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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mayors Assn. promotes analysis of gov’t decentralization

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz on Wednesday sent letters to island legislative leaders and officials of the Financial Oversight and Management Board to put into action the process of analysis on the issue of decentralization of the powers of the central government, among other issues for which lobbying work has already begun in the Legislature.

“There is a programmatic commitment to the decentralization of competencies from central government agencies to municipalities,” said Hernández Ortiz, who is the mayor of Villalba. “As is common knowledge, the benefits of decentralization have been widely probed and tested. This strategic approach to public administration not only strengthens public management, but also has a significant impact on the well-being of our communities throughout Puerto Rico, which we know are crucial for the sustainable and equitable development of our island.”

The letter also points out that decentralization integrates citizens into government processes, since it brings the entities that provide services closer to the population that receives them. It also makes it easier for local needs to be prioritized and eases the workload of the central government, streamlining government processes in general.

“Mobilizing resources at the local level achieves a more equitable development that typically reduces the cost of providing certain services and ultimately minimizes expenses for the movement of materials and people, lower indirect costs at the municipal level than at the state level, and more direct supervision of the service,” the Mayors Association president said.

Hernández Ortiz specifically detailed to legislators and oversight board members some of the competencies, by agency, that mayors have identified as having the potential to generate savings and improve efficiency and effectiveness:

* Department of Transportation and Public Works: Maintenance, decoration and beautification of green areas on roads, among others;

* Department of Education: School Transportation, maintenance and decoration of public schools, among others;

* Family Department: Housekeeping services for the elderly and disabled, among others;

* Department of Recreation and Sports: Transfer of national parks and/or government resorts, among others;

* Department of Public Safety: Firefighter competencies, emergency medical competencies (legislation should be passed to bring both agencies out of the department’s umbrella), state emergency management competencies;

* Department of Health: Transfer of financial resources to eligible animal shelters, spraying services;

* Department of Natural and Environmental Resources: Cleaning of waterways;

* Aqueduct and Sewer Authority: Delegating repairs to roads impacted by the authority’s work.

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