NPP candidate for San Juan mayor criticizes ‘sale’ of public building
By John McPhaul
The president of the New Progressive Party in San Juan, Miguel Romero, described the simulated “sale” -- without an auction and for the nominal price of one dollar -- of a building in Puerta de Tierra called “The Temple of the Teacher” as a case of irresponsibility and an attack against public funds at a time when the Municipality of San Juan is in a serious financial situation.
Romero said that on Monday, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto filed the Ordinance Bill No. 5, Series 2020-2021, whereby the Municipality of San Juan simulates “selling” for one dollar and without holding a public auction, “The Temple of the Teacher” building. The municipal property is currently under a lease agreement begun in 2015, for a period of 30 years, also for one dollar and without auction, with the Puerto Rican Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, which would now be the “alleged buyer,” after also benefiting from a million-dollar investment with public funds in the remodeling of the building.
The facility was transferred from the central government to the Municipality of San Juan in 2012. The transfer was made so that the municipality could use it to provide “services of a social nature for the general well being,” according to the measure that authorized the transfer.
Romero, who is a candidate for mayor of San Juan, questioned the transaction that the current mayor intends, because the facility was restored through an allocation of public funds amounting to $1 million in 2016, through Joint Resolution 60-2016.
“Practically giving away municipal public facilities, without an auction process, and in which a significant amount of public funds has been invested, is an irresponsible act of major proportions when the finances of the Capital City are almost bankrupt,” said Romero, who is also a senator representing San Juan. “The Municipality of San Juan is in debt, has millions in judicial claims, debts with service providers, and debts with its employees. What sense does it make to be giving away properties of great value, without even holding a public auction to obtain for the people of San Juan the best economic benefit that the market can give? The Municipality urgently needs money to pay its still owed employee wages and obligations. Every dollar counts and we cannot understand how it is possible to give away properties that can mean income for the Municipality and thus be able to solve the pressing problems of the citizens of San Juan.”
“The Capital City requires that its municipal government maintain its assets for the benefit of all sanjuaneros,” he added. “Giving away high-value municipal public facilities -- by simulating a false sale -- in which significant amounts of public money have been invested, should not be an option in times when the municipal government fails to pay pensions to the central government, it owes money to its employees, needs more resources for the maintenance and up-keep of parks, streets and sidewalks, in short, times when every penny counts and costs every sanjuanero. This is something that we repudiate and that must be stopped and investigated.”