The San Juan Daily Star
Governor: Dissolution of municipalities ‘not even feasible’
By The Star Staff
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Tuesday dismissed the repeal of municipalities, supported having his sister file financial reports to the Government Ethics Office and rejected legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Amid media reports, including from the STAR, that 30 island municipalities may shut down in July because of financial problems, the governor dismissed the possibility that some towns may be consolidated into others.
The governor said he wants to keep the current 78 municipalities and promote the creation of consortiums, in which several towns join resources to provide services.
“When talking about consolidating municipalities, if you are talking about eliminating municipalities, it seems to me that this is not imagined and it seems to me that this is not even feasible,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “For you to eliminate a municipality, you have to hold a referendum in that municipality and get the majority of the residents of that municipality to basically agree to eliminate it.”
“And I know my people, and I know that all the people of Puerto Rico, as a general rule, want to have a mayor who they can go to demand better services, who intercedes on behalf of the citizenry. So I do not envision the elimination of municipalities; what I do envision is the greater use of consortiums, which is a way of joining efforts so that large municipalities assume responsibilities of smaller municipalities. That is the future.”
Pierluisi also rejected the legalization of marijuana for recreational use as a solution for stemming a crime wave on the island. Puerto Rico currently allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
“We must understand that some of these horrific crimes that we are seeing are not really preventable by the police as such,” Pierluisi told the press. “This stems mainly from the drug trafficking problem that we face.”
“There are no easy or simplistic solutions. Some are saying, look, if you legalize marijuana, everything is resolved,” he added. “No, that is not correct because all kinds of drugs are sold at drug trafficking points. Heroin is sold, cocaine is sold, fentanyl is sold. In other words, legalizing marijuana is not going to solve the drug trafficking problem. The problem is bigger than just that.”
“This issue of recreational cannabis, that is before the Legislative Assembly, we will see what the Legislative Assembly does,” he said.
Pierluisi also said he is willing to sign legislation that will require relatives of a governor working at the governor’s office to file ethics reports, but with changes.
“I am willing to evaluate and sign House Bill 505, which would require the filing of ethics reports by relatives of the governor who work in the governor’s own office, into law,” Pierluisi said. “However, I emphasize that this will be subject to a measure including all relatives -- as defined in the Government Ethics Law -- of any elected official, whether legislator or mayor, who works in the legislative or executive branch.
This measure, as it is drafted, is a partisan political attack, he said, since it is only directed at relatives of the governor, who is from another political party rather than those relatives of the legislative majority.
“If the law is to be changed, and greater transparency is wanted, it must include all close relatives of elected officials regardless of party,” the governor said. “It should not be legislated by order or agenda, but rather to establish requirements of general application.”