Political propaganda - powerless against the mayors who served their citizens

George Marinescu (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
English Section / 29 septembrie 2020

Political propaganda - powerless against the mayors who served their citizens

As if there were a higher power that gives meaning and an endgame to elections, some political analysts and journalists are proposing the arguable idea that Sunday was meant to settle the ratios between parties, by consolidating the power of the PNL in the territory, by promoting USR PLUS and penalizing the PSD.

In reality, the parties' votes have been redistributed in the case of mayors that had no achievements, while those who served their constituents have gone against the political current by winning new terms.

In support of this observation we produce the examples of mayors Daniel Băluţă, Constantin Toma, Marian Dragomir, Ionel Arsene (all of them social-democrats), Robert Negoiţă (former social-democrat) Emil Boc, Ion Lungu and Mihai Chirica (liberals).

Daniel Băluţă defeated the united right in District 4 of Bucharest

Following the unification of the main right-wing political forces - PNL and USR PLUS - in the Bucharest local elections, who have jointly endorsed candidates for the Mayoralties of Bucharest and its districts, the odds of social-democrat Daniel Băluţă remaining at the helm of district 4 seemed minimal against his candidate, Simona Spătaru.

Nevertheless, the candidate of the PSD won with a score that would have won him the election even if it were held in two rounds. Under these circumstances, the question naturally arises - what caused voters in the 4th district to give a new term as mayor to Daniel Băluţă?

A few arguments are: the widening of the Berceni highway from two to four lanes, the widening of the Turnu Măgurele highway, the completion - during his term - of the Piaţa Sudului passageway, all of the above leading to a real improvement in traffic.

Aside from that, 20000 new parking spots have been created and the procedures for the building of two passageways have been initiated - one of them across the Turnu Măgurele highway, and the second across the Berceni highway. In other words, over the last years, district 4 has invested a lot in infrastructure, which has led to increased attractiveness for the area, where the median age ranges between 25 and 40 years old.

Aside from that, mayor Băluţă has rehabilitated the Piaţa Sudului (The Southern Market), turning it into a modern location, with multiple facilities for farmers and citizens alike.

Robert Negoiţă has no competition in District 3

In spite of the attacks that Robert Negoiţă has been subjected to in the last few years, given the tax exemptions his businesses have been awarded, as well as some shady contracts concluded by the mayoralty of district 3, it seems that there was nothing to stop him from getting a new term.

Some contributing factors may be the wide ranging program implemented by Negoiţă to computerize the services of the district's public administration, as well as the implementation of programs concerning education such as endowing schools and high-schools in district 3 with projectors, projection screens and whiteboards, as well as introducing the electronic roll call in all schools in the area.

He has also met the citizens' needs for green areas, as district has become the greenest during his term. It currently has a green area of 26 square meters per capita.

Aside from the works mentioned above, thermal rehabilitation of buildings is occurring on a large scale in his district. Since 2012, 922 apartment blocks have undergone thermal rehabilitation, using local funds and European grants, which has shaved about 40% off people's heating bills. The rehabilitation program currently includes 1697 blocks in the sector.

Toma and Arsene, social-democrats reelected in the local administration

Constantin Toma, the mayor of Buzău, who got reelected, brings further proof that Sunday's vote was not one based strictly on the parties' name, and against the PSD. He got over 75% of the citizens' votes. Over the last few years he has fought to modernize the activity of the local public administration.

Thus, Constantin Toma managed to introduce free transportation for all residents of Buzău, transport create connections to the city's adjacent communes, built two underground parking lots - in the Central Square and behind the Cathedral of St. Sava, new nurseries and kindergartens, bike tracks and athletics track, reorganized the activity of the City Hall, reducing the public expenses and cutting paperwork.

Moreover, in order to combat the current climate changes, the mayor of Buzău wants to plant forest curtains that will cover an area of 20 hectares.

All these things pleased the voters of Buzău, who on Sunday renewed Toma's mandate, despite the problems he faced during the pandemic, in spite of several locations of Covid-19 outbreak.

Things are the same for controversial Ionel Arsene, who won another term as head of the County Council of Neamţ. Even though criticized repeatedly for being one of those close to former PSD president, Liviu Dragnea, for encouraging his policy of gaining control of the judicial system, and even of allowing some companies with ties to the former social-democrat leader to work and win public procurement procedures for public works performed in the Neamţ county, it would seem that Ionel Arsene has also taken care of the needs of people's needs, even though they seemed rather easy to please, at least when we look at the list of projects completed and currently under implementation by the County Council of Neamţ.

Under the leadership of Ionel Arsene, the County Council has rehabilitated several county highways, created new medical departments in the Emergency Clinical Hospital of Neamţ, has begun the rehabilitation, modernization and expansion of the Emergency Unit of the hospital, the acquisition of ecological public transportation vehicles, and a wide scale program financed using European funds, which will take place over 42 months - to protect and preserve natural habitats of the areas of Bicaz and the Ceahlău National Park. Too little for other mayors, but a lot for the people of Neamţ, who opted to give him another term as mayor.

Chirica and Dragomir, in the struggle with Dragnea and the local public administration

Mihai Chirica, former PSD mayor, current elected mayor from the PNL stood out once he started attacking former PSD president Liviu Dragnea, due to the attempts by the latter to gain control of the judicial system. This rebellious attitude in the PSD, which led to him being excluded from the party, improved his perception among the electorate. The electoral trend was also helped by his completion of several projects during his term which have led to economic improvements in the city, which also resulted in rewards for the city. In 2018, Iaşi was designated "City of the year in CEE for the development of the IT and outsourcing industry" and is considered by the offiials of the World Bank as a "magnet city", an economic hope of Moldova and Romania.

Moreover, that same year, Iaşi became a Royal City and was designated by law, the Historical Capital of Romania.

But titles don't count for much, and in order to meet the people's needs, mayor Chirica continued the modernization of public transportation, by buying 16 trams and 44 electric buses, conducted a widescale program of repairs of the road infrastructure in several areas of the city, initiated a program for the building of 72 welfare homes and of a National Homes Agency (ANL) complex, built several parking lots and several education units.

Also, using European funds, works for the modernization and expansion of the heating network have been performed and the public lighting system has been taken over for modernization.

The re-elected mayor of Brăila, Social-Democrat Marian Dragomir, stood out on a national level last spring, when he criticized the leadership of Liviu Dragnea. On the occasion of a county conference held in Brăila, attended by Rovana Plumb, on behalf of the central organization of the PSD, Dragomir said: "We must discuss the achievements in the counties, so people of the central organization take notice. Right now, we only talk about one thing over and over. Cut it out with the laws concerning the judicial system! We are talking about something that does not characterize us, change your subject, dear colleagues of Bucharest. Either you change those laws, or you don't, but drop the subject. It is hurting us all."

Apparently his attitude hasn't harmed him, in fact, citizens were satisfied with his results, so that last Sunday they reelected him as mayor. Dragomir's achievements as mayor of Brăila during 2016-2020, include the following: the construction of several thousand parking spots in the city, the purchase of new buses and SMART stations, investments in sanitation, sports, education, etc.

Ion Lungu, five terms in the city of Suceava

Liberal Ion Lungu is yet another example that, in spite of criticism from political opponents, citizens' votes and the trust earned from them trump everything else. The mayor of Suceava who this year faced the effects of the pandemic, has succeeded in being reelected for the fifth time, against all odds.

It would seem that for the people of Suceava, what Ion Lungu did over the last four years mattered more than what happened during the state of emergency, when the city of Suceava and eight neighboring communes were placed under quarantine for a long period of time. According to a report for the 2016-2020 term, the most important project was the creation of the electrical division of public transportation, which will have 62 electrical buses. The project, costing more than 25 million Euros, also comprises the set up of new maintenance stations for the electric division and the modernization of 54 stops, is partially completed.

Also between 2016 and 2020, using Swiss money, Suceava modernized its public lighting system, by replacing the classic lighting system with LEDs, as well as the electrical transportation system, resulting in bringing in 5 electric buses, 11 electric cars, 2 vans, 2 electric trucks, as well as 10 electric bikes (used by the local police). 28 charging stations for electric cars have also been installed in the city, which will provide charging for free for all users over the course of five years.

Over the same period, 35 residential and public parking spots were set up. Further achievements include the modernization of schools and thermal plants.

Emil Boc, five terms in Cluj Napoca

Former prime minister of Romania in the second presidential term of Traian Băsescu, Emil Boc is the mayor who managed to fundamentally change the city of Cluj Napoca during his four terms held so far, to modernize the city using European funds, and to show that, despite the lack of financial support from the central administration, local heads of public administration, can find solutions to the problems of the local community, as long as they want to.

The 30 new electrical buses, the online participatory budgeting process, videocameras that the local police was equipped with, the program for the acquisition of welfare homes and or the designing of the new Sopor neighborhood are among the achievements the mayoralty led by Boc is boasting. Over the last four years, mayor Boc had available nearly 6 billion lei, during which time Cluj-Napoca drew over 400 million Euros through projects conducted during the 2014-2020 financial period. When it comes to the modernization of public transportation, the mayoralty of Cluj has accessed 100 million Euros in European grants for buses, trolley-buses and trams, and over 40% of the public transportation fleet of the city is electric. The school bus program was implemented and extended to 14 routes, and 70 panels that display the arrival time for the means of transportation were introduced in the network's stops.

In April this year, the contract for the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies for the subway and metropolitan train in Cluj was signed. The contract has a value of almost 36 million lei. The municipality also wants to implement a metropolitan train that will cover the entire railway corridor between the Nădăşel stop and the Bonţida station, over a distance of approximately 43 kilometers.

Regarding parking lots, the local administration led by Emil Boc created several new parking lots, such as the Negoiu-Mehedinţi parking lot, with 372 spots, Primăverii (376 spots) and Mogoşoaia (294 spots). Parking can be paid online through the ParkingPay application, and free parking spaces can be seen via the Cluj Parking application. Because in Cluj, the local administration means first of all the computerization of all the services provided to citizens, which means less time spent by the latter dealing with the mayoralty.

It bears further mention how the mayor of Cluj supports cultural events, and the city's schools and hospitals.

Judging from all of the above examples, it appears that where the mayors have responded to the needs of the local community, they have been re-elected on Sunday, September 27, regardless of the party they belong to. In order for the political vote to remain an isolated phenomenon, it is necessary that all those elected on Sunday administer their mayoralties in the interest of the local communities and not in the interest of themselves or their parties.

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