Monday, March 24, 2014

Municipal Elections 1: They could lead to a real down-hill slide!

Yesterday (Sunday 24th March) was the national French Municipal Elections, which take place every 6 years and appoint municipal counsellors to run their commune through the 'conseil municipal'. The Mayor is then elected from within the majority group.

Some of my chalet guests were quite interested to know how this might affect Bourg St Maurice and the future of Les Arcs, so I have broken my promise to myself not to write about local politics (apparently I sound too negative, some say!) and explain the results of the elections here.

But first, a quick explanation of how this part of the electoral system works: The number of councillors is set according to the number of electors in the commune. Bourg St Maurice has 5092 and the council has 29 places.  In communes of over 1000 electors the candidates are allowed present themselves as 'listes', which are like political parties but not necessarily aligned with the national parties.  A kind of proportional representation system is used, whereby unless one 'list' gets more than 50% of the vote there is a second round, with any 'list' gaining less than 10% of the vote being automatically excluded. Electors are only now allowed to vote for candidates from one list (the practice of 'panachage', picking random candidates from any list has been controversially banned since the last election). Once the second round has taken place, the councillors are appointed in proportion the size of the vote gained by their 'list'. It sounds complicated, and it is! 

So here in Bourg there have been 4 lists fighting it out. The gap between the first three is very narrow, and the fourth got more than 10%, so the second round will be a re-run of the first unless one of the lists pulls out or joins forces with another.

Which one will be the next mayor of Bourg St Maurice?

In first place was the 'ruling party',  Agir dans la continuité (Action through continuity, right of centre), headed by Michel Giraudy (he has serious background in ski resort and tourism managment), with  911 (30,97%) of the votes. This list includes Mde. Poletti, who has been mayor since 2011 and collapse of the previously elected adminstration headed by pisteur Damien Perry). The list contains experienced and focussed individuals, many being already councillors including Claudie Blanc-Eberhert, daughter of Robert Blanc.

In second place, but only just, was Trait d'Union (Link), led by retired hairdresser Louis Garnier. Predictably, many of list are shop owners in Bourg, but there doesn't seem to me to much representation from 'the mountain' and certainly no exciting policies in his manifesto. They got 53 voted fewer than Agir, with  29.16% (858 votes).

Third place was taken by Eric Minoret's list, Servir Ensemble pour construire Demain (Serving together to build tomorrow). They got 821 votes (27.91%), narrowing the gap still further. This list seems to have a large number of retired people on it, even though at 52 Minoret is the youngest 'tete de liste'. 

Finally, with 352 votes (11.96%) comes ex-teacher Roger Pugin and his Mieux vivre à Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs Hauteville-Gondon (A better life in Bourg St Maurice and Hauteville-Gondon).  Roger appears to  be focussed on the town and surrounding villages, perhaps as he comes from an agricultural family. Parking and better law enforcement are favourite themes.

Muddying the issues: Source of  Eau de Bonneval
Frankly, I think there's a lack of inspiration and an absence of a vision for the future in all the lists' manifestos. People who don't know about Bourg politics find it astonishing that Car Parking is such a big issue, while vital issues like the future of the old barracks (now called the 'Quartier des Alpins') hardly get a mention.  For example: two of the 'lists' want to revive the recently abandoned plans for a mineral water bottling factory under the station (Eau de Bonneval), the idea being the the picture of Bourg on  the label will encourage people to visit the town in the summer....

The  Agir list have given a detailed table of achievements, failings and aspirations in their manifesto which does make them stand out as the only group with  any good  ideas and a real understanding of the importance of Les Arcs to the commune (not least 2500 jobs created). 

Buried in there is something that caught my eye and could be a really exciting and tangible link between Les Arcs and the town: between now and 2016 Agir wants to study the possibility of building a 'Luge d'éte' (Tobbagan track) from Arc 1600 to the town . What a brilliant idea, 1000 vertical meters over 3 km, with the funicular used as uplift. 

Luge d'eté: Morzine can do it, so can Bourg!
Great for the summer market, but what about at the same time re-instating the old 'Piste de Bouleaux', the trace of which is still skiable from Les Granges to Montrigon and down to Bourg via the little oratoire of Our Lady of Good Hope and back to the funicular (the road bridges at La Ville and Montrigon were removed in the 1980s).  The snow holds well enough on that pitch of the mountain, and with a snow-making network (water from the Isere) it could make Bourg a real 'ski in' resort for most of the season (you can already often ski down in January and February). Why not widen the new piste out as it crosses the river for demonstration events and competitions? It would certainly help revitalise the rather desolate area around the funicular, with new bars, restaurants and shops. 

Old barrack: costly white elephant.
Also, abandon the 'Quartier des Alpins', try to sell it or mothball it. The site is too big, ugly and complicated  and in totally the wrong end of the town to be anything other than a costly white-elephant. Forget about mineral water, but DO get the Coeur d'Or multiscreen cinema open! Rent out the old Renoveau buildings as dirt-cheap seasonaires accommodation (no one is ever going to buy it for 6 million euros). Run the funicular and the Arcs navettes until well past midnight, so people from the resorts can spend money in the town, and people from the town can get to jobs up here... I'd stand for mayor myself but you have to be a French citizen!

In the past Bourg has been led out of crises by individuals with inspiration and imagination, not afraid to confront realities and with a real belief in the future.  Let's hope M. Giraudy, M. Minoret or M. Garnier  provide such leadership after the second round of elections on March 30th. Vote if you can!

Full election statistics for Bourg St Maurice 

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