Strangers in the same town: Mayors and residents have sharply differing views of their municipalities

Though mayors seem highly satisfied with their performance, the residents of their municipalities are extremely displeased, and want answers to the everyday problems they face (such as cleanliness and parking). Answers by mayors and the public to a poll conducted throughout Greece on behalf of ERT state television are, for the most part, diametrically opposed, apart from two or three basic issues. The first concerns the great potential of local administration to solve serious problems and undertake initiatives for development. Both sides also agree that some municipal services would be more efficient if they were run privately, and that permanent appointments for municipal employees should be abolished. Mayors (53.5 percent) and residents (65 percent) believe that assigning some responsibilities to private companies would improve the level of the services, while 39 percent of mayors and 50 percent of municipal residents say that removing permanent job status from municipal workers would have a positive impact on municipal functioning. At this juncture, answers by the 805 mayors and 4,205 municipal residents that took part in the poll carried out by Kapa Research from May until today on behalf of ERT begin to diverge sharply. Typically, mayors and residents differ over the progress made by local administration (with 64 percent of mayors saying that they exercise their authority to good effect but only 38 percent of residents declaring themselves satisfied), and also differ on what the elected representatives should be doing. Residents think that issues of waste, traffic and parking should be the priorities of the new local municipal authorities while mayors feel that social policies come first, with cleanliness and the organization of their services a distinct second. However, elected local administrators typically complained about funding, despite the fact that 62 percent of those questioned replied that the economic situation of their municipality was viable, and the same percentage of mayors were optimistic about the future. It is noteworthy that 72 percent of mayors complained that funding was unfairly distributed. Given the pre-election period, it is significant that 75.6 percent of mayors said that they did not want parties to declare their support for candidates.