Summary of Today’s “Big Dig” Meeting

The body language says it all… Lic. Ochoa on the left, Architect García on the right.

UPDATE Monday 22 May:

The meeting on Friday did take place, and began at noon as originally scheduled. No plan was presented, however. Isaac Aranguré summarized the meeting on his Facebook page:

“Buenas tardes. Proyecto Centro Histórico.

Al final si tuvimos reunión con las autoridades.
No se presentó el plan.
No nos dieron fechas especificas ni etapas.

Lo que se puede rescatar:
Si existe un proyecto.
Si hay investigación e inclusión en el proyecto.
La rectificación por parte de las autoridades para SI tener la reunión.
La creación de comités vecinales para colaborar gobierno y ciudadanía.

Invitación personal:
Tenemos que sumar esfuerzos para que el proyecto salga adelante porque nos conviene a todos, pero no descansemos en garantizar que se mantengan las condiciones básicas de vida necesarias para residentes y comercios. Además será bien importante acercarse a las instancias correspondientes para resolver puntos en lo particular.

Punto extra:
Buscaremos hacer la solicitud a la instancia respectiva del proyecto integral, para poder socializarlo.

Un abrazo.”

Citizens of the affected area have organized themselves, with a leader appointed for each street/block. They have a WhatsApp group and a Facebook page, and have already met several times to come to agreement on priorities. Let us hope officials will listen to and honor the voice of the people who live downtown. Today there were at least two different streets reported as flooded, and very few workers showed up for work. Some said it was because they had not been paid last week, but I am unable to confirm this through official channels.

 

UPDATE 11:30 am on Friday 19 May:

Unbelievable as it seems, after CANCELLING the meeting scheduled for today at 11pm last night, today, one hour before, they reinstate it! See below. Meeting to take place in Casa Haas at 12:30 with state officials.

Centro Historico Mazatlan Aviso: En vista a todo lo que ha sucedido con respecto a la reunión programada en Casa Haas para el día de hoy, les comento que nos acaban de informar que para las personas que acudan, se contará con la presencia de los representantes del H. Ayuntamiento de Mazatlán que están involucrados en el proyecto para darles una explicación de todos los cambios que se están tratando de hacer en los planes de trabajo, así mismo se contará con la presencia del Subsecretario de Obras Públicas Estatal para que responda a todas sus inquietudes. Sólo les informo que esta reunión dará inicio a las 12:30 pm.

 

UPDATE Thursday night at 11 pm:
NOTICE!!! Tomorrow’s citizen meeting has been CANCELLED! See message below. How very disappointing. Let us hope they really go house by house as they say to deal with citizen and business issues directly.

Centro Historico Mazatlan
Aviso Importante! Les informo que la reunión de mañana viernes 19 de mayo en Casa Haas se cancela, el motivo por el cual no se llevará a cabo es que a partir de una junta q tuvieron las personas involucradas del H. Ayuntamiento de Mazatlan y los contratistas decidieron cambiar su plan de trabajo y llevar a cabo un acercamiento directo con la gente. Por lo q el día de mañana a partir de las 9 am harán un recorrido calle por calle para explicar el proyecto, conocer sus necesidades, dar una respuesta a los acuerdos q se tomaron en la reunión del miércoles y hacer compromisos de manera directa con todos los vecinos para poder trabajar de una mejor manera.

Favor de compartir el mensaje

Original Article from Wednesday 17 May:
Today at noon in Casa Haas was the first (!) citizen meeting regarding “The Big Dig”—as I call it—in “Centro Histérico” downtown. The city calls it a magna obra or “mega project.” The meeting was attended by city officials involved in the project, representatives of the 18 contractors, and about 140 concerned residents and business owners. Mayor Pucheta was conspicuously absent; Lic. Juan Manuel Ochoa led from the city side. Click any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The latest round of “city beautification” in preparation for the Tianguis Turístico 2018—the national tourism convention—has affected at least eleven different streets downtown (though it’s scheduled to affect 25), rendering residents unable to get to their homes, disabled people confined to their homes, and many businesses losing 70% or more of their incomes. Don’t even ask about parking; for the past two weeks we take public transportation to get downtown because there is little if any parking to be had. Mazatlán’s Centro Histórico already had a dearth of parking, but now the city has removed at least 200 street parking spaces and has blocked access to several public parking garages, rendering them useless during construction.

“It’s easier to apologize than it is to ask permission” is a maxim. I’ve been told that in Mexico if officials announce their projects, citizens object and protest, often causing delays in the project and loss of federal or state funds. Well, this time, “The Big Dig” comes on the heels of an earlier nine-month-long dig, that one to remedy drainage issues (which didn’t work), and several other digs before that. Citizen confidence is low, and tempers are flaring.

The meeting got off to a positive start, with the citizen organizers reading a message to the officials and contractors present. The organizers (including Laura Medina and the “señoras of Calle Libertad”) had wisely gathered questions from the local community and presented them to the city ahead of time. The agenda was that there would be the opening statement by the citizen representatives, we would hear the city officials’ answers to the community’s questions, and then there would be discussion.

The citizen representatives’ opening message explained that the community very much supports the idea of city improvements and beautification, but that we are concerned about an apparent lack of coordination: so many streets closed at the same time, no alternative routing, public and emergency services unable to access various locations, and no instructions for residents on where to park their cars. The message explained that Centro Histórico residents are suffering the effects of previous poor public works projects, with uneven paving, frequent flooding and poor drainage, and that many businesses and homes have had their electric, gas or water cut during this latest project. They pleaded that health issues are a concern: dust affects residents’ lungs and irritates the skin, and there has been far too much sewage backing up onto city streets. The message as read concluded by saying, “We need to understand what’s happening in order to support the project. Please respect us by giving us answers rather than just asking us to cooperate (aguantar/put up with).”

Lic. Ochoa introduced city architect Joel García. Mr. García got off to an unfortunate start when he stated that city streets, in cooperation with the state, had been “torn up starting two weeks ago.” Everyone present knows we’ve been living in chaos for over six weeks, since March; Mr. García’s comments were greeted with the meeting’s first round of booing and shouting, losing grip on the positive start to the meeting.

Arq. García told us that 14 more streets will be torn up before the project is complete, according to the Executive Plan, which garnered a second round of booing and shouting and the meeting’s first of dozens of pleas to “trust us.” García’s schedule of when streets have been/will be torn up was met with jeers by many residents attending, who said it was “alternate reality.” Photos of Arq. García’s Powerpoint slides are below.

A resident asked where she could park, since her street is torn up and she has street parking. Arq. García told her that Public Security would help her find a place. Another resident said, “Contractors have come from Escuinapa, Rosario… everyone has known about this project except those of us who live here. Why weren’t we informed?” A gentleman then asked what kind of compensation businesses could expect for loss of income; Lic. Ochoa assured him there would be incentives.

Several times the citizen organizers attempted to quiet the crowd, explaining that if we all spoke out of order, we wouldn’t get a chance to hear what the city had to say. For a while Lic. Ochoa encouraged people to vent, and said the city would respond once everyone had spoken. After an hour or so of that, it became obvious that the original agenda would be a better way forward, and Arq. García retook the floor. A gentleman from Atención a la Ciudadanía/Citizen Relations got up to speak, but had trouble holding the floor due to the shouting and jeering.

The most common phrase of the day was “trust us,” followed by “you can’t blame us for the prior administration’s shoddy work.” We were assured that there is a committee of architects supervising the project and ensuring that all work is performed in good order before contractors are paid. We were told contractors have deadlines, and their pay is linked to keeping those; which of course raised concerns about quality and coordination, since all streets seem to be torn up at once.

Some of the key things we learned, and some of the agreements made, include:

  1. There will be a second meeting on Friday May 19 at noon in Casa Haas. At that time the city will present the Executive Plan to us. NOTE: As of Thursday May 18 at 10pm the city cancelled this meeting! They say they will go house to house to be in direct contact instead. See notice at top of this post.
  2. Each contractor is obligated to stay on the street on which it is working; they are not to block cross streets unless they are actively working on the intersection. If such happens, we should report the incident to the police.
  3. García presented a plan of “alternative routes,” and said these are the routes that will be used by public service and emergency vehicles. Sadly, according to the residents present, many of the routes don’t work because though the immediate road may be open, the road it feeds into is closed. García said they will work with Tránsito to change the direction of traffic on several streets to ensure that alternative routing actually flows.
  4. García showed us a map of three parking lots that residents can use free of charge for the duration of the project. He said these lots will be open 24 hours a day through the completion of the project, and that a police officer will always be present. He told us stickers would be handed out at Friday’s meeting enabling residents to use the parking.
  5. García fortunately told us that three new vertical (multi-level) parking structures are planned as part of this project, each accommodating about 60-80 cars. While in my humble opinion these should have been built first, prior to tearing up the roads and removing the existing parking, the plan is to build them only after road construction is complete. By that time the price of land for building parking structures will be much higher, of course. There was no mention of location for the vertical parking structures, nor whether they would be architecturally consistent with the look of Centro Histórico.
  6. García said there will be compensation (incentivos) for Centro Histórico business owners. Lic. Ochoa said he would put a committee of residents together to figure out specifics.
  7. There was talk of doubling up on the shifts so that the work can be done sooner, prior to rainy season setting in. My concern on that is noise for residents.

Residents remained outraged throughout the meeting. Complaints I was able to note included:

  • Alternate routes such as Aquiles Serdán have so much traffic now, and are so congested with buses, that using it is not viable, according to some.
  • Residents should have been included in the planning process, not at this late date, shouted others.
  • Many said it was obvious the city had no plan for residents and businesses during the project, and that it’s only just now beginning to think about it, thanks to citizen demands.
  • Privately, several Centro Histórico business owners told me they are afraid to complain to the city, despite the huge hardships, due to possible reprisals (inspectors, licensing, etc).
  • Wheelchair access is impossible now, as there are no sidewalks.
  • The elderly have trouble walking so far to get to their houses, and are in danger of assault, particularly at night.
  • Historic homes in the area, made of cantera and also adobe, are suffering from the vibration of repeated redoing of the streets. We are ruining the very heritage we are seeking to show tourists, explained two residents.
  • Buses are running on alternate routes, and people don’t know which bus heads where.
  • Gardens and greenery are great, but they need to be maintained or they become garbage cans.

Let us hope that the chaos we are suffering is worth it in the end. Functioning drainage, potable water, and well-groomed streets in Centro Histórico would be completely wonderful. I personally think more pedestrian areas will add to the area—as long as there is sufficient parking for residents and the public, and access for the handicapped and elderly. It is a shame to me that there needs to be citizen outrage in order for the municipal government to share its plans and take resident concerns into account, but, let us hope these meetings result in positive steps forward.

About Dianne Hofner Saphiere

There are loads of talented people in this gorgeous world of ours. We all have a unique contribution to make, and if we collaborate, I am confident we have all the pieces we need to solve any problem we face. I have been an intercultural organizational effectiveness consultant since 1979, working primarily with for-profit multinational corporations. I lived and worked in Japan in the late 70s through the 80s, and currently live in and work from México, where with a wonderful partner we've raised a bicultural, global-minded son. I have worked with organizations and people from over 100 nations in my career. What's your story?

8 thoughts on “Summary of Today’s “Big Dig” Meeting

    • Unbelievably no one mentioned timing, Dee. All eyes are on the Tianguis. On Friday we’ll be able to ask, I’m sure. I have heard it is all to be done by the end of the year. The goal is for the streets to be finished before rainy season. Then, supposedly, building the vertical parking garages. Hmm….

      • Was there any mention of making any improvements to the water infrastructure? New pipes, etc…

      • Yes, Pat. Supposedly they are doing that now: drainage and drinking water improvements, flooding prevention. However, that has been done how many times? Maybe this time will be THE ONE!

  1. Diane, thank you for writing about this clearly and in a neutral enough manner that those of us who live in the city but couldn’t attend, can have an understanding of what is going on. Appreciate it! 🙂

  2. Thank you for your time and effort to communicate this so those of us who own property or spend our dollars in Mazatlán are aware of the situation in more honest terms than just rumours.

    • You are very welcome. Downtown citizens have now organized themselves with a representative from each street/block. They have a WhatsApp group and a private FB page, and have met a few times already to get their ducks in a row. One concerning factor is the low number of workers who showed up today, Monday. Some who did show up say they were not paid last week, and that’s why many of their colleagues didn’t show up today. There are also two streets flooded today. Fingers crossed that citizens’ groups can be clear and unified, and that project officials will hear and respond responsibly.

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