Senate president against eliminating Puerto Rico municipalities
SAN JUAN – As he promised that Puerto Rico municipalities will not be consolidated as long as he presides over the Puerto Rico Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz reaffirmed Monday his ambition to make municipal autonomy constitutional to give more power to the mayors of the island’s 78 towns.
“It has been completely evinced that the theory of eliminating municipalities has no basis whatsoever,” Rivera Schatz said, adding that if Puerto Rico hadn’t had 78 municipalities in the aftermath of Hurricane María, loss of life and property “would have been worse.”
The Senate president said the municipal reform that will be presented before the Legislative Assembly proposes “strengthening the structure of municipalities and offering the tools they need; not only the personnel, but also to train them so that, economically, they achieve adequate fiscal health.”
Municipal reform, which will be considered in a bill, would make way for several statutes to expand the powers of municipalities. The change to their autonomy being considered a constitutional standing will not be evaluated until 2020, “the same day of the general elections,” Rivera Schatz said.
“Elevating municipal autonomy to a constitutional rank is not creating a fourth power; it isn’t that municipalities that reach the highest level of autonomy act in an unrestricted, improper way, or without controls,” he assured during a press conference.
Rivera Schatz stressed that the goal behind providing greater municipal power is to prevent “what has been occurring for decades,” such as the Legislature’s power to demand municipal governments to make changes to already-planned budgets.
“In other words, it’s almost impossible for mayors to establish administrative and operational planning with certainty because, overnight, the state government and the Legislative Assembly change the rules of the game. That cannot and should not go on,” he said.
Regarding the red tape that has delayed federal funds, Rivera Schatz said the administration will seek to ensure that resources are distributed from the next allocations so municipalities can address problems such as waste collection, safety and healthcare.