Almeida now asks about the problems of the districts, "to solve them before the elections"

There are mornings when a single email can turn the main City Council of Spain upside down. Different advisers to Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida have sent emails and WhatsApp messages to the 21 districts of the capital in recent days. The mail bears the following subject: “REQUEST DATA TO THE MAYOR’S OFFICE”. In the message, to which EL PAÍS has had access, the circle that advises the councilor has kicked off the 2023 elections. There are barely 300 days left for the people of Madrid to go to the polls again. The nervousness in the PP is evident. The latest polls reflect a stagnation in the intention to vote for Almeida, who would again need the votes of Ciudadanos and Vox to revalidate the Mayor’s Office. The internal mail from his team to the representatives of the neighborhoods serves to verify that the mayor wants to activate the popular electoral machinery. “From now on, and with a view to preparing visits and for the mayor for the coming months,” the message begins, “as best and as quickly as possible, we need to collect a series of data from all the districts.”

“Please, we need the following information,” the text continues, “WHICH SHOULD BE ANSWERED NEXT TUESDAY, JUNE 7, at the request of the Cabinet: list of associations or other groups of interest, markets or flea markets, district parties or their neighborhoods that have a certain relevance, religious events of importance for the neighbors, sporting events, music festivals, popular races, social works, leisure of any kind… By this I mean an annual period, until May 2023. If there are associations or any group that organizes powerful things or moves a lot of people, we also want to know who they are”.

“There is no time left”

Finally, the message closes with a request that directly affects the neighbors: “We also need to know PROBLEMS/REQUESTS THAT THE NEIGHBORS OF MUNICIPAL COMPETENCE HAVE, of certain relevance, to try to solve them as far as possible. […] It is a very important job ahead of the next elections, for which there is not much time left”.

Almeida, once again, forgets Ciudadanos, the other wing of the municipal government. When asked by this email some of its councilors, the discomfort is evident: “It is a lack of respect! Oh, if we were to send this email.” Sources from the Mayor’s Office respond that “simply” it is a way of centralizing information. “It is not an extraordinary procedure, quite the opposite,” they point out.

The messages and emails arrive a week after the mayor himself signed a new member for his team. As this newspaper advanced, Óscar Romera, who was a high position with Mariano Rajoy and a personal friend of the alderman, has been his new chief of staff for a week. “He is a man of numbers,” says a municipal source. It is not the only change in the organizational structure of the mayor. The current chief of press, Daniel Bardavío, who arrived at the City Council in December of last year, after passing through the Ciudadanos cabinet in Brussels, has now added his team to Telemadrid journalist Almudena Falcón, who covered local information for public television, where he had been working for 15 years. Since the mayor of Madrid took office as mayor of the capital, the position of press officer has changed four times.

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The latest municipal survey

To know the problems of the neighbors, the City Council made its own survey in April. What are the three main problems facing the city of Madrid right now? Through a spontaneous response, the people of Madrid placed traffic and traffic jams among their major concerns for the first time, followed by cleanliness, health (lack of services, lack of professional toilets, waiting lists) and pollution. This follows from the last municipal survey published on April 27 by the City Council’s Transparency Area. In it, 8,515 citizens participated, approximately 400 for each of the 21 districts. It was prepared by the demoscopic company Sigma Dos at a cost of 85,527.86 euros. These surveys have been carried out since 2006. It is the first of Almeida’s time as mayor.

If there is a problem that previously went unnoticed and has now completely exploded, it is healthcare. 23.9% of those surveyed believe that Madrid lacks more services, more healthcare and professionals, and there is a long waiting list. In 2017, for example, health was a concern for only 2.3% of those surveyed, while now it is for almost one in four people from Madrid. What has happened to healthcare in Madrid? What is the reason for this increase? The capital has 262 health centers. However, the management belongs to the Community, which depends on the president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and not on the City Council. Since the start of the pandemic, the region has kept emergency services closed due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida (second from the right), and the Deputy Mayor of Madrid, Begoña Villacís (next to him in the center), pose with other councilors and municipal staff, during the celebration for the 18th Anniversary of the Samurai Social.
The Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida (second from the right), and the Deputy Mayor of Madrid, Begoña Villacís (next to him in the center), pose with other councilors and municipal staff, during the celebration for the 18th Anniversary of the Samurai Social.JJ Guillen (EFE)

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