Imma Mayol home
Imma Mayol i Beltran was born in Mallorca in 1958 and has a degree in Psychology from the University of Barcelona. Currently, she is the city’s second deputy mayor, and director of the Ajuntament’s Environmental Department. She is a member of the party Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds-Esquerra Unida i Alternativa.
Mayol has been in public administration since working at the Ajuntament’s Social Services division in 1981. She is married to the Generalitat’s Minister of the Interior, Joan Saura. This is her last term, and it will end in 2011.
Isn’t it time the city had a female mayor?
It is time. I would have liked to have been the one, but it won’t be me. I’m convinced that a feminist mayor would be good for the city. It’ll have to be someone else. My party espouses term limits and I’m serving my last term. It’s also time personally. I’ve dedicated many years to political service, and when these last four years are over I want to spend my time doing something else.
What are the pressing environmental problems facing the city, and how can we deal with them?
The most serious problems facing us have to do with climate change and the inefficient way in which we use energy, and with the high level of waste at the domestic level. I also think we have a serious problem with the excessive use of cars. Not so much between two points in the city, which only accounts for 23 percent of trips inside the city that are made in cars, but above all in our connection to the greater metropolitan area.
I think that when there’s good public transport, the people use it. People respond well when there’s public transport that fits their needs, but there’s a bad connection with public transport to the greater metropolitan area, which results in people using cars. This generates most of the traffic in Barcelona. It is the starting point for an accumulation of problems like atmospheric pollution, which is primarily connected to traffic and is higher than it should be, problems deriving from the noise, and from the consumption of energy resources. I don’t want to demonise the car, because it’s a useful tool, but it needs to be well used. We also need other administrations with the financial resources to invest in public transport, in things like metros. For us, this is fundamental.
We have a plan to expand the metro, create a long, new line, number nine, and improve public transportation. I think also that one thing the recent crisis with ‘cercanias’ [regional trains] did in these months was to inform citizens about the importance of this kind of transportation. The Ayuntamiento is not going to stop insisting that it’s necessary to continue improving the network of public transportation.
Are we facing a drastic water crisis?
We are facing a great challenge, but I’m comfortable because I think the Generalitat is handling it very well. They are investing in in-depth infrastructure, and taking some palliative measures, and I believe we’ll be able to deal with this extraordinary drought without rationing the domestic use of water. And, there is still the chance that between March and July we’ll have adequate rainfall. I think that in the past year the citizens have made great steps in conserving water. We’re at 110 litres daily per person in the city and this is very close to our objective of 100. Good work by the citizens, good work by industry and by municipal services, which have achieved a 28 percent reduction in the consumption of water.
All of this, combined with the investment in infrastructure like desalinators, which will actually help obtain water, should result in our being able to resolve this chronic problem in the next year without doing damage to the environment.
What do you do to relax?
I walk. I’m used to walking to work every day from my house, and that’s a 50-minute walk. Some days I walk back as well, but that depends. Not every day. The time I spend walking is time for myself. Sometimes I spend it listening to music or talking with my family in Mallorca. Sometimes I just think. There’s a nice Catalan word—badar—I don’t even know how you’d say it in Castilian. You pass things without seeing them, just letting yourself go along. I like that. I also read a lot for relaxation. I love novels. I like to read before I go to bed.
You have been portrayed in the press as being sympathetic towards okupas [squatters]. True?
I’m not a person who has sympathy for squatters. What I don’t agree with is that the subject of okupas should fall under the criminal code. The right to property is an important right and it’s well-regulated, and sufficiently regulated, by the civil code. To penalise this behaviour criminalises a collective that is very diverse within itself. It’s not the same for someone to move into a flat for rent and then refuse to pay the rent, as it is for someone who occupies a space that has been abandoned for a while and uses it, and puts it to a social use. In the case of people who occupy a rental unit and don’t pay the rent, I think we should legislate a process in which this can be resolved judicially very rapidly. We cannot allow someone to commit to paying rent, then not pay.
But, I think long-term abandonment is another story. We have a serious housing problem in our country and the right to property needs to go side-by-side with the right to housing. This means that you have to find legislative and political measures to encourage owners to rent their flats and not leave them empty.
A couple of years ago the Ajuntament made a big announcement of its ‘civismo’ campaign. Are people more civil now?
Look, I think the vast majority of people in Barcelona behave in a civil manner. It’s also true that a big social change has happened in the city, with people coming from other places, with other customs and other lifestyles. There has also been a huge influx of tourists, very concentrated, perhaps too concentrated. The vast majority of them are also well-behaved, but some relax because they’re not at home.
For instance, it seems obvious that you can’t urinate in the street. It’s a basic thing. But given that people go out for long nights and drink lots of beer, that person then thinks they can urinate in the street. It’s not just young people, there are adults who behave this way. There are not many people like this, but those there are stand out for their behaviour. I think you have to combine explaining civilly to them the reasons for responsible citizenship, with measures of police control in the cases of those who flagrantly refuse to behave civilly. I think things are improving, but we can’t let our guard down.
It’s always important that the city is loved and valued and cared for by its citizens.