Cuenca mayor-elect Pedro Palacios and incumbent mayor Marcelo Cabrera met Wednesday for the first time, both men expressing their desire for a smooth transition.
Palacios, a local business manager, was the upset winner over Cabrera in the March 24 election.
“Pedro Palacios and I have established committees to work together to make the change of government as efficient as possible,” Cabrera told a radio station after the meeting. “In this process, our first priority must be the interests of the citizens of Cuenca. The transition will be orderly and transparent.”
Municipal councilman Fernando Arteaga will head the committee for Cabrera while Palacio’s campaign director, Jorge Espinoza, will lead a delegation of the new government, which takes office May 14.
Palacios said his meeting with Cabrera was cordial and constructive and said his leadership team has a “steep learning curve to master” before it comes to office. “I respect all that Mayor Cabrera has accomplished and understand the complexity and difficulty of managing the organization of a large city government,” Palacios said. “In the coming weeks, members of my team will meet with the current government to understand what they do so the transition of power will be as seamless as possible.”
Cabrera said he would coordinate personally with Palacios on two city projects which he considers the most important: the tram and the Guangarcucho waste water treatment plant. “These projects are two of the largest and most important of my administration and both are approaching completion. They are also the most important for the people of Cuenca.”
Following the election, Palacios voiced concern about tram safety and said he might extend the testing period currently underway. Originally, Cabrera said the tram would go into public operation on March 9 but the city agreed to a request by tram management company Metro Tenerife to extend the testing period for several weeks with a start-up date yet to be determined.
Juan Ramos, assistant manager of Cuenca’s Metro Tenerife, says he will work closely with Palacios and his team to avoid interruption of testing operations. “Both Mayor Cabrera and Mayor Palacios understand the importance of being fully prepared before we open to the public,” Ramos said. “We are pleased with our progress to this point and believe it will continue.”
Ramos added that delaying the beginning of operations was based on the need for more public awareness of the tram. “Public education is needed wherever trams go into service for the first time and there is nothing unusual about extending the testing period in Cuenca. It has happened in many communities in Europe and Asia as part of the public acclimation process.”
According to Cabrera, the Guangarcucho waste water project is critical for meeting the growth of Cuenca. “This does not get the attention that the tram does, but it is just as important for the future of the city.” Cabrera says.
The tram is a $270 million project while Guangarcucho is projected to cost $80 million when it is completed.