the construction of a Community (now Municipal) Building in the Galantaries area. The total surface area of 2,000 sq. m. would include the Municipal Building and a multi-purpose space or conference centre (1,000 sq. m. in total), and the remaining 1,000 sq. m. would be for other uses (the installation of Nautical Club [NOA] facilities, a children’s day nursery building, etc.), depending on what would be eligible for EU funding. My personal belief is that it is paradoxical for us to plan for a multi-purpose space and then end up with a conference centre (anyone who attended the Council Meeting last year for the new Municipal Enterprise [KEDA] will indeed remember the provision made for a conference centre as part of the KEDA plan).
I noted that in last year’s Technical Programme a provision had been made to rent a larger space for the relocation of the Municipal offices, but in the end this was deemed financially inexpedient (it is worth reminding readers that during the course of the Council discussion on the 2011 Technical Programme my predecessor, Mr Panayotis Sfalagakos, had expressed strong reservations concerning the idea of renting a space, deeming it a hasty decision and not the result of a thorough study and presentation of all possible solutions—new construction, rental, or a combination of the two; for more, see ‘The Bridge’ on the Meeting of 6/1/2011).
As for the medical unit, the Mayor stated that one room of the proposed new extension to the Municipal offices might be conceded to the Health Unit for its use.
Procurement of special portable toilets to be installed near the beaches—Procurement of showers: Mr Marianos stressed his concerns regarding both the aesthetic side of the matter (i.e. where exactly these would be installed, in order that they be discreet), and also its functional dimension (where the drainage water would go, as it would be fresh water and thus would not be able to be discharged into the sea).
I agreed with his concerns and asked if the showers would be equipped with a coin slot, as had been decided amid objections at another Council Meeting last year. The Mayor responded that they would be coin-operated showers.
Retaining walls: As there was no reference made in the Technical Programme concerning where these retaining walls would be erected, earlier that day at the Financial Committee Meeting Mr Marianos had proposed the area of Glyfa, where there is an evident problem. His proposal had been accepted at that meeting.
I also agreed with this proposal, as did the entire Council.
Road paving works: It was clarified that this project concerned the Ring Road project and not any new road paving works.
Extension of the Municipal street lighting network: Mr Marianos stated that this issue as well had been discussed at the Meeting earlier that day, and that the following locations had been proposed at the Meeting: The section from the Mariano Club leading to La Luna; the Sifneiko beach area; the Ayios Spyridonas beach area; and Kouvarades. At the Council Meeting he also suggested the road leading to the Campsite.
I agreed with the above and added the area of the Kastro (castle) as another area in need of better lighting.
Desalination Units: This had to do with the procurement of desalination units for the production and supply of potable water for residents and visitors, which had been decided upon at an uproarious Municipal Council Meeting on the water supply network and the taking of water samples. Despite the fact that the procurement of two desalination units had been decided at that Meeting (one using the Municipality’s own funds and one to be covered by Regional Authority funds), the proposal now concerned the procurement of three such units. The third would also be obtained through Municipal funds.
My reservations—which were raised clearly for reasons of practicality and effectiveness—had to do with our haste to acquire yet another unit (a third one), without having first tried out the two originally agreed upon units.
The revamping of the Sifneiko area and the upgrading of its beach; the revamping of the Ayios Spyridonas area and the upgrading of its beach: The Mayor anticipated the obvious question that would surely have been raised (as to why there are no works slated to take place within the settlement) and explained that the works to construct the drainage and sewage treatment projects are expected to take place within the settlement during the course of this year.
The conducting of a study concerning underground waste bins and their procurement: The introduction of underground waste bins was a proposal first made by our team during the pre-election period, as we deemed them clearly more functional and also more environmentally sound, when compared to the large bins and containers that the Municipality possesses at present (inherited from the former Community). Questions were posed by several Councillors regarding their manner of operation; the fact that there were questions shows that it is likely that most Councillors who had just voted in favour of the procurement of these bins had not even been informed about what it was they were being called upon to vote in favour of or against. The Mayor explained that the provision concerned the procurement of two such bins—one to be located in the Vounalaki area and the other near the school.
The upkeep of sporting facilities in the Galantaries area: I stressed that this is an area of the village that remains unattended to and is, in fact, in even worse shape than it was last year, as a consequence of the Ring Road paving project. It was clarified that the sum (50,000 euros) allotted in the Technical Programme for this includes work to be carried out only on the football field, and the sum most likely will not be sufficient to cover the repair of the lighting system. I also requested that the needs of the many amateur runners (whose ranks are continuously on the rise) also be taken into consideration, and that a track with two or three running lanes circling the pitch be added. Improvements to the sporting installations in this area (to the football field, basketball and tennis courts, lighting) also happened to be one of our pre-election pledges. The important thing, however, is to ensure that we look after the needs of our young people, who have no suitable place or facilities where they can play sports and exercise.
The discussion revolving around the Technical Programme and the Budget spread to other matters, as well. Thus, Mr Marianos, speaking ahead of me, also proposed that a study be conducted that would look into revamping the Kastro; that efforts be made to promote the Cave (a stand at the port, pamphlets); that promotional materials (e.g. photographs) be created in order to showcase the island and make it better known; that there be better programming and organization concerning national and international tourism fairs; that a tourist kiosk be installed at the port (and, if possible, at the port of Paros as well); that a motto be created for advertising purposes; that a number of proposals be drawn up to improve and beautify areas in and around the main settlement; and, finally, that a duplicate-entry system for Municipal finances be introduced.
I, in turn:
– asked the Mayor as to the support he intended to give to the Nautical Club (he responded by issuing a public pledge, concerning both the monetary sum he had previously promised to ΝΟΑ, as well as to the Antipariotes’ Society [of Athens], and also announced the payment of ΝΟΑ instructors by the Municipal Enterprise). The Mayor also promised that the Municipality would partially cover the costs for music lessons (provided by a music teacher from the Paros Conservatory).
– I also wondered and asked why there was no provision for Psaralyki in the Budget, and the Advisor to the Mayor, Mr Efthymios Haniotis, informed me that there is an older study concerning Psaralyki that has already been paid for but has not received official approval from the Regional Authority. He added that this study could perhaps be used in the future, provided that environmental studies were also carried out. The cost of the project related to this particular study amounts to 700,000 euros, however.
– I asked about the efforts aimed at addressing the problem of mosquitoes and other insects, adding that the Municipality must carry these out with greater effectiveness this year. The Mayor informed Council about a recent meeting with a specialist scientist to discuss the matter, and this entomologist had suggested that the Municipality undertake the project itself, using a method he proposed at a meeting we held during the summer (attended by the Mayor, Messrs Nikos Sifnaios, Spyros Tsimbidis and Yiannis Triantaphyllos, and me). In mid-December 2011 I reminded the Mayor of this option, and he agreed that we proceed with it; in fact, he verbally authorised me just recently to come into contact with the scientist on behalf of the Municipality and do whatever is necessary to implement the programme this year.
– As no expenditure for Despotiko had been included in the Technical Programme or in the Budget, I asked for further information on the matter. In response, Municipal Councillor Ms Litsa Viazi of the Majority stated that there are problems with the status of ownership of land located on Despotiko, while, at the same time, despite the fact that there is already a study on Despotiko conducted by the archaeologist Mr Ioannis Kourayios, there is no funding programme currently running that it could come under.
– I asked if there was some outlay for the taking of water supply samples and the conducting of analyses on these and was informed that this was included as part of the sum set aside for ‘studies’, and parallel to this, samples would be taken by a state body, free of charge. This naturally brings to mind last year’s farcical situation, with our group insisting that a sample also be sent to Public Health laboratories—without this being heeded in the end, and instead of this, ELKEDE being assigned the task of taking the samples and conducting the analyses, with all that has ensued since (familiar to those who have followed Municipal developments and/or read ‘The Bridge’).
Parallel to this, at the end of the meeting the Mayor informed those present that he had received the results of the analyses conducted from the water samples taken by an employee of the Regional Unit of Paros (the former Eparchy) and that these ‘are good’. I stressed that this was exactly what the Mayor had said concerning the results of the controversial water sampling conducted by ELKEDE; he then proposed that a special Council Meeting exclusively on the water issue take place soon ‘without a record of proceedings’, while his advisor, Mr Haniotis, intervened to request that we all await the University report. (More on this issue at a later date.) I did not respond to this proposal, but naturallythereisnopossibilityofourteamagreeingto ‘closed’ andnon–transparentCouncilMeetings, all the more so when these concern issues of public health and when one bears in mind the fact that the unhindered ‘access of citizens to environmental information’ is mandatory (detailshere).
– The upgrading of footpaths: The proposal was made by citizen Mr Yiannis Triantaphyllos and was accepted by the Municipal Council—though not as a project to be incorporated within the Technical Programme, but as one undertaken by the Municipality and KEDA, almost without any expense incurred.
– The replacement of the roof insulation of the school buildings: Mr Triantaphyllos also noted that the sum set aside for this in the Technical Programme is 30,000 euros, but that a few months ago—during the course of another uproarious meeting—the Mayor had mentioned the sum of 75,000 euros. At that same meeting the Mayor had first brought up an issue that came to the fore recently, concerning a document that was communicated to the Municipality concerning the official acceptance and reception of the insulation project planned and carried out by the now defunct Eparchy (sub-prefecture) in 2008. The Mayor informed Council that he had recently sent a letter to the Regional Authority concerning the matter and pledged that he would be informing Councillors on the outcome. Furthermore, he made it clear that he does not intend to officially accept and receive the project.
– The donation of books made by the Roussos family: The donation was made last summer and concerns a wealth of books, many of which are rare and antique, and require a specific environment for their preservation, storage and safekeeping (particularly concerning room temperature and humidity levels). The Mayor informed Council that this collection of books has recently been relocated to the space that until recently housed the former Community enterprise (KETPAA) and the folklore museum, in the Kastro, and that he intends to relocate the other library books now kept at the KEP (citizens’ service bureau) office, in the aim of converting the former museum at the Kastro into a public library.
– Studies for the Paros and Antiparos Port Fund: Mr Marianos proposed, in view of the drafting of this year’s Paros and Antiparos Port Fund Budget, that a meeting be arranged between the local authority and representatives of the ferryboat consortium and fishermen’s association, in order to gather ideas and proposals. These would then be conveyed via our representatives on the Port Fund board during discussions concerning the Fund’s Budget. Mr Marianos’ proposal was accepted. The Mayor stated that the very next day he would invite the representatives of the two aforementioned groups to a meeting with the leaders of the three political groups. However, at the time of writing, I am still awaiting an invitation to this meeting.
– The re-establishment of the Tourism Committee following last year’s failed attempt: Mr Marianos was nominated to collect the names of those interested in participating in the Committee, and he accepted this task. An announcement for the expression of interest would be made (and indeed was issued a few days later).
It must be stressed that the sums reported and proposed in the Budget are only indicative and are subject to amendments during the course of the year.
It is, of course, needless to say that itwouldbepositive if preliminary deliberations were to be held prior to the presentation of a final draft of the Technical Programme. Ideas and proposals were heard, in any case, at both the Financial Committee Meeting and at the Council Meeting, and in the end these were either added to the Technical Programme or rejected, following discussions. There is no doubt that there are many other ideas and proposals that were not heard at all. Whatever the case, a glance at the pre-election platforms and programmes of the three groups just a few days prior to the drafting of the Technical Programme might be valuable in furnishing ideas and proposals. The same goes for the participation of elected officials and citizens in a dialogue on all of the matters discussed above and on so many others.
A new start, but one continuing along the same lines of thought. The Menoume Antiparo group, through a concise press release it issued recently, announced that there would be a change of representative on the Municipal Council.
The outgoing Municipal Councillor, Mr Panayotis Sfalagakos, proved that political experience and nepotism are neither an effective nor a necessary precondition for the management of the common interests of a given society; in doing so, he rebutted what many modern-day ‘Cassandras’ had prophesized in pamphlets, newspapers and discussions during the pre-election period.
With common interest, transparency, truth and all of the principles that led to the formation of our group acting as our guide, it is positive to note that these principles were upheld throughout the duration of Mr Sfalagakos’ term.
With dedication and faith to the principles and the demands of democracy, he managed to attract many of our fellow citizens to Menoume Antiparo’s way of thinking and action; he became demanding—to the point of being a nuisance to some—wherever he discerned inconsistencies and instances of non-transparency, but also compliant wherever the principles and rationales of others converged with ours. There is rarely more than one truth, however; but when one does not see it, one takes delight in finding other, distorted, ‘truths’.
My aim and also that of the entire Menoume Antiparo group is to continue along our present course, our main concerns being to make the greatest possible contribution to society, to protect citizens, to battle for the prevalence of a framework of transparency in public life, to promote what is of common interest and to strive to achieve social justice.
In instances where we see that the above are not being sought in local political life, then rational thought and action will prevail; this because emotion often comes as a wedge between the words and deeds of us all, only to falsify what is absolutely correct. All of this will take place without bangs and thuds, exactly as occurred in the case of the change of Municipal Councillor representing the Menoume Antiparo group.
By way of this introduction I would also like to extend, on behalf of the Menoume Antiparo group, our best wishes for the new year, one that the Mayor has labelled ‘a year of projects and infrastructure works’. I hope this will be the case in practice, since, if we use logic and not emotion as our guide, it could be described as a year of adjustment to the new circumstances of financial privation.
Just as in the case of Mr Sfalagakos’ The Bridge, my personal positions and views on municipal—and perhaps other issues—will be posted in the column The Bridge 2. The bridge in question concerns the uniting of elected officials and citizens, and interactive, two-way communication between them. Consequently, I am open to proposals and ideas, but also to objections, as, being a supporter of one, single truth, my view might often very well be incomplete. However, one thing that I will never be is ethically and ideologically ‘lightweight’, as the ideals noted above as belonging to the group also constitute my own personal ideals.
The first new Bridge will soon be posted to link us together, and I invite you to follow it.
Those who might know me through my writings on the internet on other sites might very well be disappointed, as only the sociopolitical reality—of which I am a part—will be commented upon in this column. And yes, the column will be translated into English, thanks to the help of Mr Sfalagakos.
Parallel to this, articles, press releases and comments on behalf of the whole group will be posted regularly on the main page of our website.
I may be contacted through the following e-mail addresses: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org