Friday, 9 May 2014

Pre-election works: too much, too late, too bad

It’s May, and streets throughout Greece are filled with spring sunshine, the scent of flowers, the twitter of swifts arriving from Africa – and the dust and rumble of dozens of cement mixers and pneumatic drills.

For this is not just any old May, folks. It’s the weeks leading up to local elections. 

A time where traditionally, all the municipal work to lay new pavements, widen streets, install parking bays and more that has been ignored over the past three or four years are crammed into a pinhole-sized window of opportunity to impress and persuade the voters.

If you ask me, the PR honchos down at my local town hall need to be handed their cards and sent on their way. In most cases, so do the politicos they serve. And they all need a hefty dose of reality, hopefully delivered in the form of a strong message from the voters (or at least those who will make the effort to get up on a Sunday morning and haul themselves to the polling station in a couple of weeks’ time).

I have news for them: 

The people you want to stick an “X” next to your name are not idiots – or at least not all of them.

They realise that all this frantic activity immediately before the election is an illusion, like a beauty queen having a last minute manicure, Brazilian wax and touch-up to her dark roots the night before a pageant.   

They won’t forget how many times they’ve stumbled over that broken paving stone in the past two years; that time they got a lovely puncture after landing with a jolt in that pothole late one night; the fact that Great Auntie Soula can't take a walk to the corner shop because the poorly parked cars mounting the pavement like over-eager mongrels make a stroll in the sun with her cane a new form of extreme sport.

Dear Mr Mayor and your cronies, even if you DO persuade the public to forget all that, don’t go thinking that they look at all this municipal hyperactivity and smile in approval at your industriousness. 

The rattle, hum and inescapable drone of the road crews force us indoors, closing all the windows, right at the time when we should be flinging them open to let in the spring air. 
Finding a parking spot on the street less than five minutes’ walk form your home becomes a daily challenge. 
Local businesses bemoan the loss of trade. My hairdresser claims passing trade has dropped 80% since they started digging up the street in front of her salon a week ago – and I believe her, after having to use rock climbing skills I never knew I had to get to her for my monthly trim yesterday. 

So a word of friendly advice to the candidates out there (if any of them are willing to listen): splurging on public works a month before you ask for our vote is like a wayward child cleaning their room and doing the washing up, without being asked, right before asking their mum for an advance on their pocket money for the next year.

And as for the voters? Well, how about changing the habit of a lifetime and not awarding your X to the party your family’s always blindly followed, or that relative of a friend who you hope will then owe you a favour? 

Instead, consider giving it to someone who looks like they might just deliver on their pretty promises, throughout their time in office rather than just its final weeks. 

And if they get in, hold them to that promise.

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