Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Zero Hour to Select New Guaynabo Mayor

By on August 5, 2017

Editor’s note: The following article originally appeared in the August 3 print edition of Caribbean Business.

SAN JUAN — Two months after Héctor O’Neill’s resignation amid a sexual harassment scandal, the municipality of Guaynabo will choose its new mayor in a special election to be held Saturday, Aug. 5.

In this special election, only the 29,409 people affiliated with the New Progressive Party (NPP) in Guaynabo will be able to vote and choose between Sen. Carmelo Ríos and former Rep. Ángel Pérez, who in recent weeks have been campaigning intensely throughout the city.

According to NPP Secretary-General Rafael “June” Rivera’s projections, an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Guaynabo residents should participate in the special election—based on the fact that about 18,000 voters participated in the June 2016 Guaynabo primaries.

The State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials) will activate Guaynabo’s 76 polling centers, as well as another 29 polling centers for voters added by hand to the official lists, which adds up to 36 electoral units. There will be an electronic vote-counting machine at each polling center plus 10 backup units in case of any incidents, NPP Electoral Commissioner Norma Burgos told Caribbean Business.

Carmelo Ríos and Ángel Pérez shake hands after a recent debate. (File Photo)

Another four vote-counting machines will be assigned to the Advanced Vote Management Board (JAVA by its Spanish acronym), for a total of 90 machines. JAVA will be responsible for collecting inmates’ votes. Authorized to vote in this election are two inmates held at the federal detention center and 66 Puerto Rico corrections system inmates incarcerated at the Bayamón 501 and Guayama 1000 institutions. Inmates will vote between Aug. 3 and 4.

“I’m excited. I saw a lot of propaganda in Guaynabo. People are active,” Burgos said about the expectations as the city heads into Saturday, when voters will be able to cast their ballots between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The NPP electoral commissioner said that on election day, the CEE command center would be located in Mario “Quijote” Morales Coliseum—where journalists, officials and residents will receive firsthand results as they come in from the electoral units. The CEE website will also have a link so voters can get results simultaneously.

Guaynabo Mayoral Campaign Intensifies

Some 357 polling center officials from across the island—except for those in precincts 6 and 7 that comprises Guaynabo—will participate in the special event and each candidate is expected to present 175 observers, for a total of 350. When Caribbean Business went to press, Burgos said Ríos had not sent a full list of his observers. “We have polling center officials available. They are trained,” the NPP official said.

“Fraud is more difficult in this process because there is electronic vote counting, polling center officials are not from Guaynabo or from nearby areas…and no [voter] registrations were allowed on the days leading up to the election,” Rivera said.

Candidates’ proposals

For Ríos, Guaynabo must become a “planned city” in which foreign and local investors converge, a city that is appealing to scientists, athletes and artists. “I’m going to be aggressive so the famous Acts 20 and 22 [investors] move to Guaynabo,” said the mayoral candidate, who would reduce trust employee positions by 30% and boost alliances with the municipality.

Pérez promised that his emblematic projects would include creating a bilingual municipal school and an eco-friendly hotel at La Marquesa. “I will launch an education program for young adults so they can create a business and provide all small and midsize businesses with the tools and skills required to reduce their operating costs and also make it easier to obtain their permits,” he said.

No investigation against Pérez

On the other hand, the NPP secretary-general told this newspaper that there is no investigation against any candidate, although Pérez was mentioned in recent weeks in an alleged case of sexual harassment between two of his former House employees.

Rivera said he had no knowledge about any complaint against Pérez in this matter, even though this newspaper received an alleged “complaint for violating the NPP’s regulations” involving the candidate.

Guaynabo mayoral hopeful gives his version of suit for alleged sexual harassment

The document, dated July 26 and sent to Rivera, indicates that Pérez allegedly violated article 92 of the party’s regulations—which states candidates must abide by NPP rules of conduct and act according to the party’s programmatic and ideological precepts.

“I haven’t seen it. There are no [active investigative processes]. Just days [from the election], news will continue to emerge regarding both candidates. I urge you to focus on what the people want, which is service and having a good mayor,” the NPP representative said.

In Numbers

29,409 – NPP members who could vote in the special election

10,000 to 12,000 – Number of voters the NPP expects will participate

76 – Active polling centers

90 – Electronic vote-counting machines for the event

35,000 – Number of ballots printed for the event

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