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Tram and ‘reengineering’ governance process are the top priorities for Cuenca’s new mayor

Although new Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios says that getting the tram up and running keeps him awake at night, his larger challenge will be getting the city’s “administrative house in order.” Palacios takes office tomorrow, succeeding Marcelo Cabrera.

New Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios (El Comercio)

“I assume command of a city that has a high quality of life and it is my job to maintain this tradition,” says Palacios. “On the other hand, we must reengineer the processes of governance, improve efficiency and strengthen the way we plan for the future. Over the years, Cuenca has been a reference for other cities on how to deliver basic services and we have seen a decline in quality in recent years. ”

Palacios, who’s career has been in corporate management, says he and his staff have been evaluating the organizational structure of city government since the election and plan major changes. “My goal is to implement new systems by the end of 2019 for the purpose of improving efficiency and services to the residents.”

The mayor-elect says he will build a new stadium, add more parks and develop plans for a new or renovated airport during his term in office. “These will be priorities but they will not come before basic services,” he says.

During the campaign, Palacios said the poor performance of the city’s professional football team is partly the result of an out-dated stadium. “We need a facility suitable for a city of Cuenca’s size and stature, not just for sporting events but for concerts and other mass gatherings. Now, because of the condition of the stadium people don’t want to go there and it is not large enough to host events that would otherwise come to the city.”

Palacios says a planning process is necessary to determine if the Mariscal La Mar Airport is renovated and expanded in its current location or relocated outside of the city. “This decision will be made after the work of professional planners is completed — cost will be a major determinant,” he says.

Palacios says the tram poses “huge” immediate challenges. “It is an inherited work but I understand that the responsibility to make it operational is now mine,” he says. “The outgoing administration indicated that the project is ready to kick off but I do not think this is the case. There is a great deal of critical information that is not available and the commercial operation of the system will not be immediate.”

According to the mayor-elect, bus service must be fully integrated into the new transportation system, a final fare must be determined and security protocols must be reviewed. “There are key elements to the project that remain to be resolved, including what the operating costs will be and the amount of subsidy that will be required. There is important work to be done before the tram begins full operation.”