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Plenary endorses plan to expand protected undersea spaces

Foto ple marc 2017The Formentera Council held its March plenary session today, which featured a unanimous vote to create new protected marine areas to safeguard the future of traditional fishing on Formentera. Bartomeu Escandell, the CiF's vice-president, chair of the presidential cabinet and councillor of rural affairs, gave details.

According to Escandell, the Council's appeal, to the regional government and the national department of environment, turns on the creation of new protected areas—three in the inshore waters of punta de sa Creu and another two in the outer waters of sec des Ram and Baix Fondo. Escandell called it “an effort to defend biodiversity and the future of Formentera's fishing fleet”. Formentera relies heavily on traditional fishing and the boost it provides the island's gastronomic enterprises, which cater to residents and tourists alike, Escandell added.

Today's plenary motion came on the back of a technical report, commissioned by the Council, from the specialist company TRAGSATEC, and a green-light from Formentera's brotherhood of fishermen and the directorate general of fishing in the Balearics. Approval from the two entities covered both which swaths were to be included in the reserves and their proposed level of protection.

Rural renewal
Plenary members also unanimously adopted guidelines for collaboration between the Council and the island's cooperative of farmers. The measure is aimed at extending programmes to renew agriculture and reclaim landscapes through 2017.

The rural affairs councillor recalled the Council's programme, launched in 2015 and still active today, to revive Formentera's countryside. He pinned support for the farmers' cooperative and the farmland reserve initiative (“Cens de Terres” in Catalan) on a commitment to “reclaiming the farmable land that was abandoned with the restructuring of our local economic model”. Escandell described a two-pronged approach: first, revive primary industry and, second, beautify rural landscapes. The public initiative will receive €95,000 in 2017.

Investing in Ràdio Illa
Across-the-board support was also received by proposed regulatory underpinning for collaboration between the Council and ACAF, a local group promoting the audiovisual arts and culture. The measure also includes content production at Formentera's local public radio station, Ràdio Illa.

Escandell hailed the measure for “eliminating direct political influence by enlisting an outside association in the station's oversight”. In recent years Formentera's hometown station has gone through an important turnabout, casting off its status as an “amateur” outfit in favour of more professional features like paid, qualified staff. To further propel those changes as well as the social unity implicit in a strong public radio station, Formentera will increase ACAF's 2017 funding by €10,000, bringing it to €50,000.

Dry stone walls
The plenary also gave approval for a bid to qualify the traditional technique used to build dry stone walls as “intangible cultural heritage”. Heritage councillor Susana Labrador highlighted a simultaneous effort on the international front to gain similar acknowledgement from UNESCO. Besides requesting the distinction, which the other Balearic councils have also done, Labrador underscored other protective measures—“like this year's educational courses or funding for repairs”. The goal, she says, is to guarantee an enduring protection of Formentera's heritage.

Plenary members also received the resignation of Popular Party rep Gabriela Mayans. She will be replaced by the next person on the group's roster.

Official statements
The plenary gathering also served as the occasion for a reading of the administration's declaration on International Women's Day, March 8, 2017. In issuing the statement, the Formentera Council adds its voice to the call for a more egalitarian future. It acknowledges the fact that true equality cannot exist until gender violence is banished. The Council reaffirms its commitment to human rights, which, consequently, is a commitment to women's rights and equal opportunities for both sexes. The Council explicitly salutes all those who have worked to eradicate inequality till present and reiterates its firm determination to rout all that remains today.

“We must continue to press forward with policies promoting women at the workplace and female entrepreneurs, equal opportunities through education, women in IT and rural women. Local institutions must have the authority, the means and the resources to work alongside our institutions in Madrid and Palma to ensure correct application of equality and empowerment policies.

Report
“This year marks the tenth since the Council's inception,” recalled social welfare and human resources councillor Vanessa Parellada, “in that time, social welfare has grown from a small office charged with basic services to a large department with authority at the municipal and island level”.

She held up the social work unit (“Unitat de Treball Social”) as the Office of Social Welfare's nerve centre, citing 352 interventions from the unit's primary care workers in 2016. Care for families made up the lion's share (97), followed by services for the elderly (70) and care for mental health patients (41). Staffers' work covers everything from counselling and orientation to help with benefits requests and referrals to specialised services. Twenty-seven new features have been added to the office's telephone service and 48 individuals and families have benefitted from at-home care. Sixty-one per cent of those beneficiaries are senior citizens and an especial prevalence of that work encompasses personal hygiene assistance.

The office delivers three kinds of benefits: emergency assistance (€11,810 spread across 40 dispersals), guaranteed minimum income and help in social inclusion and job placement (12 cases) and individual assistance dispersals (17).

The office's support of children and families includes grants such as tuition at early-learning centres (received by four households), school supplies and textbooks (eight), participation in sports (nine), summer school (nine).

Psychological assistance, another service of  the office, entails evaluating and facilitating individual and group therapy and was given in 16 cases.

Parellada described care for domestic violence victims as one of the office's most “delicate tasks”. Sixty percent of victims pressed charges against their attacker and restraining orders were issued in 14 cases. Twenty-one of 27 victims were referred directly from hospital or Guardia Civil services. The majority of women in those cases (12 out of 21) are mothers; typically their children are under 18 (16 our of 21) and, predominately, the woman continues to live with her attacker (13 out of 21). Women who are mistreated psychologically (or physically and psychologically) with an average age of 45 represent the prevailing archetype.

Parellada also spoke of the “consolidated” nature of her office's work on immigration. Their efforts, she said, focus on educating and orienting recent arrivals from beyond Europe's borders and promoting such individuals' equal access to public services, as well as their inclusion in the local community. In 2016 the office provided immigration-related assistance to roughly 470 individuals through 1,088 appointments and 166 newly opened cases.

On youth services, Parellada held up the fitness-oriented leisure programme «Formentera marxa» and outreach at local schools. A specialised company has been enlisted in the effort to turbocharge outreach to high school students. The firm's staffer continues to work with pupils in primary school on issues of socialising, emotional intelligence, decision-making and conflict resolution. Leisure activities are likewise organised afternoons from Thursday to Saturday in the Sant Ferran school courtyard.

Leisure in Sant Francesc is yoked to the town's youth centre, the Casal de Joves. Now in its tenth year, the Casal continues to offer a monthly activities programme for youth aged 10 to 26 (the majority of participants are between 14 and 17). Youth also take part in events promoted by other groups inside and outside the administration, like Festa Intercultural, International Women's Day and school days.

On human resources, the councillor described an initial period of growth followed by a run of consolidation that began one year ago and continues today. “With the benefit of hindsight,” said the councillor, “it would appear my hypothesis last year was absolutely correct”. The focus, she added, is on “working within our present legal framework to guarantee stability and high-quality work among the professionals that drive this administration”.

Educational community takes look at draft plan for new Sant Ferran school

Foto presentacio escola de sant ferranFormentera Council president Jaume Ferrer was joined today by the regional minister of education and universities, Martí March, in unveiling provisional plans for a new Sant Ferran primary school. The 2.00pm demo took place in the town's retirees' club and included CiF education councillor Susana Labrador, chief of planning, land use and centres in the Balearics, Antoni Morante, and affiliates of IBISEC, the regional agency in charge of infrastructure and educational services.

President Ferrer spoke enthusiastically about the Palma officials' visit, calling it “the welcome start of a project Formentera residents have long lobbied for”. He voiced satisfaction that the educational community was getting its opportunity to appraise the plans, “an important element to reaching consensus”. Ferrer pointed to a May vote on changes to municipal code as the next step be critical to making sure permits are delivered in time for a summer start to building.

After visiting the existing classrooms this morning, the regional minister reaffirmed the proposed changes represented “a very real necessity”. According to March, IBISEC's planned rebuild involves linking the remodeled school with a new early-learning centre, or “escoleta,” promised by the Council. The project—“a combined effort” that March predicted could be finished by late 2018—“is not only ambitious, but it's also extremely necessary”. March extended his thanks to the Council for its instrumental work in making the project a reality.

The aim of the presentation was to communicate the main features of the plans and ensure input from families, pupils, teachers and neighbours was included in the final product.

Sant Ferran's primary school, with its 284 pupils, occupies a plot of land that doesn't allow for further expansion. Hence the bid to draw up the new plans, which the department of education flagged for priority treatment in its 2016-2023 plan for educational infrastructure.

Characteristics of the school
The draft plans envision a school equipped for two groups of every class ("two-line") and 450 pupils total. Children would be spread across six pre-primary groups (ages three to six) and 12 sections of primary students (six to 12). The 11,037m2 lot, handed over by the Formentera Council, is located on Sant Ferran's outer edges. The administration will build the new escoleta on the adjoining lot, another “two-line” centre with 74 children aged zero to three.

The school, shaped like a hair comb, will be linked to another building housing offices of the administration and the school's canteen. That building, with street access, can also be used to receive pupils in the morning and as a gathering space.

The primary school section of the proposed building is divided into three pavilions, the first of which includes shared spaces like a library, computer lab, teachers' lounge and multipurpose room as well as rooms for one-on-one learning and small groups. The other two pavilions, with central hallways flanked by classrooms on either side, will house the school's 12 groups.

Pre-primary and nursery children will have use of their own play area, a patio that will be separate from primary pupils' playground. The patio will also be a hub for communication between the nursery and pre-primary classrooms. The primary school gymnasium will be located behind these units.

The pre-primary/primary school buildings and the municipal escoleta are €5,810,100.06 and €1,090,345.31 investments, respectively. According to the education department, once under way, the project will be locked into a 14-month time frame.

Local security council convenes in effort to boost inter-agency coordination

Reunio jls marc2017Members of the island's security council came together earlier today in a gathering which was co-chaired by Formentera Council president Jaume Ferrer and Palma's envoy on the island Maria Salom. The meeting was also attended by a bevy of CiF officials —vice-president Susana Labrador, presidential cabinet councillor Bartomeu Escandell, mobility councillor Rafael González and social welfare councillor Vanessa Parellada—, members of other parties, national security officers like Jaume Barceló, colonel of the Balearic Islands civil guard, José Manuel Mariscal de Gante, Eivissa's commissioner of the Spanish national police, along with individuals from the local police, civil protection and other emergency services on the island.

Describing the annual pre-summer encounter as a way to “take stock of the previous season and coordinate the security forces' joint efforts ahead the coming season,” Ferrer took the opportunity to welcome the Govern Balear's recently appointed Formentera delegate and share with her the key points affecting safety on the island, like entry and exit through the la Savina port and drug trafficking. Ferrer said that too few agents on the local police force was one reason greater inter-agency coordination would be needed.

Civil guard base in la Savina
The president cited repeated calls for a permanent boat on the Guardia Civil's sea fleet. In that respect, Ferrer said both Colonel Barceló and Ms Salom had alluded to the possibility of stationing the force's Pitiüsa-based watercraft in la Savina. The Council president openly welcomed the possibility and said that talks were already under way with the Balearic port authority and other authorities to make it a reality.

For her part, the Govern's envoy celebrated the “spirit of teamwork” among meeting attendees which she said would “guarantee a safer Formentera and ensure all the agencies here today are more efficient and effective”. She also said that the positive outcome of experiences last summer would cement the regional ministry's support for continued cooperation between Italian carabinieri and local security forces on Formentera. In addition, Salom announced the Govern's plan to sign off on a cross-agency convention to stop gender violence.

Formentera Council island president Jaume Ferrer's address on Diada de les Illes Balears

Foto discurs institucional-For 10 years now, there have been 4 of us-

Formentera, March 1, 2017

Bon dia a tothom. Thank you for being here today. We've got plenty of activities in store and your participation will make the day wonderful and festive. Thanks go to Espai dones de Formentera, Grup esportiu Espalmador and Asociación española contra el cáncer for working with us to organise today's fabulous walk/run and paella.

Today is a holiday not just on Formentera but on each one of the Balearic Islands. Though here on Formentera we've got even more reasons to celebrate. I hope everyone enjoys the day and the activities scheduled. I'm here to explain why I say that here on Formentera there are more reasons to celebrate.

Because for 10 years now there have been 4 of us.
For 10 years now the Balearic Islands have had 4 island councils.
For 10 years now Formentera has felt like one of the four pieces of the Balearic Islands Autonomous Community.

Though technically speaking our region has always been composed of four islands (not counting the smaller, unpopulated ones), that wasn't the political reality until 2007. Previously, and politically speaking, there were only three of us. Mallorca, Menorca and —sharing one single island council— Eivissa and Formentera.

Yesterday on Palma, I watched Isidor Torres as he received the Ramon Llull award, a well-deserved honour. He was the last person to serve as mayor of the Ajuntament de Formentera, our island's local municipal authority. He said —I remember it well—: “We want to be the fourth supporting wall of the autonomous community”.

Formentera was the only island in the country without its own council. Whilst the other islands debated whether or not we were large enough to justify our own council, we knew, for it was our day-to-day reality, that our island had outgrown its little ajuntament.

We seized the opportunity provided by the overhaul of the Balearic Islands' Statute of Autonomy. The unity of all our political forces, plus the combined efforts of Isidor Torres and Pep Mayans, bore fruit.

On March 1, 2007, Organic Law 1/2007, adopted February 28 and included in the Statute of Autonomy of the Balearic Islands, was published in Spain's official state bulletin. It entered into force the following day.

A great change for Formentera.

Article 18.2, in the third section of the 1983 Statute, read: “The island councils shall be charged with the governance and administration of Mallorca, Menorca and Eivissa/Formentera and of their neighbouring islands”.

Article 61, in the fourth section of the 2007 Statute, reads: “Each island shall have its own governing body, an island council. These shall be charged with the governance, administration and representation of Mallorca, Menorca, Eivissa and Formentera”.

The 2007 overhaul of the Statute of Autonomy did away with the barriers set forth by the 1983 Statute that had made Formentera the only island in Spain without its own council.

On July 10, 2007, freed from the legal barriers which had historically stood in the way and driven by the desire to find political solutions in tune with our reality, a president assumed leadership of a council that was uniquely Formentera's.

In that sense, the Statute allows us to tackle our island's problems right here where they occur.

It's been an exhilarating few years. We were faced with the task of turning our local municipal authority into a municipality and council. Nowhere in Spain was there any precedent to serve as a roadmap, but we stuck it out and today we've got greater ability to self-govern.

We've got increased resources. Just look at our funding. In its final year, the Ajuntament de Formentera had 10.6 million euros. Today our Council has got 23.8 million.

Every day, more people wake up and head to work at the island's governing body. In 2007 there were 144 on the payroll. Today there are 278.

Overall, new institutions like this one and the hospital, which this year also celebrates its tenth year, mean improved well-being and growth. We've gone from 9,380 inhabitants (January 2007) to 12,945 (January 2017).

This gathering is a celebration of 10 years of the Formentera Council's existence. There will be more. During this special year, we hope we'll have the time to thank both the councillors that comprise our governing team and those of all our political parties, as well as Formentera Council staff and individuals from other participating institutions, all of whom have built an administration that is worthy of the great people it represents.

Before finishing, I'd like to thank the Govern de les Illes Balears for the hand it has played in organising today's activities, here and on the other islands. And to thank you, for listening. Molts anys i bons a tothom!

Formentera plenary pushes Govern Balear for housing benefits

Foto votacio ple febrer 2017Members of the Formentera Council gathered today to celebrate the administration's February plenary. During the session one measure on housing benefits, adopted unanimously, proposed pushing the Govern Balear to heed the suggestions and comments included in a housing bill. Land councillor Alejandra Ferrer called it “a step toward resolving the problematic issue of home rentals on Formentera in a way that takes into account the particular characteristics of the island and the needs that exist here”. Councillors also voted to urge the executive branch of the regional government to create benefits for home renters, bearing in mind, said Ferrer, “low-income families and €600-plus rental payments”. Representatives from all of the parties supported the measure.

Revival of Formentera's salt flat heritage
The plenary also saw the unanimous adoption of a measure to protect Formentera's salt flat heritage, an asset which, as patrimony councillor Susana Labrador called to mind, received official recognition in 2004. The text calls for urgent action by the Balearic Islands' coastal authority, Govern Balear and Formentera Island Council to prevent major damages to the structure that houses the “màquina d'en Palla” and restore other related sites.

Plenary members also voted to push authorities to work with the owners of the land where Ses Salines is located to implement a project to revive the salt flats. Such a project was agreed on August 4, 2015 by the ensemble of the political parties with representation in the Council. Councillor Labrador said that text calls for “the construction of an interpretative centre, restoration of related heritage sites in the park and creation of a network of walking and cycling trails that showcase the natural beauty and historic importance of Ses Salines, including signs highlighting plant and animal life in the park”.

Other proposals
Also adopted at the plenary despite the Popular Party's abstention was a proposal by the socialists (PSOE) regarding the central government's policy on awarding grants and urging equal opportunities and rights for all students. Support was likewise given, with 13 votes for and two Popular Party (PP) votes against, to a joint proposal from PSOE and Gent per Formentera (GxF), calling for policies to promote equality and curb gender violence as well as observance, March 8, 2017, of International Women's Day.

Official statement
All parties lent support to a call from GxF and PSOE to lift barriers to refugee reception. The manifesto airs concerns over the desperate situation of Syrians displaced by a war now in its fifth year. According to social welfare councillor Vanessa Parellada the text also highlights Spain's refusal to meet intake quotas for asylum seekers set by the European Union in 2016.
 
Report from sports councillor
Sports councillor Jordi Vidal took stock of his department's efforts and pointed to targets on the horizon in 2017. He highlighted upcoming plans extend and increase by 20% a partnership promoting the values inherent in sport. Vidal also trumpeted the early go-ahead received to extend a partnership with the Balearic Islands' foundation for sports and the scheduling of two regional school sports finals on the island.

Vidal also held up one of his department's priorities: a nautical sports centre he said had already received the green light from the Palma government and Balearic Islands coastal authority. According to the councillor, the call for bids to construct the centre is currently being prepared.

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