By Juan Ignacio Schwerdt / [email protected]
Audio note: Juan Ignacio Zelaya (LU2)
Lukewarm support was garnered among legislators, community leaders and mayors of the region for the project presented by provincial senator Andrés De Leo (Together) so that the deliberative councils themselves regulate the salaries of the mayors and that they are not tied to the salaries of the workers of each commune.
Although the legislator -provincial referent of the Civic Coalition-ARI- pointed out that the Bahian community chief Héctor Gay and senator Nidia Moirano told him that they agree with the initiative, the rest of the political leadership of the Sixth Section had very little echo.
Before the consultation of La Nueva, the majority of legislators and mayors chose silence. “I would have to read the project in depth. Giving an opinion without knowing him would be imprudent”, was, more or less, the most repeated response even among leaders who share the same political space as De Leo.
Several, however, criticized the idea among their intimates and showed that there is no way to support it as it was raised in different media. “This makes political sense. Talking about things like that, when there are so many needs in the people and a thousand problems to solve, has neither rhyme nor reason,” a community chief from the area was heard saying after reading about the project on lanueva.com this week.
Among those who did have an opinion, there were mostly criticisms and many questions; so many that some questioned whether the initiative could advance in the legislative chambers.
- Senator Andrés De Leo’s project stipulates modifying article 125 of the Organic Law of Municipalities (LOM).
- That article establishes that the salary of the mayors “in no case may be less than 10 municipal minimum salaries” (the basic of the lower category of the entrant, in the administrative ranks of each commune, without any bonus or additional).
- It also details that in districts with 12 or 14 councilors, the mayors will receive 12 minimum salaries; in which they have 16 or 18 mayors, 14 salaries; and, in those who have 20 or 24, 16 salaries.
- The De Leo initiative, on the other hand, determines that the deliberative councils themselves define the salaries of the mayor -and with it, that of the political staff- according to the reality of each commune.
José Luis Zara, mayor of Patagones.
“I did not read the project in depth, but what transpired raises several questions for me,” acknowledged the mayor of Patagones, José Luis Zara (Together).
“If the idea is that the salaries of officials, councilors and mayors are not tied to municipal salaries, how would they be regulated? What parameter would the councilors take to decide one amount or another? On what basis or in reference to what value would political salaries be defined?” he wondered.
That aspect of De Leo’s project, precisely, was the most questioned by the mayors and legislators who agreed to offer their opinion. One of them was the Suarense communal chief Ricardo Moccero (Frente de Todos).
Ricardo Moccero, intendant of Coronel Suárez.
“If the Organic Law sets the salaries of mayors and mayors, it is precisely to prevent everyone from doing what they want. With this project (De Leo’s), if a mayor has a majority in the council, he could set the salaries he wants; and, on the contrary, if the opposition had a majority, he could lower the salary scale to the minimum. And what professional is he going to leave his job to be a civil servant if the salaries are low?”, he wondered.
Moccero even questioned the viability of the initiative.
“The truth is, I don’t even know if it would be constitutional. I didn’t know about the project, but I don’t see much foundation for it. I wish they cared about more important things,” she shot back.
The mayor of Puan, Facundo Castelli (Together), also disagreed.
“If the Organic Law of the Municipalities is outdated, in any case it will have to be updated, but I don’t think that the salaries of the mayors and officials should be defined by the deliberative councils,” he said.
Facundo Castelli, mayor of Puan.
“Such a measure could generate very serious consequences in both cases; that is, whether the CD has a pro-government majority or is controlled by the opposition”, he added, in line with what Moccero expressed.
Castelli said that a pro-government council “could generate salaries even higher than the current ones.”
Currently the CD of his district has an overwhelming majority of the ruling party: there are 8 mayors from Together and just 4 from the Front of All. With 66% of the seats and the presidency of the body, Castelli does not need to agree on anything with the opposition to achieve the approval of any project that he promotes, even if it were his own salary increase.
“But it could also be the other way around: that a council with an opposition majority sets low salaries and a mayor cannot get officials who agree to work for the commune for those amounts. Something like this could block an entire administration, ”he warned.
Castelli said that a solution would be to modify the article of the Organic Law of Municipalities that determines how many minimum wages a community chief must receive.
Provincial senator Andrés De Leo, author of the bill.
The same was pointed out by the provincial deputy for the Sixth Section, Guillermo Castello (Avanza Libertad).
“The issue could be resolved in a simpler way: by modifying the aspect of the Law (Organic of Municipalities) that indicates how many minimum wages each mayor must earn,” he said.
The legislator, although he acknowledged that some community leaders in Buenos Aires receive “extravagant salaries”, clarified that he does not see that De Leo’s initiative will provide solutions in this regard.
“If the councils have the absolute power to set the salaries of the mayors, there is a risk that they will increase them even more to pay for political favors or to increase their own salary. And it could also be that they set them very low, with which they would generate a delicate situation or border on extortion”, he opined.
Castello also said that “it would be serious” that a mayor could, through related councilors, “set his own salary.”
Mariano Uset, intendant of Colonel Rosales.
A similar view was provided by the communal chief of Coronel Rosales, Mariano Uset.
“I agree that the salaries of some mayors are high, but in any case this could be resolved by modifying the floor and ceiling established by law (between 10 and 16 minimum municipal salaries),” he told this newspaper.
Since he took office, Uset has usually received sanctions from the Court of Auditors because, by his order, he receives a salary lower than that which corresponds to him by law.
“Year after year I argue why I have a lower settlement for myself, but they still admonish me or object. I understand; the TC is there to enforce the law. And in the same way I understand the spirit of the (De Leo) project, but I can’t help but see that it could generate some complex situations, ”he acknowledged.
“By this I mean that the salaries of a municipality cannot run the risk of being trapped in a political-partisan dispute between the ruling party and the opposition,” he clarified.
Uset stressed, on the other hand, that it is necessary that the debate on the Organic Law of Municipalities not remain only in article 125 that regulates political salaries, but that it broaden and deepen.
“This rule must be re-discussed in its entirety, because it was sanctioned in 1958. Today the mayors have other responsibilities, they are the ones who best know where the needs and difficulties of their neighbors are and demand a level of autonomy that they do not have today,” he remarked. .
His peer of Adolfo Alsina, Javier Andres (Together), gave his opinion in line with Uset’s criteria.
“I did not read the project (of De Leo), but the idea of discussing everything that makes municipal autonomy seems interesting to me, since today the municipalities take charge of more and more benefits and services,” he stressed.
Currently there are three legislative initiatives that promote municipal autonomy: one by Senators from the UCR, among them the former mayor of Adolfo Alsina, David Hirtz; another from Bahia deputy Fernando Compagnoni (Together); and a third from Villarinense deputy María Fernanda Bevilacqua (Frente de Todos).
Carlos Bevilacqua, mayor of Villarino.
Bevilacqua: “I am in favor of everything that is in line with municipal autonomy”
The mayor of Villarino, Carlos Bevilacqua, ironized that “for years” he has agreed with the project that De Leo presented this week.
“From the neighborhood we have been promoting measures like these for a long time, which are all part of a single project: municipal autonomy,” he emphasized.
“Municipalities should not only have the power to define the salaries of the mayor and councilors, but also define the number of councilors appropriate for their structure and even have their own court of accounts,” he added.
Bevilacqua gave the example of the municipality of Bariloche, in Río Negro.
“That city has 11 council members, who represent 200,000 inhabitants. And in my district, Villarino, where 35,000 people live, we have 16 mayors. Obviously, the number of councilors can be lowered…”, he pointed out.
The Villarinense communal chief stressed that “the need is urgent” for the Buenos Aires communes to have “autonomy with economic sufficiency” and “equitable representation in the Chambers of Deputies and Senators.”
“That is why I will always be in favor of these projects, regardless of which party they come from, if they are aimed at profound change, which is essential today, and not a mere electoral objective,” he clarified.
“What I regret is that this project, as well as the single paper ballot, appear just when Together for Change is in opposition. It would have been better if they emerged when they governed the Province and the Nation, between 2015 and 2019, ”he closed.