Mayor Villarreal Makes His First Annual Government Report
By Jesús Aguado
Having now been nearly exactly a year in office, Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal gave his first Government Report to at least 2,000 members of the public on September 25 at Plaza de los Insurgentes.
The Government Report is a report to the public by the mayoral administration on the state of the city a year after the mayor takes office, an event somewhat like the State of the Union address in the United States or the Throne Speech in Canada.
Some citizens expressed disappointment afterward that in his speech, Villarreal did not address the 59 murders recorded in San Miguel de Allende from the beginning of the year through August. Others expressed dismay that he did not address citizen concerns about the city’s plans to transplant 31 ornamental trees currently located on Avenida Guadalupe.
Villarreal instead focused on the achievements of his first year in office.
Although the city’s new Aquí No (Not Here) campaign states that San Miguel is under surveillance by more than 500 cameras, Mayor Villarreal’s report on the new C4 Center—the city’s command and control center for emergency services and police—mentioned far fewer cameras. In the context of discussing the efficiency with which security officials respond to emergency calls, Villarreal said, “…besides, there are 321 surveillance cameras that watch over the city.”
Villarreal went on to say in his September 25 speech that San Miguel is now the city with the most surveillance cameras statewide—and soon will have the second most in the country, after the city of San Pedro in Nuevo León. The city will soon have a camera for every 185 inhabitants, he said.
Villarreal’s numbers mean that with a population of 175,000 people in San Miguel, there could be at least 945 surveillance cameras in place by the end of the year.
The speech was attended by some peaceful protestors. One placard read, If your cameras and police officers do good work, why are there dozens and dozens of murders?
The replanting of trees on Avenida Guadalupe to Parque Bicentenario was also a hot-button issue with some in the audience. The government has said they need to be removed for the street’s widening and repaving, as well as due to the construction of arches in the Guadalupe market.
One placard held up by a demonstrator read, More Trees, Not Fewer.
Addressing the environment, Villarreal remarked on the effort to keep the city clean via nighttime garbage collection as well as the placing of more than 1200 containers for garbage around the city. He talked about the greening of the city, praising the fact that there are more than 30,000 trees throughout the municipality and that the city’s streetlights have been outfitted with energy-efficient LED bulbs.
Last year, the city council voted in favor of an ordinance to charge owners of short-term (less than 30 days) rental properties 10,000 pesos a year for a land-use permit. Of the 2,500 houses for rent in the city, Villarreal boasted at least 10 have been closed by local authorities after they did not respond to formal requests by the city to begin the permitting process.
“Tourism should not mean abuse,” he said, adding that these property owners are now contributing to the municipal coffers. He also remarked that San Miguel’s citizens requested that his administration take control of the situation in the city regarding short-term rental properties.
Villarreal also brought up an agreement signed earlier this year between the National Autonomous University (UNAM) and the state and local governments to open a UNAM campus on the road to Querétaro, near the municipal administrative building. The first stone has yet to be placed. Mayor Villarreal assured the public that “the first stone” of the building would soon be placed, though he did not specify when that would happen.
Nevertheless, in his speech, Villarreal said, “Education has a wide impact on the development of societies, [and] for that reason the city council decided to go beyond the pale and direct more support to education. This is visible with the rehabilitation of schools, and the historic amount of investment in infrastructure—a new primary school at Palmita de Landeta, a middle school in Jardines II, and a preparatory school in Landeta.” Each of these schools will have a capacity for 1,200 students, according to government officials.
Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez also attended the event and spoke about his idea of widening the Libramiento between Dolores and San Miguel to create something “like a boulevard” that would allow faster travel between San Miguel and Dolores. His goal is to widen the road from two to four lanes, he said.
While the two cities’ governments plan to invest public money into the widening of the highway between the two cities, the state government will also invest a major amount in the project, Sinhue Rodríguez said.
He also said that the state government will support the construction of a bridge to connect San Miguel and Cieneguita, which needs one after a manmade ford there collapsed last year. The governor did not say when that would happen. The project to construct this bridge was presented to government officials earlier this year, but no work has yet begun.
The governor also announced that his administration will allocate 300 million pesos to San Miguel for a planned large-scale project to construct an underpass at the current El Pípila traffic circle, to place traffic lights on the Libramiento, and to do other miscellaneous projects.
The city has committed to contribute 70 million pesos to these projects.