The Mayor of Pinoso is my Facebook friend. I don't think this means that much. I'm sure if you asked he would say yes to you too. I knew one of his councillors pretty well at one time in the past though nowadays we don't even always nod and say hello in the street. When there were only really two political parties in Spain I tried to join the PSOE a couple of times without success.
A few years ago I went to a couple of Agenda 21 meetings here in Pinoso. The meeting I remember involved a bunch of us sitting in a room and talking about what we thought was important for the town. Not much happened, except that we got an invitation to visit the local clock tower, but, at least, there was lip service to the idea of a Citizen's Forum; to people contributing their hopes, ideas and concerns. Shortly after those meetings I moved to Ciudad Rodrigo and then to Cartagena and La Unión. When I finally came back to Culebrón to live I was still working in Fortuna and the meetings and my work day did not fit together. I was always pleased though that the meetings were still happening and also that my name was on a database somewhere so that I continued to get text message invitations to the sessions.
Last week I got an SMS to say there was another Citizens Forum meeting. I got two days notice but maybe I missed the earlier publicity. I intended to go. The time of the meeting meant that I could go directly from work but, in the end, laziness and a touch of forgetfulness meant that I didn't.
I read the press report about the meeting. The agenda looked pretty sterile and it was noticeable that it was Town Hall driven. I'm sure that people are interested in what to do with the old flour factory, interested in hearing about the 3 million euro fine the town has to pay and, finally, complying with the law and renaming streets and removing, emblems which celebrate the Francoist dictatorship. I hardly think though that any one of them would be the first idea on the whiteboard at an open brainstorming session.
There's nothing wrong with a Town Hall feedback session. In fact it sounds like a good idea but it's a long way from the original purpose of those meetings. I was also a bit rattled by the photo that accompanied the piece. It showed the politicians and experts on the top table, a table that was raised above the audience and a table that came with microphones. It didn't look like the most particaptive set up and the power relationship was glaringly obvious. I'm only guessing of course. I wasn't there.
It made me wonder. The last time I heard the Mayor giving one of his welcome speeches both Maggie and I commented on the length and the triteness of it. I seem to remember, in the past, that he tended to be an interesting and snappy speaker. I also thought about the dealings between the local Neighbourhood Association committee, of which I am vaguely a member, and the Town Hall. I found myself bristling at the autocracy of those negotiations but then I get angry about almost everything nowadays.