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Formentera asks Madrid and Palma for help tackling housing crunch

Foto ple novembre 2015Members of the Formentera Council (CiF) came together today to celebrate the administration's November plenary session. Unanimous approval was given to a proposal tackling housing issues and evictions electric bill breaks for low-income homes. According to Councillor Alejandra Ferrer of the department of local land management, finding year-round accommodation continues to be the one of Formentera's big quagmires despite the Palma administration's efforts, including the present construction of low-cost public housing.

The Council of Formentera has also attempted to tackle the housing question here locally, through its creation of a legal status for private citizens who rent their homes to seasonal tourists, which Councillor Ferrer points out «could inversely help by highlighting the supply of houses and apartments not for seasonal holidayers». According to Ferrer, such a system opens the door to compiling a list of homes available for year-round rental.

To tackle the problem, plenary attendants green-lighted a motion to urge the Govern Balear to open a local branch of the regional housing office IBAVI (Instituto Balear de la Vivienda). The measure includes putting pressure on both Palma and Madrid to «adopt policies that actively support residents' right to housing and help in paying astronomical electricity bills».

Improving accessibility

The attendants of the plenary also unanimously passed a proposition from Socialistes de Formentera to draft a municipal accessibility plan for local buildings. Transport councillor Rafa González detailed his department's efforts on the issue and assured the Council's commitment to ameliorating a subject «where we all know Formentera comes up short». He assured all new infrastructure in Formentera is made with accessibility in mind. Opposition parties requested the change happen progressively.

Attendants also unanimously accepted a Socialistes proposal to create a digital literacy programme for the non-tech savvy. A proposition from the Compromís amb Formentera group also secured unanimous support. The idea is to create a sports volunteer corps, which, explained Councillor Jordi Vidal, will be overseen by the office of sport.

Smoke-free beaches

Another vote that garnered unanimous support: a proposition from Compromís to look into creating smoke-free beaches. The councillor of environment, Daisee Aguilera, said the administration «will study the legal viability of implementing smoke-free criteria either in specific areas or entire beaches». She stressed, however, that any outreach will be key to whichever course of action the Council takes: «This is especially a problem of education and that is really where we want to be making leaps and strides».

Plenary participants also approved a measure from the PP on illegal dumping. The councillor of the environment commented: «We are in the midst of forming a troupe of inspectors that can target this and other problems». Finally, the councillor of social welfare read out loud the administration's official proclamation honouring the International  Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Fifteen students graduate from integration course

Foto curs integracio novembre 2015On Thursday, 26 November, a group of fifteen students and one professor held the final session of a course on social and cultural integration. The short course was organised by the immigration office of the CiF department of social welfare and held in Formentera's adult learning centre, l'Escola d'Adults. Department head Vanessa Parellada was on hand to personally hand out certificates attesting students had successfully completed the integration course, and, in some cases, a parallel language course as well. Both attestations are required to complete the application for a residency permit.

This particular course has been offered twice a year – in March and November – since 2013. This year's group comprised a broad range of nationalities: Argentinians, Colombians, Pakistanis and Moroccans. In class, the students learned overviews of the values embodied in the Spanish constitution, human rights and civil liberties, the Balearic statute of autonomy, the European Union and gender equality.

In November, the group met over 20 hours on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The classes, explained Councillor Parellada, are conceived for recent arrivals to Formentera who are interested in fully integrating into civil society here.

Youth council holds plenary meeting

Ple infancia i joventut premsaEarlier today in the administration’s plenary hall, members of the participatory youth council (Consell de Participació de la Infància I la Joventut) came together to celebrate the group’s plenary session. CiF president Jaume Ferrer was on hand to introduce the participants: 24 pupils from the island’s three primary schools and IES Marc Ferrer secondary school. Vanessa Parellada, councillor of social welfare, started off the meeting by enumerating the activities the Council has coordinated this month in celebration of the International Day of the Child.

Parellada went on to speak about the different Council-backed improvement projects that took place this summer at Formentera schools. She also alluded to the possibility of creating a youth volunteer corps and talked about a new project in la Mola aimed at creating a safe trail for the children who walk to and from school there. Likewise, she proposed opening discussion on a new location for the island’s skate park.

The children shared stories from last week’s youth plenary at the Balearic parliament in Palma and took the opportunity to urge their CiF representatives to take action on different issues like creating more bike paths and zebra crossings in towns and increasing the number of children’s parks. The pupils put questions to the president and councillors in an attempt to better understand the work of public officials and urge further improvements. President Ferrer promised to follow up on the issues at the group’s next meeting in six months.  

Push for checks at rubbish bins to ensure best use

Contenidors premsaTwo Formentera Council offices – Presidènica, the presidential cabinet, and Medi Ambient, environment – have come together to push for checks at rubbish drop-spots. The move, said Bartomeu Escandell, department head at Presidència, is intended to «ensure proper disposal practices and sanction anti-social behavior».

An environment office watchman and an officer of the local police have begun making rounds at drop-off points, a practice meant to dissuade residents from improper disposal of rubbish. In cases where offences are witnessed, the officials are writing citations, which carry a fine.

Councillor Escandell called on all island residents to do their part to keep Formentera clean and reminded them that a free at-home pick-up service exists to dispose of old and oversized furniture. He also refered to the new rubbish tip, which has been in operation – morning and afternoon – since this May. Fines for improper waste disposal start at 50 euros and can go as high as 3,000.

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