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San Miguel for the Sanmiguelenses, Says Villarreal

Luis Alberto Villarreal

Hidalgo Eddy, Periódico La Fuente

By Jesús Aguado

The safety of people and their belongings is now the main task of new mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal García. In an interview with Atención, he told us about the methods he will use to guarantee safety in the municipality and also assured us that he, his cabinet, and the members of the San Miguel de Allende City Council will work for all people—on the streets, in the neighborhoods, and in the rural areas.

Villarreal was sworn in during the first seconds of Wednesday, October 10, and will finish his term on October 9, 2021. One of the main announcements made at that moment was that Ricardo Benavides has been removed as Secretariat of Public Safety. That post is now occupied by retired general Hidalgo Eddy.

According to Villarreal, a mayor should first provide safety to the people, improve poor safety conditions, or maintain good ones. For that reason, he told Atención that his strategy for making San Miguel de Allende safer will involve proximity to the people, the anticipation of needs, and the reconstruction of the social fabric in various sectors:

Public Services

In addition to safety, said Villarreal, the Mexican Constitution states that the citizens deserve access to public services—street cleaning, public lighting, municipal markets, parks and gardens, and cemeteries. That is why he will work hard to have better street lighting, which will create an environment of safety, he said. San Miguel will be a cleaner city too, he said. “We want San Miguel to be of the people. We will summon everybody to work together,” he said, adding that while the government will do its best, citizens also must fulfill their civil duties.

“We will have order on the streets and plazas. They will not be made into private domains by street vendors; they will be of the people. The streets should not be invaded by vehicles (because that is private property). It will be ‘San Miguel de la Gente,’ (‘San Miguel of the People’),” he said.

Economic Development

Villarreal made it clear that his administration’s policy will be to work with locals to improve the city’s economy, including that of both small and medium-level entrepreneurs. He cited hotels, restaurants, hostels, and stores in particular. Business owners of all ages will be trained to improve their products and services. The most important thing, he said, is to train those who still desire to offer something new to San Miguel. “That is the challenge,” he said.

Environment

It has been 14 years since the construction of the only functional (of two) wastewater treatment plant in town. Nowadays, 300 liters of water are consumed every second in San Miguel, and from those, just 100 are being treated. “The plan,” said Villarreal, “is to invest more than 250 million pesos to improve the water network—with the construction of ponds from the Márgara Mountain to the Picachos mountain range—as well the enlargement of the functioning water treatment plant.”

The goal, Villarreal made clear, is to double the quantity of treated water and keep at least half of it in the city. Currently, much of the treated water ends up in the Allende Dam and is later used for agricultural irrigation in the Bajío. “We will guarantee the water for the future generations. We will keep our water,” he promised.

Ponds will be used to recharge the aquifer and will also be used for livestock and agriculture in the rural area, he said.

Reconstruction of the social fabric

Villarreal also brought up the naming of San Miguel as the American Capital of Culture for 2019, saying that it is not a designation meant to promote the city as a touristic destination. It is, he said, to help repair a place’s social fabric through its culture. His administration will provide cultural workshops in music, theater, dance, environment, and sports to promote more peaceful and fulfilling coexistence for Sanmiguelenses.

Tourism

“The running faucet of massive promotion,” he said, “will be closed. We will do selective promotion.” He said that the emphasis should be not about bringing more tourists, but bringing those with bigger buying power. “Sanmiguelenses do not want to feel that their territory is being taken away. They deserve to live happily. We have always been good hosts, it’s just the marketing will be different,” he said.

With the collection of a two-percent tax on income generated from “temporary hosting” (meaning digital short-term rental platforms like Airbnb) about to take effect, Villarreal said he is not pleased with the decision to earmark the taxes collected toward more tourism promotion. The money should go toward the restoration, preservation, and maintenance of the city, he said.

Housing Developments

With the commitment to reorganize tourism promotion, Mayor Villarreal predicts that there will be a reduction in the renting or sale of houses. “But we will make agreements with the city to have better organizational and development plans,” he said. In fact, he said, legal actions to control the rent, sale, and purchase of homes in San Miguel will soon be presented to the city council and later to the local legislature.

Parking meters

On the Integral Mobility System—which among other things features metered parking in the Historic Center—he said that his administration will continue with the plan already laid out since it was voted on by Sanmiguelenses in two referendums. The city, he remarked was made for being walked, and not for “privatizing it” with vehicles because people do not have a garage.

Public Plazas

Villarreal is the first mayor whose inauguration will take place at a different location than the Jardín Principal. Tourism studies and a plan to better manage the Historic Center currently being conducted have already determined that Jardín is regularly overwhelmed with visitors, and based on that information, Villarreal decided to hold his inauguration event at the Plaza Cívica, located at Colegio 11. Eventually more plazas will be revitalized to spread out the impact of crowd gatherings, he noted.

 

 

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