In this column we always try to present topics that are closely related to the future of Mani and Greece in general. We specifically focus on municipal issues, because it is the municipal infrastructures of Mani that bring probably the highest big-scale investments in our area. Municipal investments affect positively or negatively the quality of life of all inhabitants and landowners of Mani. We need efficient municipal investments not only in big-scale undertakings by the region (Περιφέρεια) and both municipalities of Western and Eastern Mani (Δήμοι Δυτικής και Ανατολικής Μάνης), but also in small-scale works and the maintenance of existing public works, so that the Maniots and the visitors of Mani enjoy reasonable comfort and all necessitites. In the next few paragraphs we will try to examine a few issues that will have to be dealt with during the new municipal four-year term.
Firstly, the vagueness of the new pieces of legislation that were passed by the Greek Parliament this year does not help in administering municipal affairs. The changes in legislation create uncertainty in the personal goals of individuals and cause undue difficulty in the cooperation and discussions/consultations between citizens. The enforcement of proportional representation in municipal elections, without the necessary safeguards to avoid potential problems, has created uncertainty in the capability of the municipal government to efficiently manage even the most basic social commodities, such as water, electricity, waste management, road construction etc.
The recent legislative initiatives attempt to alleviate some of the uncertainties and insecurities of the original piece of legislation, which became evident after the municipal elections of May 26 and June 3 of this year. The provision for consultation and collaboration on a regular basis between the mayor and the regional governor (περιφερειάρχης) for the whole length of the four-year term is a factor for stability and the creation of a larger number of decision-makers. However, the transfer of responsibilities from the elected larger municipal or regional councils to the smaller committees or legal persons (with a majority of members from the party of the mayor or regional governor) makes us sceptical. The transfer of issues of minor importance to smaller governing bodies, with the possibility of a referral back to the municipal or regional councils, at the request of minority municipal or regional councilors, could be a step in the right direction, as it would take the congestion off the large councils. However, the provision that a smaller entity, such as a local representative of a small municipality needs to submit an alternative budget in order to vote against a budget submitted by the mayor or regional governor is very unrealistic.
Unrealistic and misguided is the provision of the new legislation that strips the small communities (κοινότητες) from the right to make their own decisions regarding the construction and maintenance of small-scale public works and which forces them to simply submit a proposal in this regard to the municipalities. Electing the local representatives (τοπικοί εκπρόσωποι) of each municipality (δήμος) with a separate ballot and ballot box gives them special democratic characteristics and hopefully enables them to respond quickly and efficiently to the needs of the residents of their small communities. The bureaucratic bottlenecks that were the result of the 1998 and 2010 mergings meant a neglect of the local public infrastructures. The local representatives of these communities know best these needs and as a result, are the ones who could efficiently manage them.
In the previous paragraphs we have examined a few issues that need to be dealt during the new four-year municipal term. What is now needed is the willingness of the local politicians to rise above egotism and develop a climate of team work. Only with altruism and a sincere desire to work closely with others they will manage to exploit to the fullest the limited power that the central government gives to the municipal administration. This is particularly true in areas such as Mani, where entrepreneurial activity is limited , and where the two municipalities of Eastern and Western Mani are the main players for the development of the region and the improvement in the standard of living of the residents. As it has happened many times in the past, again in this new municipal four-year term, elected local politicians need to go beyond the traditional egotism that has characterised Maniots for centuries. If we put aside our personal interests and strive for the common good instead, then we can collaboratively make the right decisions and create the infrastructure that our area needs so desperately.