Todos Santos Gringos Evaluate Delegate

Town meeting was a nice touch, especially since most of the audience can’t vote
BY: SHARON SHELDON

A couple of dozen Gringos and a handful of Mexicans gathered Tuesday, Oct. 20, to learn about the upcoming elections for delegado (a delegate who represents Todos Santos peoples’ interests at city hall, which is actually up in La Paz).  Julio Villalobos, one of the five candidates hoping for the job, was there to lay out his platform for the job, his communication skills, and his connections for the nonpartisan election to be held November 8. Election results are based on a popular vote, and any citizen over the age of 18 can participate.

Some of Villalobos’ presentation was political rhetoric: “I know the challenges our town faces,” and “it’s important for the people to feel safe.” But he did offer some specifics, such as assigning a committee to detail ways to clean up and beautify the entrances to the town, and another team looking into infrastructure improvements, especially water resources. As in, please pour some water through the damn pipes.

One of the more serious issues in Todos Santos is the out of control residential burglary, particularly during the off-season when many expats have returned to Canada or the U.S. Thievery in Todos Santos is getting so bad that some thieves are so bold as to steal vehicles, even when people are home. One problem is, that according to Mexican law, even if a thief is caught red handed on the property and arrested, with the loot in his hands, the pendejo will be set free in 48 hours if the owner of the property does not run down to the cop shop and sign papers. No, a neighbor who is present can’t do it. So, the effect of this law is, if you are in the U.S. or Canada and your property is breached, you should have kissed your stuff good by before you left Mexico. Of course the thieves know this, which makes the Gringos a more interesting target. Villalobos said he wants to engage more military, state and local police to address the continual break-in problems. He can’t change the law.

Other issues he discussed include trash pickup, which is a concern among the local population, since the local dump is closed to the public. (You are not allowed to take your own garbage to the dump yourself.) Villalobos also advocates more maintenance for the street lights to keep the town lit up brighter, and therefore safer. Other areas of interest to him are health issues, and increasing recreation and sports opportunities. More recently he has been involved in helping to establish a University of La Paz satellite campus in Todos Santos. Well, actually, he is not helping to get it established, because he has no authority to do that, he’s just kinda making noise about it. It’s up to the university if they want to plow resources into a campus in Todos Santos.

Otro Lado, or the other side of Todos Santos is predominantly Gringo territory and has its own issues. One is development, yes or no, on top of the dunes. This has been a hot button for a while, particularly for those who bought their property thinking they were in the front row and now they will find themselves back a couple of rows from the beach. They are crying environmental fowl which always plays well, and enlisting the aid of anyone who wants to be a dune hugger. (They are finding many). When asked directly if Villalobos approves of building on the dunes, he responded with an emphatic “no.”

There is some concern in the Gringo camp about future development by hotels and/or large master planned communities in Otro Lado. Villalobos said some developers have made inquiries, but that no specific plans have been put forth yet. The NIMBYs are strong in Otra Lado: those who don’t want more development in their neighborhood.

A huge new development underway just to the south of Todos Santos called Tres Santos came up. A seawall extending almost the entire span of the beach already has been constructed, and close behind that are homes now under construction.  Billboards heralding the coming of the massive development dot the highway between Pescadero and Todos Santos, inviting folks to drop into their sales office in Todos Santos for information, although in three attempts on different days between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. visitors were unable to find anyone in the office. Reception to the project is mixed. Some of the fishermen who depend on the beach to launch their boats are not happy. Others acknowledge the inevitability of large commercial projects. Still others hope that Tres Santos will mean jobs for local Mexicans.

One long-time resident of Todos Santos said the town is still considered unimportant by those in La Paz who rule it, and there are never enough resources allocated to Todos Santos or neighboring El Pescadero. Villalobos assured the audience he has well established relationships in La Paz, which are vital to obtaining the dinero needed for any town projects.  He assured the audience he has the contacts to be effective. He made no promises, but pledged to do his best to work to resolve issues, listen, and represent Todos Santos to the government officials in La Paz.

Villalobos served as general secretary for previous mayors. Prior to that assignment, he was an on-air personality on channel 10 in La Paz. He’s a native of Todos Santos, though, and enjoys a positive reputation among many Mexican locals. His family is well known, and he has a history of working for positive change.  He made a point of soliciting the input of foreigners (most of his audience that night), and says he welcomes community involvement, should he be elected.

Several audience members thought Julio’s heart is in the right place. It remains to be seen if voting citizens in Todos Santos do too. And then it remains to be seen after that if he will be an effective advocate for the town.