The creation of a majestic seafront in La Playa de Ponce, the acquisition of a fleet of helicopters to equip the Municipal Police with an air unit and the construction of a light train capable of interconnecting Ponce with the other southern municipalities, through a cost of $ 550 million.
Although they seem utopias or an exercise in fantasy, these are just some of the campaign promises promulgated by the mayor of Ponce, María Meléndez Altieri, to win the favor and vote of the Ponce electorate, during the past 12 years.
The string of offers contained in its platforms for the 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections, however, collide with the reality that the city is experiencing, 12 years after its ascent to the municipal seat.
Days after another electoral contest, La Perla del Sur reviewed the platforms presented by the incumbent for those elections and the result highlighted a profuse number of abandoned initiatives and unfulfilled promises.
In 2008, under the slogan “Ponce Ciudad Completa”, the then challenger novoprogresista predicted the creation of 30 thousand jobs, despite the economic recession.
For this, he promised to “develop the transshipment capacities” of the Port of Las Américas to the maximum and promote a “new model of agricultural development. He also pointed to the construction of the Regional Center for the Processing of Agricultural Products and the creation of the Southern Gastronomic District.
In 2012, Meléndez Altieri also promised to manage 60 strategic projects, with an investment that would be around $ 100 million. The same promise was repeated in 2016, when the undercapitalization of the municipal coffers became evident.
Among the initiatives promised then and forgotten at present were the creation of the Cosmopolitan Maritime Front in La Playa de Ponce and a port project called the Marina de Las Américas, to host international cruise ships.
To these was added the so-called Caribbean Nautical Circuit, a proposal that defended the creation of a “recreational water route for linking coastal assets in a nautical circuit”.
In the field of health, the list of promises that were not fulfilled includes the creation of the Municipal Institute for Preventive Health and Home Health, the Residential Center for Recovery and Detoxification for people with substance and alcohol problems, and the Specialized Center for Children with Learning Disabilities (CENDA).
Other proposals raised by the mayor, but which never materialized, are the Institute of Sports Biomechanics, the Ponceño Museum of Contemporary Art, the El Vigía Tourist Route, the International Sports Boulevard and the Industrial Connection Road Circuit, between the port area and Mercedita Airport.
Other flagship projects that were indeed started have not been completed due to lack of funds or complications in the planning stage.
Among them are the Northern Ponce Rural Aqueduct, the subsequent phases of the Ponce Servicios government center and the unfinished Ecological Park.
The latter, inaugurated in September 2012 after an investment of $ 4 million, should have become a green lung for the city and a busy passive recreation area.
The striking 110-foot-diameter, 40-foot-tall central structure, which must have been turned into a “green tower” with vertical garden fringes, remains almost in its metal skeleton. Meanwhile, eight years after its construction, the lush vegetation promised to the area is absent. Likewise, the announced second phase, which would include the creation of a medicinal plant garden, did not materialize either.
Although in the beginning, the space served as a hub for exhibitions and activities, in recent years it has fallen into underutilization.
Similarly, the illusions created in 2012 with the promised Millito Navarro Sports City have vanished, by themselves.
The sports facility, which should have been built with an injection of $ 32.3 million, remains unfinished eight years later. The little that was built, including tennis courts and an area for “extreme sports”, remain victims of neglect and lack of promotion and maintenance.
Its main attractions such as the Sports School, the Sports Medicine Clinic, the athletic track, the ball park and the pavilions for boxing, martial arts, gymnastics and handball clinics, were never built.
SITRAS: promises and realities
Even flagship projects that are considered successful, such as the Integrated Transportation System of the South (SITRAS), still do not reach the ambitious promises made by Meléndez Altieri during his political campaigns: an effective bait to catch votes.
For example, the current system turns out to be very different from what you initially promised.
The public transportation system designed in 2008 by the mayor supposedly would have an investment of $ 550 million and would extend outside the jurisdiction of Ponce.
Even, as stated in the political propaganda that he disseminated during his campaign, SITRAS would include the construction of a “light train” that would reach seven neighboring municipalities, in conjunction with 60 buses, 19 passenger stations and “ecological buses.”
The current system has a fraction of the announced buses, and plans to extend their routes to neighboring municipalities came to nothing.
Similarly, during his past three political campaigns, Meléndez Altieri has promised a reengineering of the Municipal Police, as well as expanding its capabilities.
In her 2012 platform, in fact, the mayor promised the acquisition of several helicopters to equip the municipal body with an aerial unit.
It also committed to the installation of 300 new security cameras and the creation of what it called the “Digitized Video Anti-Crime Network.” Also, the installation of “intelligent labeling systems to improve traffic flow”.
None were fulfilled, as promised.
In 2008 he also promised the construction of a modern Command Center for the Municipal Police, for which he would remodel the old headquarters of the State Police on Avenida Hostos.
Although he installed monumental signs in front of that headquarters, announcing the work, the project did not materialize either. Instead, the structure has been abandoned, almost in ruins, a victim of vandalism.
Similarly, in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, he promised to build new barracks and expand surveillance services in the communities.
However, in her most recent 2020-2021 budget, the mayor cut $ 479,000 from the municipal uniformed budget and eliminated the allocation for the Community Police Program. In fact, since 2010, the annual budget of the Municipal Police has been declining, dropping 13 percent.