Cablegate: Can a New Mayor with Few Allies at Least Fix the Roads?
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHYG
DE RUEHVK #0125/01 3040227
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300227Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1036
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 1133
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VLADIVOSTOK 000125
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON RS
SUBJECT: CAN A NEW MAYOR WITH FEW ALLIES AT LEAST FIX THE ROADS?
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1. Igor Pushkaryov took over as Vladivostok mayor on May 20.
The new mayor seems to have few allies -- he avoids media
attention and the public, has set up an administration of
outsiders, and appears headed for a major conflict with Primorye
Kray Governor Darkin. With campaign promises unfulfilled and a
much-needed road repair project foundering, Pushkaryov's stay at
city hall not been as successful as Vladivostok residents had
hoped. Below is an outline of first five months of Vladivostok
Mayor Igor Pushkaryov's tenure.
Staff: Mostly Out-of-Towners
2. Pushkaryov's first move upon taking office was to expand his
team from eight to eleven deputies and to dismiss virtually all
managers and specialists from the previous city administration.
Most of the new personnel consists of friends and colleagues
from Spassk-Dalniy, 230 kilometers west of Vladivostok, where he
worked earlier as the director of a cement plant. Local
political analysts have noted that because Pushkaryov's team has
no connection to Vladivostok business and political elite,
working with the Vladivostok City Duma and Primorye government
may prove difficult.
Major Problem: Roads
3. Pushkaryov has already received public criticism for his
handling of one of the most important issues for Vladivostok
residents -- annual road renovations. Though the city tripled
the budget for road improvements to one billion rubles for 2008,
road work has barely begun. With only one third of the roads
slated for repair currently undergoing work, there is no way for
the annual project -- which must start in Spring to assure
completion before the Winter freeze -- will be completed this
fiscal year. Pushkaryov has countered criticism by asserting
that delays were caused by bureaucratic hold ups, not
Campaign Promises: Still Working on Those...
4. One of Pushkaryov's most popular campaign promises was to
construct 50 new kindergartens and to renovate existing
facilities. After five months, however, renovation has begun on
only one kindergarten, and no plans for new kindergarten
construction have been announced.
5. Upon taking office, the new mayor announced that the
previous administration left a city debt of just over 1 billion
rubles (USD 40 million), presumably mostly made by lower-level
administration members while former Mayor Vladimir Nikolayev was
concentrating on defending himself against various criminal
charges. Some of the debt consists of unpaid back wages for
city employees. Pushkaryov says that his administration has
already repaid one third of the debt.
Major Goal: Regional Status for the City
6. One way to help to improve the city's financial situation
would be to keep more of the tax revenue it generates.
Vladivostok provides about 70 percent of the taxes collected in
the region, but keeps very little. Under the existing
revenue-sharing arrangement, Vladivostok sends 51 percent of its
revenues to the Kray and 38 percent to Moscow, leaving only 11
percent for the municipality.
7. Pushkaryov has stated his goal to change this situation by
having the city, the largest and oldest in the region,
officially designated as Kray capital. According to federal
law, this designation would allow the city to reduce the amount
it sends to Moscow by 10 percentage points. Former Mayor
Vladimir Nikolayev had pushed for such a measure several times
but failed. In 2005, the Primorye Duma passed a resolution
allowing the designation, but Governor Darkin -- presumably
worried that increased funds for Vladivostok would give the Kray
less influence over the city -- quickly vetoed the bill. Darkin
-- who, as governor of the Kray, has the authority to direct all
tax revenue collected in the region -- continues to tighten
financial control over the city. In 2000, he allowed the city
to keep 39 percent of its own revenues, but by 2007 lowered the
amount to 11 percent.
Public Personality: Not Much Face Time
8. Pushkaryov does not seek the limelight, and seems
uncomfortable in front of the public and the media. He does not
meet with journalists often -- he tends to rely on written press
releases instead -- and rarely attends protocol events. He has
a much lower public profile than his predecessor Vladimir
Nikolayev, who often met with city residents to discuss local
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issues and frequently attended public and social events.
9. It is hard to imagine a successful tenure for a new mayor
with virtually no allies. Pushkaryov spends little time with
the public, is unfriendly to the media, and has brought a team
of unknown outsiders to the city. Furthermore, he appears to be
heading into a fight with Governor Darkin over city status that
he likely to lose. The people of Vladivostok have low
expectations for their mayors, but Pushkaryov has already left
them underwhelmed. Renovating the city's crumbling roads would
have gone a long way with city residents, but the new mayor's
mishandling of this year's project has not only left doubts
about his management skills, but also leaves many wondering why
increased funding has led to fewer new roads. Furthermore, most
of the construction for APEC will take place during his tenure,
and any problems with that project will likely fall square on