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Thursday, February 3, 2011

ROSARITO BEACH - Mayor Javier Robles Holds His First Town Hall Meeting

By Jack E. George
Long-time Rosarito expatriate Arlene Sieman, a native of Canada and a former U.S. resident, said, "I loved the meeting." She was referring to Rosarito Mayor Javier Robles first Town Hall meeting for expatriates from the United States, Canada, and other countries around the world who now call Rosarito their home.
One of the people to speak before the mayor was introduced was Anne Hines. Hines sends out the Rosarito Town Crier email newsletter. She also participates in a variety of Rosarito activities. She started by saying, "This meeting is an effort to bring us all together, to exchange ideas. The Mayor and his people want to help."
The meeting was held on January 17, the 59th anniversary of Baja California becoming the 29th state of Mexico. More than 100 expatriates gathered at the Rosarito Beach Hotel in anticipation of interacting with the mayor. Soon he joined the stage with his staff and received a standing ovation from the audience. In an effort to answer any and all questions that might be asked, Mayor Robles brought the Chief of Police, representatives from the banking industry to answer questions about opening a Mexican bank account, others from the tourism industry, and people from medical services to name a few.
When Mayor Robles took the podium he first spoke in English by saying, "My English is not good." He immediately drew an understanding laughter from the audience and put everyone at ease. He then spoke in Spanish while his interpreter related what he was saying in English. The mayor said, "Welcome all foreign residents. You are very important to our community." He then introduced the different department heads and other people he invited to answer the questions that might be posed.
Mayor Robles relayed that his family has strong ties to Rosarito dating back to the 1940s. He is not the first member of his family who has been the mayor of our community - he explained that his great-grandfather and his grandfather both served in this position. He recalled how different American citizens would bring food, clothes, toys and many other items to Rosarito to donate to those families in need. He said he often looked at the toys, when he was a young boy, and wished he could have them - or, at least play with them; however, his family never allowed that to happen.
The mayor explained that people have been visiting Rosarito since the 1920s. This was partly due to the fact that it was much cheaper to spend a vacation here than in the U.S. These people would often become attached to Rosarito and eventually end up settling here. To this day the tourists often turn into full-time citizens. Mayor Robles went on to thank the Torres family. He said they have collectively done so much to help our community.
Mayor Robles said, "I want you to feel welcome to be a part of the community with us. I welcome everyone to Baja." He then opened the Town Hall meeting to the residents to ask questions. The first question came from Patrick Mullen. He asked how the citizens can help in Rosarito. The mayor explained, "We are here to listen to you and your ideas." He said that it is important for each of us to tell our family and friends in the U.S. how happy we are being a part of this community.
The next comment was from the USBC President Judy Westphal. She stated that many people once visited Baja in order to bring clothing, food, and other items for the less fortunate people in our community. She said the number of people bringing items to Baja has been sharply reduced. She attributes this to the difficulties they face at the border while attempting to bring the items into Mexico. The mayor explained that it is important to contact his office because DIF has direct contact with the appropriate authorities and city hall will help to arrange for U.S. citizens to cross the border without facing such difficulties.
The Town Meeting would not have been complete without questions regarding the street issues facing our community. The mayor stated that the streets from the Pabellon Shopping Center to Electra will be repaved at a cost of 25 million pesos. This is marked as one of the first major projects. He further explained that the roads around Popotla, Calafia, and so forth are also in need of repair. However, these are state and federal roads; therefore, it is the responsibility of these governments to handle the situation. The mayor says it is imperative that these roads be repaired and he is insisting the work be completed. Therefore, he is working with the various agencies to see who will do what. If the other agencies do not follow through with the projects then Rosarito will take the lead and complete the projects. In regards to the city streets in Rosarito these will be taken care of in time, according to Mayor Robles.
Another issue that brought a lot of interest from the audience had to do with pets and strays. The mayor explained that there are several issues that are being addressed. First, he is working with Americans living in the U.S. in order to handle adoptions of pets from Mexico. Second, he is insisting that the animals taken to the animal shelter are fed properly and that each one receives adequate care. Third, he emphasized, when necessary, that dogs are euthanized properly. He also wants to continue the process of "fixing" the future adoptees in order to prevent additional puppies that might be left by the roadside.
The audience learned that Rosarito has rules and regulations about dogs with or without identification. If the dog is picked up then the owner has three days to claim the animal. If the animal is not claimed, depending on his/her health they will be put to sleep. This is particularly true with animals suffering from an obvious illness or having some handicap such as a physical impairment.
One of the attendees discussed how she had hired an incompetent contractor to re-roof her house. She said she was disappointed with the work he offered and tried to get him to return to make the corrections she requested. She said she assumed he would cooperate since there was a contract as well as a guarantee in place. Still, she had no luck. She then decided to contact the Foreign Residents Attention Office (FRAO). After contacting FRAO the contractor arrived at her house the following day. She said the FRAO staff was very cooperative and effective in dealing with the situation. She attributed that the work was finally completed because the agency stepped in and she gave them high marks for their assistance.
Several other members in the audience offered nothing but positive comments about the FRAO office and how they have assisted in various situations.
Following the question and answer period the various department heads went to an adjoining room. Each one had a table and number of chairs where the expatriates were asked to sit, talk with the person, and ask questions. It appeared as though most of the audience went to ask additional questions as the room was full.
The Town Hall meeting was definitely a success. The mayor and his staff seemed genuinely concerned and dedicated to address the issues the expatriates face. Hopefully another Town Hall meeting will be held in the near future.
(Contact Jack: jeg925@yahoo.com )
Info provided by: Rosarito Town Crier