An Autistic Administration

An Autistic Administration

by Guiomar Ramirez-Montesinos, English version in collaboration with Christine Betterton-Jones

(from an original article in Castellano by Guiomar Ramirez-Montesinos which appeared in Xàbia al Día 2011 election special

The Bloc-Centristas term of office apparently began on the right foot. They had a landslide at the elections, winning seven council seats, and returned to form a government with the four PSPV Socialist councillors with whom they had signed the censure motion ousting PP Mayor, Juan Moragues, in December 2005.

Mayor Eduardo Monfort enjoyed broad popular support for his opposition to the revision of IBI (property taxes). This valuation, known locally as the "Catastrazo", re-valued properties at the height of the price bubble. He also popularly opposed the expansion of the port. The Bloc-Centristas were welcomed as a return to the traditional and natural values which had been so badly undermined after more than a decade of rampant urbanization. But over the past four years, pressures have converted it into an autistic administration.

Monfort dissolves the pact with the Socialists and governs with the PP

The alliance with the Socialists had promised to be a happy one, but a wound which was opened by the PSOE in December 2006 was never to heal. This concerned a sting in which conversations about a rubbish collection contract were eavesdropped. Fifteen months later, the mayor presented a motion ousting the Socialists and a new government was formed with the PP headed by Moragues. This left everyone stupefied since Monfort had bad-mouthed the ex-mayor thousands of times and had filed a motion of censure against him in 2005.

The short, Bloc-Centristas/PSOE alliance had been an innovative period. The socialist councillor José Chulvi improved and optimized the town hall's telecommunications system by using IP telephony. He also initiated the introduction of electronic administration and the creation of a Board of Tourism. He had also started working on a Strategic Plan for the town of Jávea. But apart from the telephony initiative, which was already under-way, the other projects fell by the wayside after the pact was dissolved.

The passage of the PP into the government has been mostly symbolic, since apart from Filo Giner, the councillor for Commerce and Economic Development, the work of the other four PP council members has been anecdotal, limited to going with the flow of the departments or taking advantage of the hard work done by their secretaries.

As Monfort explained, in return he could govern smoothly and without opposition. According to the official version, the new covenant promised stability and raised hands at plenary council and committee meetings whenever the mayor asked for them.

Old Town Works

In May 2007 the Old Town was immersed in redevelopment works which affected the centre, as well as the ring roads. There was also the construction of the underground car parks and the new town hall building.

The initial works became paralysed because the contractor, a consortium of two firms: Generala and Mayve (UTE Generala-Mayve) demanded unjustified cost overruns and Monfort refused to pay them. A year later, another company, Intersa, resumed the job. The new company seemed to perform better, but by then the residents had suffered both damage and faulty workmanship, not to mention the economic and financial crisis which was also affecting commerce.

Then came the controversy over digging up the old fashioned cobblestones and marble from the church square and its re-paving with granite. This, along with the supposedly restored Príncipe de Asturias wall, was the last straw for residents who were helpless before the authoritarian response of a mayor who would not listen to them.

The purchase of the Car Parks


As the work ended in the Old Town, attention shifted to the underground car parks built by Ecisa. The Port succeeded in avoiding disaster when the company came to an agreement with the Town Hall not to construct a planned car park under Avenida Jaume I. Shopkeepers and residents of the area had been strongly opposed because there was a risk to the foundations of nearby houses. As a result of the cancellation of this project, the Town Hall paid €400,000 compensation to the developer. This was just the start of the drain on town coffers caused by construction of the car parks.

The Ecisa subsidiary which managed the parking, "Estacionaments Urbans de Xàbia", soon began to show its lack of desire to connect with the people. At no time did it try to reduce its rates, nor improve its relationship with residents and shopkeepers. In the end, the government team (then composed by Bloc-Centristas and PP) decided unilaterally to purchase the two parking lots for €13.2 million. This was despite claims from the opposition that, according to expert reports, it was not necessary and it was against the will of the people.

Mayor's authoritarian attitude

During this term of office, public animosity towards the way the town was managed, particularly by the mayor, was growing: noisy cobblestones imported from China; high, sharp curbs which wrecked car wheels; removal of the church square cobbles; the reconstruction of a fake wall; the progressive elimination of surface parking; all became complaints from residents and businesses which fell on deaf ears, as did the popular request not to rescue the car parks. Monfort must have felt so overwhelmed by so many opinions that he was unable to reconcile them. This eventually resulted in him shutting up shop and making decisions at his own discretion.

In spite of the mayor's assurances that he was a supporter of citizen participation, the truth is he thought it was enough to inform the most affected people once a decision had been taken. Monfort failed to listen to others' opinions and suggestions. Perhaps the habit of advocating one side (he is a lawyer by profession), made it difficult for him to have a more diplomatic and compromising attitude.

To make matters worse, his autistic attitude (which is shared by the councillor for Town Works, Toni Torres, and has also spread to the Councillor for Culture, Quica Gil) grew as he has found governing becoming more complex than he had imagined. Also, the mayor publicly showed his bad temper more and more often, and stopped dealing with the press, which could only get filtered information from press releases and could not ask questions.

I emphasize this because it is precisely this attitude (it is true that the crisis has not helped) and this way of treating people, that has turned Monfort from the most valued politician in the town to the most maligned in less than four years, despite the fact that he and his team have certainly done much more for Xàbia than previous administrations had for decades.

Tourism and traditional values

Also in May 2007, the findings of the socio-economic diagnosis made by consulting company Imedes were released. At that time this consultant was responsible for revitalizing the local Agenda 21. The study showed a tourism model which was tired and out of date and the need to improve services through greater choice and to improve the skills of workers and enterprises. It highlighted the importance of restoring natural and traditional values.

The Bloc-Centristas, took this to the letter and tried to recover traditions and local culture, something which was really needed in Xàbia, although sometimes the defence of the Valenciano language is seen as exclusionary by much of the population. In any case, this return to roots and particular values, the reestablishment of local history and traditional agriculture, the promotion of culture, music, (including the construction of the new Conservatory of Music) and education has been essential for a Xàbia which had almost lost its essence and identity. And this is thanks almost entirely to the Bloc-Centristas.


The Bloc-Centristas are also the reason why the municipality now has a much improved urban infrastructure (water, electricity, sewerage, storm-water drains, pavements …) which had been pending for decades. The boom years during which the town of Jávea was the richest in the province had not been reflected in projects that benefited the population, since at that time fiestas and one day galas were the priorities.

It is true that the works have focused mostly on the Old Town. However, the Port has also improved through renovation of the Lambert and Pio XII passage-ways, installation of underground rubbish containers and the library and social centre project. The Arenal has seen the construction of roundabouts, a storm drain collector, improvement of the Avenida Arenal, increase in parking places, a project to renovate the Arenal promenade and a cycle lane for Montañar I.

Much of this has been possible thanks to funding from the two central government’s "Plan E" and the Valencian government’s "Plan Confianza" stimulus grants, yet the decision on where to spend the money belonged to Monfort. Unfortunately, the people are so fed up with his authoritarian attitude that they can only see the things that go wrong.

The General Town Plan and suspension of building licenses

At the beginning of the Administration, guidelines (the Concierto previo) for drawing up the General Town Plan were approved by an advisory board. The company Idom which edited the guidelines exhibited them at the Casa de Cultura in May 2007.

However, it would still take just over three years to deliver the first documents to the Regional Government. Because of a change in planning regulations, the Concierto Previo was renamed as the Consultation Paper (Documento Consultivo), and although in February 2008 it was announced to be nearing completion, it was not until eighteen months later that it was finally sent to the Valencian Government for approval.

Meanwhile, and since Eduardo Monfort became mayor in December 2007, Xàbia has lived firstly under a complete suspension of building permits, to be replaced two years later by a partial ban so that there could be construction on already urban land.

Monfort, in his words, thus helped Xàbia deal with the economic crisis, forcing builders to take action before the complete bursting of the housing bubble.

In late January of this year the partial suspension of licenses expired. So it was possible once more to build on all urbanisable land, except for those areas for which special protection has been requested (e.g. the Saladar). The response has not been a flurry of construction requests. After all, the demand for building has been much lower after the crisis, even though many refuse to acknowledge this fact.

New contract for rubbish collection, green points and the ecopark

Services is one of the few departments whose management has been highly regarded. At the beginning of the legislature this was led by Socialist Kika Mata, who was soon replaced by Doris Courcelles, Bloc-Centristas councillor, who left this year to join the PSPV group. Both found it difficult to take initiatives and manage the department while having Toni Torres and Eduardo Monfort over them.

Still, Doris was finally able to formalize the new contract for garbage collection with Cespa, a company that has amply demonstrated its effectiveness. Virtually the only news coming from this department has been positive and about the creation of new green points and the long-awaited eco-park.

What happened to the Catastrazo?

The drive that Bloc-Centristas showed against the Catastrazo came to a halt when they came to govern and better understand the full implications of the consequences of their actions. If the new values were annulled, they would have to pay back money to residents. But who had to pay, the municipality or the State? On the other hand, the income IBI provides to the municipal coffers comes in handy after the decline in construction activity. So it was best to leave the Catastrazo alone, so things wouldn’t get even more complicated.

What will happen with the Catastrazo is what has happened in many other towns which revised property values (valor catastral) during the construction bubble. That is, a new revision will be ordered after the minimum period between reviews has expired. Although first I imagine that the next administration will have to make sure the loss of income is compensated for.

‘No’ to expansion of the Port and the privatization of the Fontana

After what happened in Javea with Ecisa, the purchase of the car parks and the redevelopment of the Old Town, I do not think there can be anyone left who still feels that an outside company should come and build an expansion to the port. In fact, the last plenary session on the port issue was unanimous in rejecting this proposal.
But "no" to the expansion of the port has been, and still is the main battle cry of Bloc-Centristas, who affirm that it is only they who will truly defend the port, instilling fear against any other position. But full-on opposition will not prevent a port project, likewise Monfort's many attempts to protect the coast have failed.

In the long run, to do nothing does not guarantee that nothing will be done. Other political parties think that the best way to defend the port is to ask everyone what they want and agree on a project to improve the whole area. An open discussion between the people is the only vaccine against vested interests.

The Canal de Fontana is a good example of this. Users of this space did not want it to be privatised because they would probably be unable to pay the new mooring fees. The Town Hall owns the land adjacent to the slipway, and positioned itself alongside the users (Aexamar) and against privatisation. But this has not served to defend the interests of the users, who, in order to obtain preferential treatment and special pricing for members, finally had to arrive at an agreement with the company which is hoping to build a private marina in the canal.

There are many other issues in the pipeline, such as loss of municipal land assets and the obligation of the Town Hall to deal with costly compensation cases that should never have occurred if they hadn’t gone to trial. There are also the mess-ups in Amjasa. These were reported in an audit whose conclusions were never considered nor applied.

After everything that has happened during this term of office, if there is only one conclusion to be reached, it is that the time has come for true democracy, for the people to be listened to, and to make citizen participation possible

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