Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Dysfunctional Town Hall: Pollensa

The bickering between the current administration in Pollensa and the grouping formed by ex-mayor Tomeu Cifre Ochogovia, Tots per Pollença, appears to have no limit. Cifre, who has had some legitimate reasons to take the administration (Junts Avançam and the UMP, Unió Mollera Pollencina) to task, such as with the beach services, seems intent on keeping up a barrage of complaint and criticism. The latest, related to the cost of maintenance for a municipal sea rescue vessel, has led mayor Miquel Angel March to demand that Cifre withdraw "serious accusations of misappropriation of funds".

March seems to have good grounds for making this demand. The amount involved is in any event small - 6,800 euros - on repairing a vessel that is over ten years old, and it corresponds to two years' worth of such repair, according to the town hall. The spending is apparently in line with that which the ex-mayor, when still a Partido Popular politician, would have authorised. The lifeboat service as a whole costs the town hall around a quarter of a million euros per annum: the maintenance of a vessel is, as March points out, pretty important.

Given the apparent pettiness of this, what does it tell us about Pollensa's politics? They have long been fraught at a town hall that has become a byword for dysfunctionalism, but there are at present some specifics. Cifre, more than just opposing, which he is of course entitled to do and should do, seems to have an agenda to challenge the administration on everything. Perhaps it is because he cannot accept that he is no longer (or not at the moment) mayor, which he has been on two occasions. Or does it have to do with his cousin, the councillor for urban planning with a very similar name?

It has been said to me that there is some disquiet where March is concerned in that he doesn't show strong leadership. The suggestion is that the real power at the town hall is Tomeu Cifre Bennasàr, the cousin of Tomeu Cifre Ochogovia. He, Bennasàr, has been involved with town hall politics for some years; he's been around the block. The same cannot be said for March. As former spokesperson for the environmentalists GOB, he was selected as mayor as an independent, though his politics would closely align themselves with the eco-nationalism of Bennasàr and Més. With GOB, March would have been well used to the politics of confrontation: this is, after all, what GOB engages in. But running a town hall is a very different proposition to heading an environmentalist pressure group, even for the son of a one-time Pollensa mayor, which March is.

It would be stretching things to say that the fighting is all due to some form of family feud, but it might be recalled that the ground rules were laid at the very first council meeting after the municipal election last year. Ochogovia challenged Bennasàr's compatibility for his responsibility for urban planning. An architect by profession, it was claimed that there could (would) be a conflict of interests. March, in so many words, told Ochogovia to stop trying to stir the shit.

Against this background, we have the suspicion that a plot for a vote of no confidence in the Junts was being hatched. The Alternativa per Pollença, not officially part of the administration but crucial to its existence as it lent support to allow it to govern, alleged recently that the UMP councillor, Andres Nevado, was talking with Cifre Ochogovia and others (the PP and El Pi opposition councillors) about such a no-confidence vote. Nevado denied this, pointing out that a meal which involved some business people and opposition leaders was one to which he had invited various friends, such as Cifre Ochogovia.

There may indeed have been nothing more to the meal gathering, but votes of no confidence do happen and do lead to changes of administration. There was one in Manacor not long after the municipal election in 2015. There has been another in Maria de la Salut. If nothing else, the mere suspicion raises a question as to how strong the Junts-UMP alliance really is, given that the UMP is politically well to the right of most of the Junts make-up.

The confidence word has, since the Alternativa raised its suspicions, been voiced in another context, and also by the Alternativa. It is seeking to have its confidence in the administration restored, as it is not standing by agreements that facilitated the Alternativa's support and so selection of March as mayor. These specifically have to do with what the Alternativa argues is a failure to comply with demands for transparency and participation: both pillars of the Alternativa's philosophy since it was created.

The overall impression, therefore, is that of an administration which is shaky. There again, one could say the same of the previous administration, the one before that, and ... . Dysfunctional. That's Pollensa.

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