The Yucatan Times is conducting interviews with the candidates for Mayor of Merida. We invited our readers to send their questions for them, and out of more than 700, the TYT Team narrowed it down to 7 main topics:
- SURVEILLANCE AND SECURITY
- PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
- GARBAGE COLLECTION.
- HISTORICAL CENTER
- GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMY
These are Mauricio Vila’s answers to the questions made by the Expat Community:
SURVEILLANCE AND SECURITY
What is your plan of action to keep Merida as one of the safest cities in Mexico and most importantly how do you plan to maintain it that way?
It is a fact that our most precious thing in Merida is security. But this quality is not only thanks to the security and law enforcement corporations, this was achieved because the citizens of Merida are concerned with their own safety and peace of mind.
Although, Merida still enjoys being one of the most secure cities in the country, we cannot shut our eyes to the more frequent events that are happening all around us.
Now in Merida we have seen alarming data of family disintegration and increase in drug consumption, that´s why I´ve suggested to create a digital platform called “Alerta Ciudadana” (Citizen Alert), like a neighborhood watch strategy.
This will allow the people that see a crime being commited, to report it directly to the authorities and help with prevention, this way the people feel more involved.
It is necessary, if not imperative, to train the police corps and provide them with better equipment and technology.
Surveillance is a key aspect. I want to install more civilian focused programs to combat issues such as “school bullying”; “drug or alcohol addiction” or “domestic violence”; that will help families to better recognize harmful situations and learn how to avoid them or manage them correctly.
I´m convinced that a safe community is not the one where the “bad guys” get caught, but where less crimes are committed.
And the best way to prevent crime is to promote family values, and that quality is precisely what identifies us as a city.
In case I win, I will propose a program called “Merida Segura” as an initiative that will integrate, organizations, citizenship, private sector, government, education institutions, etc. The objective will be to generate true crime prevention, specially in dangerous hotspots of our city, but in a coordinated and organized way.
Many expats and locals that live in the historic center of the city have had bad experiences with burglary situations, they have the perception that the police is not doing their part to prevent this. What would you do about this situation?
We are going to combat crime in the downtown area with technology and also human coordinated labor.
We are aware of cases of expats that come to the city and dedicate their time to help people in the state and in the beach areas, and while they have been helping our compatriots, they have suffered robberies to their properties.
I know that most of the Expats that live in the state of Yucatan are concentrated in the historic center of Merida, we plan to implement surveillance actions in this zone, but not only that, my idea is to coordinate the times of thousand of workers that finish their shifts around midnight, I think that´s a very important factor to take in consideration, and have more and better surveillance during that time.
Why does the municipal government have not any authority over public transportation services?
The management of public transportation belongs by law to the State Government, that is the way it has been established in the Mexican Constitution.
In recent years the municipal office had agreements with the State Government, and thanks to that they were able to manage the part related to the rates.
There are still several ways to recover the public transportation office, one would be a reform of the federal laws and to sign an agreement with the State Government, we believe we can have the authority over this matter.
Do you have any plans to solve the situation with public transportation in the downtown area?
Public transportation must be the new engine for competitiveness, and to achieve this we are willing to collaborate with any government office, national or international organisms to provide to our citizens better roads, better fares and a more strategic approach to the bus routes than the ones we currently have.
I think that in order for us to accomplish this goal, we need experts on urban development to diagnose the current situation in our city streets and provide a strategic plan.
Today, if the citizens don’t have a car, it is very complicated and time consuming for them to move from one point of the city to another. All the bus routes intersect in the city center, and that needs to be changed.
A group of residents (both local and foreign) of the area known as La Plancha are getting together with the intention of transforming the site into a Central Park, in order to have more green areas and places for family interaction. Are you in favor of this project?
I am totally in favor of a project that will allow the people of Merida to recuperate not only the space of “La Plancha” but other public spaces within the city to have more “green areas”, improve urban movility and enhance the quality of life of our citizenship.
Which do you consider the biggest obstacles to fulfill this Project?
Renan Barrera’s Municipal administration have done all they could to negotiate with Federal authorities in order to be able to transform this space in green areas. It is incredible that our city cannot take advantage of such a big extension of land that is wasted.
The former Railway grounds known as “La Plancha”, an iconic place for the State Economy in the past, is now absolutely deteriorated and abandoned. The only facility that we have been able to rescue is the Train Station Main Building that was donated by former Governor Patricio Patrón to become the State Superior School of Arts.
As time goes by, and in every Municipal administration, there is a greater citizens’ demand to transform La Plancha.
We are aware that the land has to be transferred from the Federal to the State government, but that does not matter, as long as it is for the benefit of the people of Merida. We encourage the Federal deputies to join forces to make this initiative a reality.
What is your vision regarding the restoration of the Historic Center to its former greatness?
Our Historical Center is one of the most valuable treasures we have, it is also the main attraction for tourism, nevertheless, the same way as in other cities in the world, the residents are leaving the downtown area and moving to other neighborhoods, as a result, we have more than 10 thousand empty (abandoned or semi abandoned) houses there.
A significant investment is required in order to bring the people back to downtown and to recuperate its architectonic beauty and its commercial and touristic vitality.
We propose a plan involving the restoration of buildings, re-pavement of the main streets and new urban development in specific zones (such as Santa Lucia), to make them more attractive for locals and tourists.
How can the delivery of basic services such as water, gas, courier, etc, be improved in the downtown area?
As I said before, first we have to solve the urban movility issues, such as public transportation and internet connectivity; that way the big corporations dedicated to provide these services would be able deliver their products to all the downtown businesses in time. Some of these firms are “socially responsible” and already use low contaminants vehicles during the night time.
- What do you suggest to stop people to travel to the Cancun Airport in order to fly abroad, instead of using the local airport?
As we know, the state government through the Secretariat of Tourism recently negotiated direct flights between Merida and Milan Italy, and now the challenge is to make the tourists stay longer in Merida before traveling to other destinations, that is why we have to improve the cultural offer in our historic downtown neighborhoods.
We need more events like the “Noche Blanca”, and we need to promote Mérida as a brand, which means implementing an action plan to revitalize streets, parks, ancient buildings and public markets.
- In case of winning the election, would you propose a merge of the State and Municipal Tourism Offices in order to promote Merida in one single Touristic Promotion Strategy?
We would definitely coordinate efforts with the State goverment in order to increase the Tourism Muncipal Direction capabilities.
ECONOMY AND GOVERNMENT
1. How would you fight the corruption in the current administration (and that has remained since the and Angelica Araujo Lara administration), particularly in matters related to the street vendors in the historic center of the city and the local “mercados” (markets)?
The current administration released the first 9 blocks from the historic center of the city to meet the demand of society and established businesses in that area. ‘I promise to follow up the work of adapting houses for these vendors to settle them in a “decent” place to work.
2. Several expatriates have tried to open businesses (“boutique hotels” or restaurants) encountering serious problems in dealing with bureaucratic processes. What do you propose to solve this situation and trigger the investment in the city?
Every investment however small should be a priority in our administration: this includes streamline and automate the procedures for the establishment of new businesses and link units to make processes faster.
3. Would you consider opening an office to serve to establish links with our community (expatriates),to review ( from time to time) issues that are important to the local and foreign communities?
Not only to open an office, but I consider fundamental the creation of an advisory council of expatriate citizens, who are part of our urban community. They pay taxes and generate sources of employment, so there is no reason for them to be exempt from participating in decisions and the implementation of public policies that allow them to protect their investments, giving them legal certainty, security and conditions to improve their quality of life.
4. As Mayor of the city of Merida what would be your position regarding vehicle ownership tax (tenencia)? Would you consider some kind of legislation to eliminate this tax?
The municipal authority has no decision on this issue. It is the governor who decides, but I can tell you that we want our deputies from local Congress to eliminate this tax once and for all.
5. From your perspective what do you think is the most important thing that needs to be changed in the city to improve the quality of life for all citizens?
The improvement of the urban transportation system is a big priority.
6. Do you think that the opinion of the foreign community is important, even if they are not registered voters?
The foreign community is so broad and, without realizing it, have become a huge part of our way of life, and our cultural and ancestral environment.
With the development of Internet portals and websites (such as The Yucatan Times), we can learn what is their point of view, how they feel, what do they suffer and enjoy in Merida, Yucatan.
The growing number of foreigners moving into our beloved Merida, is turning it into a melting pot of cultures and a cosmopolitan city.
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