The mayor of Athens spoke to the journalist Manos Vularinos about all the issues of the Municipality
A delightful conversation with the journalist Mano Vularinon SKAI radio, the mayor of Athens had Kostas Bakoyannis.
Addressing Mr. Bakoyannis, the journalist humorously mentioned that he is sparing with kind words and “well done”, however in this case he would make an exception as, as he said, “Athens after many years is in a good situation in terms of cleanliness”.
For the first time, according to the journalist, posters of party events were “taken down”, while Municipal Police officers are doing their job properly, not allowing drivers to park on sidewalks.
Mr. Bakoyiannis thanked Mr. Vularinos for his kind words, but emphasized that “we still have a lot of work ahead of us. More things need to be done. Don’t forget that Athens has 129 neighborhoods in which we work on issues of cleanliness, greenery, electric lighting, sidewalks, beautification of playgrounds, etc. It is the many small ones that create the big ones. It’s all that makes up the quality of our life.”
On the subject of the table seats and what exactly applies to the shopkeepers, Mr. Bakoyiannis said: “We have a legislative regulation, which does not oblige the municipalities to give the extra square meters to the shopkeepers. Instead, it empowers them to manage it themselves. We, as municipalities, shouldn’t be wearing frocks and finding an alibi. Each municipality has the final decision.”
To the journalist’s question about whether this arrangement makes the mayor’s life more difficult, Mr. Bakoyannis gave specific facts and figures.
“Currently in Athens we have about 2,500 stores. Of these, in 2020, 180 made use of the law on extra square footage, in 2021 there were 193 stores and in 2022 their number is 126. We have given fewer licenses since 2021. So, at the time when we are struggling to achieve a balance in the city, all this makes our job a little more difficult.”
Regarding the question of what the municipality should do in this case and indeed without paying the fees, Mr. Bakoyannis emphasized that, “initially, due to the pandemic, the municipalities had all agreed. We don’t stick our tails out.” This, as he explained, was done for two reasons: health reasons and because the restaurant industry, which has the most workers and indeed young children, was closed during the pandemic.
To the question, why shouldn’t the municipality get something?, Mr. Bakoyiannis stated the following: “At the moment we speak, we are closing our budget for 2023. Our goal is to manage despite the increases in energy costs, despite what is happening, for the municipality to continue operating, to continue to provide its services, to do the public works. Not to relive, that is, what we had experienced in the past. Therefore, when we count the last cent, we cannot give squarely.”
However, there are shopkeepers who don’t always seem to follow the right… path. Then in this case, as Mr. Bakoyannis mentioned, “we do the confiscation, but the shopkeeper can take out other, new, table seats of his own. If we do not comply with this either, then we are going to do something that has been done for many years in the municipality. We are revoking the table seating license.
When we cancel and so far in all cases the license for table seats, that is to say we have taken it back, there it has now been respected. It is the “nuclear weapon”. Maybe that’s why nobody used it for many years.”
On whether fewer licenses should be given for catering businesses, Mr. Bakoyiannis said: “Until 2016, in order to open a store, you had to pass and get the consent of the municipal department. At some point then, the famous OASA Tool-kit was voted on. They were some reforms that were then foreseen in the memorandum and in the name of fighting bureaucracy. Now the process is automatic. That is, practically the apartment, as a municipality, has no say.
The gap is established that one would reasonably expect the municipality to have a view. And this is not only about the table seats and the public space they occupy. It has nothing to do with noise pollution in a neighborhood either, it has to do with the balance in the city. We do not want Athens to become an archaeological Disneyland, a tourist town that will only have hotels, restaurants and bars.
Obviously tourism is our heavy industry, no doubt about it. Obviously we are not only happy, but also proud that we managed in 2022 despite the difficulties to break the tourism record of 2019. And we are proud and happy because all this translates into income for the city.
But at the same time, we must defend the DNA of Athens. The DNA of Athens is the so-called mixed uses. Let me tell you with an example. If you come to the town hall now, where I am, in Kotzia, and we go for a walk together, we’ll see from an amazing boutique hotel to a fantastic restaurant and a little further they’re selling buttons, they’re selling anchors, they’re selling spices. These are the mixed uses, they are the authenticity of the city. So we cannot change and lose our soul”, he added.
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