NEWSLETTER "Autumn, 2013"
POLITICAL STALEMATE CONTINUE
This summer, there were high hopes that the ultra minority government of Orihuela, which has been without a majority for over a year, would finally fall, enabling a Popular Party-C.L.A.R.O. majority to govern. Unfortunately, at the last moment these hopes were dashed. The minority government has been able to hang on to power without the means to govern effectively since Pedro Mancebo of the CLR party expelled C.L.A.R.O.
Councillor Bob Houliston and later another elected councillor from the CLR-CLARO group which contested the 2011 election together. The result of these expulsions was a loss of rights of the two councillors, in particular the right to vote for a change of mayor and change of government. Ironically, Pedro Mancebo was later expelled for disloyalty from the government which he was seeking to keep in power by means of his legal manipulations.
Although the expulsion of Bob Houliston and Asunción Mayoral were unjustified and the procedures followed illegal, the all important Secretary General of Orihuela Town Hall was not persuaded that their rights should be restored and consequently, in August, he rejected a motion of censure which they signed with the Popular Party and which would have brought about a change of government.
Orihuela politics are complicated and conflictual. However, they matter for the people living in Orihuela Costa and for this reason we should be aware of what is going on. Thanks to Pedro Mancebo and his CLR colleague who disrupted the electoral partnership with C.L.A.R.O., the government of Orihuela is in the hands of an ultra minority Socialist-Green government with only 9 out of 25 councillors, unable or unwilling to present a budget and barely able to manage the affairs of Orihuela on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this minority government is hostile to the interests of Orihuela Costa, which provides the Town Hall with a major share of its income from property and other taxes. At our expense, they are constantly doing favours for Orihuela city and surrounding villages where they hope to get their votes at the next election in 2015.
It now looks as if this Socialist-Green government will hang on to power for the entire period 2011-2015 which would be a great disappointment for C.L.A.R.O., the party of Orihuela Costa, which had high hopes of being in a government, in charge of the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall and able to bring about improvements in Orihuela Costa's services and facilities. Unfortunately, after only 8 months, Bob Houliston was obliged to resign from the government elected in 2011 because it was giving free rein to Pedro Mancebo to control and discredit C.L.A.R.O. and deprive the coast of vital resources such as finance and manpower. The lesson we must learn is that C.L.A.R.O., an independent, Orihuela Costa based political party (the only one) can bring about change only if it has strength in numbers in the Orihuela town council. Orihuela Costa should have 7-8 elected councillors, proportional to its size of population, 35% and rising, virtually the same size as Orihuela city. It has only one. Orihuela Costa's future depends on more residents registering to vote and electing a sufficient number of councillors to ensure that Orihuela Costa's needs are recognised and its voice heard. Orihuela Costa should be as clean, green and tidy as Orihuela city and have the same social, sporting and cultural facilities for young and old. That is what C.L.A.R.O. is working to achieve.
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
Orihuela Costa had a good summer with record numbers of holidaymakers, attracted not only by the beaches but this year by the new La Zenia Boulevard shopping centre. Unfortunately, they saw what residents are used to, the ugly face of dirty streets with green, garden waste accumulating sometimes for several weeks without being cleared. There were places where garden waste lined the pavements for up to 50 metres in length. Residents living here and tourists visiting should not be confronted with these unsightly piles of garden waste which rot and smell and offer an excuse for other rubbish to be dumped on top of it.
C.L.A.R.O. denounced this situation at the beginning of the summer after which the Green party Mayor and the Green party Councillor for the Coast announced that they had found a magic solution to the garden waste problem. Instead of having to transport it for 50 kilometres to Crevillente for disposal, our garden waste would be transported a few kilometres down the coast to San Pedro where it would be crushed, shredded and transformed in to pellets for green fuel use. But when C.L.A.R.O. visited the so-called treatment plant in San Pedro in October, we found it closed with garden waste accumulating to the point of nearly bursting the fences where it was contained. For several weeks, if ever, the plant had obviously not been functioning. Not a word from the Green government to admit things were going wrong. Instead they have quietly resumed transporting the waste to Crevillente but it is so expensive that they do not try to remove all the waste, only what is necessary to avoid too many complaints. In Orihuela Costa but not in the city, where people live mostly in apartments without gardens, we pay a separate garden waste tax with our water bills. Or so we thought. Since the government has not updated the list, apparently only those in properties older than 2002 pay this tax. This is discrimination. Either all or no one should pay this extra tax and in any case this essential service should operate efficiently.
SOME BRIGHT SPOTS
Playas de Orihuela Primary School
After 10 years spent in porta-cabin accommodation in Los Dolses, parents and teachers, supported by C.L.A.R.O., finally had their demands met when the regional government in Valencia announced that a new proper brick-built school would be financed in the 2014 budget. Welcome news but so long overdue! It seems that the Orihuela Popular Party were responsible for piling the pressure on the Valencia Popular Party regional government, who are responsible for education policy, in order to get this decision. In contrast, the policy of the Orihuela minority Socialist-Green government is to confront Valencia on an increasing number of subjects. Unsurprisingly and to our cost, the Orihuela government gets very little in return. C.L.A.R.O. hopes there will be progress on other Valencia financed projects where work has been stopped for a long time, in particular completion of the new Secondary School and the Emergency Services Centre including a new local police station which we will insist opens 24 hours like in neighbouring municipalities with smaller populations than Orihuela Costa. These projects are of great interest for those living in Orihuela Costa.
New Youth Association.
In September, a new youth association was formed in Orihuela Costa – JOCOSTA. The aim of these young people from several different nationalities, reflecting the composition of the population of the coast, is to obtain facilities that the youth in Orihuela city have, a clubhouse to meet and organise activities and a place to study. In Orihuela, with the same size population, there are two big public libraries where young people can study whereas with no library in Orihuela Costa and no signs of one coming, we are offered a "Reading Corner" manned by volunteers with second hand books and located miles away from the centre of Orihuela Costa. This is an insult to both the young and not so young. C.L.A.R.O. strongly supports this new youth association.
REGISTERING TO VOTE AND PADRON.
With the approach of European Parliament elections in May next year, attention is turning again to the question of the right to vote of non-Spanish EU residents – in Orihuela Costa mainly British and Irish. Non-Spanish EU residents have the right to vote in both European Parliament and local/municipal elections. But unlike Spanish residents who obtain the right to vote automatically when registering on the padron, non-Spanish EU residents, when they register on the padron, have to register separately to vote. The Alicante office for International Residents has scheduled an information meeting in the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall on 14 November at 10.30 a.m. to explain the procedures and encourage residents to exercise their legal right to participate in next year's European Parliament elections.
Registering to vote for those who are already on the padron is not difficult and is a vital step to ensure that Orihuela Costa has a political voice and can obtain fair treatment in return for the taxes we pay – no vote no voice. There are two different ways to register to vote. The first consists in sending back a postage paid application form to register to vote which is sent by the electoral authorities prior to elections to those who have registered on the padron SINCE the last elections. Receiving this form confirms the right to vote. Filling it out is straightforward with key passages translated into English. Later this month, in October, the electoral authorities will send out these voter application forms to those who have registered on the padron since the last European Parliament elections in 2010.
We appeal to all those who receive this form to fill it out within the two week or so time limit, sign it and send it back. They should, AT THE SAME TIME, register to vote for the next municipal elections in 2015 by ticking the second of the two boxes which should appear on the form, one for the European Parliament elections and the other for municipal elections. We do not know how many of these forms will be sent out to those living in Orihuela Costa. There have been important changes in the population in recent years but the trend is upward and therefore many hundreds if not thousands of these forms should be sent out. If you receive this voter application form by post, DO NOT MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY TO REGISTER TO VOTE. It is very simple and does not involve a trip to the Town Hall. And, once registered, you will remain on the voters list for European and local elections until you change municipality.
For those on the padron who do not receive a voter application form by post and who have not previously registered to vote, to do so will require a trip to the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall. Ask for a voter application form at the Padron desk and fill it out with the help of the padron officer who will ensure that you use your official padron address. This procedure should not be difficult. Applicants will need both identification (passport in the case of British subjects) and a photocopy of the identification document on A4 paper. A copy of the latest padron will help.
If there are any questions concerning these procedures and how to fill out the application forms, help can be provided by C.L.A.R.O. at our Help and Information office – address and opening hours at end of this Newsletter. C.L.A.R.O. will be campaigning from now until the local elections in May, 2015 for all eligible EU residents to register to vote and participate in these next two elections. A local political party like C.L.A.R.O. obviously will not be contesting the European Parliament elections but we will urge participation. We have received vital support from the European Parliament for our right to vote campaigns and to save Cala Mosca. We should recognise this support by voting in the May, 2015 election, for whichever party each individual may choose. And a vote next year should be followed a year later in May, 2015 for the vital municipal elections where C.L.A.R.O. will be campaigning vigorously as the independent party of Orihuela Costa.
REGISTER TO VOTE NOW. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT WAY IN WHICH TO ENSURE THAT OUR VOICE IS HEARD AND OUR LEGITIMATE DEMANDS FOR SERVICES AND FACILITIES WHICH WE PAY FOR ARE GRANTED.
Every 5 years, the national authorities ask the local town halls to verify and confirm the municipal padron residents' register. The latest padron verification is taking place now. Those on the padron who have not actively used or updated their padron in the last 5 years will receive a letter in Spanish asking them to confirm their continued residence in Orihuela Costa or the local police may be visiting addresses directly to confirm continued residence. This is a perfectly normal administrative procedure so there should be no surprises if you receive a letter or a knock on the door by the local police. ................................
Remember, it is important to register on the padron. To do so will help you qualify for important services like health care. It will bring extra revenue for Orihuela from the central government for the vital services and facilities which we lack. It will also qualify you to register to vote. So please, in your own interest, cooperate in the procedure to update padrons