The political groups in Orihuela are considering a new Regulation on Citizens Participation in the governance of Orihuela. It sounds like a good idea and indeed there are elements being studied which would have advantages for the residents of Orihuela.
But as far as Orihuela Costa is concerned, it is of secondary importance and because it could involve the division of Orihuela Costa into different districts, it could have implications which would be definitely negative. It is time to say NO to the weakening of Orihuela Costa by dividing it into districts.
The positive elements in these proposals for citizens’ participation are in relation to the rights of citizens and proposals for defending their rights, including the appointment of an Ombudsman and facilities for making complaints and suggestions.
However, the proposals being studied for direct participation involving excessively bureaucratic and costly procedures are not what Orihuela Costa needs and the proposals for dividing the municipality into Districts would be clearly against the interests of Orihuela Costa residents.
The needs of Orihuela Costa are radically improved public services like street cleaning, maintenance of the infrastructure of roads, pavements and public places and in particular greatly improved investment in the so-called parks and gardens which are disgracefully inadequate. We need properly organised and locally based emergency services: police, fire and ambulances. Orihuela Costa needs investment in social welfare like a day care for elderly citizens, special care facilities, a centre for young people and a Cultural Centre with library, theatre and rooms for the many groups on the coast who organise choirs, drama groups and leisure activities. The present under-sized Civic Centre does not provide anything like adequate facilities.
Orihuela city enjoys all that we lack. It has proper public services, quality maintenance carried out by municipal workers, day care and special needs facilities and a variety of theatres and venues for public events. They have the essentials of what is good governance and therefore the basis for which citizens’ participation could be advantageous.
But in the case of Orihuela Costa, when there is such a comprehensive lack of services and facilities, what is the point of proposing elaborate and costly procedures for involving residents in the management of what does not exist?
The overriding priority for Orihuela Costa is major improvements in the basic services and facilities we should have, considering that the coast is as important in population terms as the city, growing constantly and providing the bulk of the income raised by the municipality in the form of taxes. There is a danger that the political groups in Orihuela would use the existence of citizen participation procedures to divert attention from the neglect and abandonment of the coast.
It is, however, the division of the municipality into Districts which constitutes the real danger in these proposals. By design, in the current municipal Master Plan which is dated 1990, Orihuela Costa is considered to be a collection of unconnected urbanisations. Denial of the existence of Orihuela Costa as a single integrated urban entity enables the political groups in Orihuela to more easily deny us the facilities we need and should have. Divide and rule!
This denial has other serious consequences. In its search for economies, the Post Office has stopped home deliveries of post enjoyed for decades in five major urbanisations (Campoamor, Cabo Roig, La Regia and La Zenia I and II ). The reason given is that we are not a single integrated urban entity with the required population to maintain a full postal service. C.L.A.R.O. was successful in persuading the previous Socialist and Green government to mount a legal challenge to the decision of the Post Office and to promise to change the status of Orihuela Costa in the new Master Plan which is being finalised. Rather than abstract citizens participation procedures, we need the concrete assurance of the new minority Popular Party government (and confirmation of the decisions of the political groups in the previous government) that they will defend the restoration of our right to a full postal service in the courts and that they will change the status of Orihuela Costa in the new Master Plan, for which they are now responsible, so that Orihuela Costa becomes a single integrated urban entity. Division of Orihuela Costa into districts would contradict the status we need.
In the opinion of C.L.A.R.O, Orihuela Costa needs, as a priority, radically improved basic services, including emergency services and full social and cultural facilities before embarking on costly, abstract and bureaucratic citizens participation procedures. And above all, we need the protection of the status of Orihuela Costa as a single integrated urban entity and not the division of the coast into weak, fragmented, competing districts.