Mayor stirs airport controversy

news: Mayor stirs airport controversy

LISBON’S NEW mayor Carmona Rodrigues sparked controversy recently by attacking the government’s decision to close the city’s Portela airport in favour of the new airport at Ota (north of Lisbon), reports Chris Graeme.

In his speech at Lisbon Câmara, Carmona blasted the government for not having bothered to talk with the city council and other key metropolitan councillors. To massive applause, he accused the Socialist Party (PS) of having an arrogant, thoughtless and bossy attitude tothe recent announcement that Portela would be shut within 12 years, “without even breathing a single word to the council”.

Carmona Rodrigues said it demonstrated a “blatant lack of consideration and dialogue” on the part of the government, and urged an extraordinary meeting of the Municipal Assembly to discuss the matter.

The Câmara President promised to denounce the government’s “intransigent attitude”, which seemed to think that Lisbon shouldn’t have an international airport, independent of plans to go ahead with building another international airport elsewhere. “Doesn’t the government realise the negative impact that this announcement will have on the economy of the city and the social consequences that this significant loss will have on Lisbon?” he stormed.

However, Carmona Rodrigues refused to be drawn into questions by the press that he himself had contributed towards plans for the new airport at Ota when he was Minister of Public Works under the Social Democratic (PSD) Durão Barroso government. “My job was to oversee and promote various feasibility studies designed to justify, or not, the necessity for the eventual construction of a second international airport. I never suggested closing Portela down,” he told journalists.

Carmona Rodrigues said his responsibility was to fulfil what he had promised in his electoral campaign and guaranteed that he would do it through constant dialogue with other political parties, municipal and parish councils, and institutions that work on behalf of the city. “We will do what we promised and from that we won’t budge, and we will devote the city our full attention,” he stressed.

However, he did not mention the fact that a deal had not yet been brokered allowing him to hold an absolute majority on the city council executive. Referring to his failure to strike a coalition deal with CDS/PP’s Maria José Nogueira Pinto, Carmona told journalists that he wasn’t “unduly stressed out by that situation” and reminded them that, four years ago, when Pedro Santana Lopes had taken the helm at the Câmara, he too didn’t have an understanding with the then CDS/PP councillor Paulo Portas.

In a clear eulogy to his predecessor, he praised Santana Lopes saying: “I owe him a lot and I am grateful for the help he gave me in the challenge of making Lisbon a better city for everyone.”

Opposition members, such as Manuel Maria Carrilho, chief PS councillor, who clearly looked stoney faced throughout Carmona’s speech, could only participate in the two-hour ceremony with polite applause. Among other leading councillors that will serve on the executive were left-wing Bloco de Esquerda’s (BE) controversial lawyer Sá Fernandes, CDS/PP’s Maria José Nogueira Pinto and the CDU’s Rúben de Carvalho and Rita Magrinho.