Leaders of opposition municipalities in Hungary should finally make up their mind whether they want full independence or complete support from the government, András Cser-Palkovics, member of Hungary’s ruling conservative Fidesz party and mayor of the Central Hungarian town of Székesfehérvár since 2010, writes in his Notes of the mayor blog on Facebook.
There are a growing number of voices in domestic public discourse saying that the [consecutive] Orbán-governments have hollowed out municipalities, restricted their maneuvering room and robbed them of their independence. At the same time, the same voices also complained of a lack of government support during the coronavirus pandemic, both crying for more help and blaming the government in various forms for failing them at the time of need.
All my colleagues who are public figures and mayors should make up their mind which version they want to have: full autonomy or the ability to dump the responsibilities of their choice on the government when this suits them. Because it cannot be that at times of peace the municipality and the mayor are independent, but as soon as trouble strikes, they ask the government for assistance.
This should not be. An organization that is only able to perform its regular duties at times of peace but almost immediately requires outside assistance in a crisis is not a viable one. Luckily, not all municipalities are like that: most of them have absolved their duties commendably during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, I know that I am in a privileged position as not all municipalities have the resources of Székesfehérvár.
Yet during the crisis none of the complaining mayors declared bankruptcy, nor did they seek assistance in preventing job losses or ask for additional central investments. Most of their requests and complaints referred to medical protective equipment or COVID-19 testing for elderly homes ran by the municipality. Although these facilities do require a significant amount of attention and expertise to function, they are by far not the most significant items in any municipality’s budget and the general reserves of any decent local budget should be sufficient to cover the extra needs.
Blaming someone else and whining may be acceptable in private conversations, but are no way to run a city. The whiners either don’t achieve anything and in the process also demonstrate their weakness, or through their inaction will force someone else to take up their responsibilities, but in the latter case they also offer proof that they are unnecessary.
I call on all my mayor colleagues not to let impotence return to municipalities. If we expect the state to be an equal partner, we ourselves should grow up to the task! Because self-government means both the freedom and the ability for action.
Title image: Notes of a mayor cover photo. (Source: Facebook)