THE DEPARTURE of Pedro Santana Lopes, the downing of tools on the Marquês tunnel for seven months and the failure of the budget to be passed for the first time in history were just some of the highlights of Lisbon Câmara’s year.
Work on the Marquês tunnel, described by Câmara President, Carmona Rodrigues, as “a Christmas present for Lisboetas”, recommenced on December 6 after a lengthy period of arbitration. A court order had banned work on the tunnel pending the results of an Environmental Impact Study. But an appeal court overturned this decision earlier this month, so paving the way for its completion.
Perhaps the most significant event was Pedro Santana Lopes’ departure from the câmara, to take over as Prime Minister after Durão Barroso resigned to assume the presidency of the European Commission. Carmona Rodrigues took over as Lisbon Câmara president in July and immediately found himself immersed in financial problems – the câmara was in debt to the tune of 118 million euros according to one source. The future of Mayer Park and the city’s Feira Popular remained in doubt, with the câmara searching for new ways to fund renovation work planned by American architect Frank Gehry and suggesting new locations for the recreational area.
In March, the câmara revoked an agreed exchange between the private lands of Mayer Park, owned by Bragaparques and the Amorim Group, and the municipal lands of the Feira Popular in Entrecampos, that would have allowed for the renovation of the two sites.
In June, Santana Lopes proposed a new real estate partnership involving the Public Firm of the Urbanisation of Lisbon (EPUL), the Parque Mayer Investment Real Estate Firm and Espart, from the Espírito Santo. The proposal involved land in Alto do Restelo, the Parque Mayer and the Feira Popular, and would have allowed for the financing of the Frank Gehry project. The câmara’s executive approved the project in December, but the left-wing opposition parties (PS and PCP) voted the budget down in Lisbon’s Municipal Assembly where they form a majority. In spite of this defeat, incoming câmara leader Carmona Rodrigues claimed that the situation “is not going to bring the city to a standstill”.
In September, Carmona Rodrigues fulfilled his predecessor’s electoral promise by opening the new bus terminal at Sete Rios. Other measures included the introduction of an entrance fee at the Castelo de São Jorge and the implementation of new regulations for loading and unloading.