A positive vote last night in a Faro council meeting has called for the sacking of the head of Polis Ria Formosa Society whose single minded insistence that 800 houses should be demolished on the barrier islands has seen laws being broken and family and community stability reduced to a trembling zero.
Polis president Sebastião Teixeira has overstepped the mark once too often and now even the vacilating Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau has come out of the closet and supported his island constituents to the full.
This was a timely move by Bacalhau as the council chamber was crammed with ‘Je suis Ilhéu’ T-shirt-wearing supporters in no mood for compromise. Reminding the mayor that he worked for them not the government was just the start.
Now that Faro has led the way and voted for the ousting of Teixeira, the other Ria Formosa councils are pretty certain to take the lead. This is essential as Tavira, Loulé, Olhão and Faro together control a significant number of shares in Polis which is a Limited company majority owned by the government acting on behalf of the taxpayer.
An Extraordinary General Meeting already has been called to assemble the board and shareholders. The call was sent by VRSA council in its position of overseer, and Faro council as shareholder, with the specific intention of hearing an update from Teixeira as to his progress to date measured against his key targets.
Now that shareholder Faro council has had a 'yes' vote for Teixeira's removal this too can be put on the Polis EGM agenda.
Teixeira has had ten years to put in place the agreed improvements to the Ria Formosa and has been sat on his well-paid behind for most of them, deciding only at the last moment, having begged a further year, to start an ill-prepared demolition programme which then he mishandled, appears to have had no legal mandate and has seen his position turned into one that now attracts widespread hatred.
The list of what Polis should have been doing for the past ten years is a long one and centres around dredging the Ria Formosa to free up the water flow and help shellfish production. The pollution in the Ria Formosa has been allowed to continue with Teixeira's full knowledge and it is no surprise that when his henchmen started to tear down houses the local mood grew from apprehensive to angry.
Picking on the weakest first, at the coldest time of the year, Teixeira sent in his contractors to evict islanders and flatten their homes on Coco and Rato islands some of whom ended up sleeping at the commercial dock at Olhão, so poor was the planning process that Teixeira had ten years to perfect.
Faro, Farol and Culatra islanders were well warned and started successfully to use the courts to block further demolitions and mount an emotional, heart-felt and far-reaching campaign based on the fact that many families had lived on the islands uninterrupted by war of famine for well over 100 years and originally has been encouraged to do so.
Successive council regimes have been happy to take property taxes from the islanders and infrastructure was added as the years went by to ensure islanders had the same educational, social, religious and community links as on the mainland.
The high point to date was 1,024 protestors on Farol island on April 25th this year.
After stirring speeches, a string of men, women and children stood on the jetty with carnations held aloft in a defiant display of people power vs a state machine that has tried to do things the old way when the state was all and the individual insignificant.
Polis has been met with the clever use of resources such as Facebook, Twitter, local media, national and international TV and a deeply held belief by islanders that the state should not be empowered to take away their homes and livelihoods to make way for emptiness - how is this 'in the public interest?'
The following Monday, despite an interim ban from Loulé court, Teixeira tried to gain access to the island so his team could start making those houses that he wants to demolish.
He was met by 200 demonstrators and a note from the court reminding him that he was to touch nothing and that the Maritime Police would make sure of it.
Polis now has the not inconsiderable task of persuading the Loulé judge that the actions of Polis are ‘in the public interest.’
With all this facing Faro's Rogério Bacalhau he was sensible to heed his island constituents and hold a vote on sacking Teixeira, not as a scapegoat but as the source of the disruption on the islands that has seen tears, anger and desperation from the islanders.
The Socialist motion in Faro council last night was that Teixeira had taken the exercising of his public duties to a point where he had lost all of the support of those involved, and now is universally loathed by everyone affected by his official actions.
Apart from his low popularity rating Teixeira is accused of overstepping the law and not following his job description. In the Polis Litoral ‘list of things to do to improve the island economies’ therev are good things such as ‘environmental and urban regeneration, promotion of tourism activities, cultural, leisure and other interventions that contribute to the economic and social development of its area of intervention.’ Little of this has been achieved.
Teixeira also pushed ahead with knocking down private properties whose owners were waiting for a court decision. This alone marks Teixeira as out of control legally, let alone morally and managerially.
Even the demolitions that have been carried out have had problems which could easily been avoided with some thought.
A horde of new eco-supporters joined the campaign to Save the Islands when it turned out that the contractors had not only churned asbestos into the sand, along with other building materials, but had destroyed the habitat of a rare island chameleon, just the sort of thing Teixeira purported to be so keen on preserving at the expense of humans.
The Faro vote will be written into island history as the motion was passed with five votes in favour from the PS and CDU councillors and four abstentions from the PSD/CDS.
Local Portuguese press writes of Sebastião Teixeira having, ‘lost control of the situation, acting stubbornly in order to demolish homes at any cost in the last year of the Polis Society which ends December 31, 2015.’
As Polis limps to a close this December it safely can be assessed as one of the great failures supported by EU funds which remain unaccounted for since 2011 when the last set of accounts was publshed.
Polis was set up with tens of millions of euros for projects that looked good on paper but simply were not carried out as it seems the management was more concerned with its status than doing good.
The shareholders are right to call for Teixeira’s sacking - and without compensation, the definition of ‘gross misconduct’ was created for just this sort of management failure.
The Community Cohesion Fund / Thematic Operational Programme for Territorial Enhancement funds Polis at the rate of 70% for projects aimed at 'correcting the erosion and coastal defence.'
That's €33 million towards a total initial funding of €42 million. What does the Ria Formosa have to show for it? More pollution and zero dredging hence silted up channels.
Unfortunately Simon, the EU will not take action to stop large scale vandalism by trawlers or eliminate the destruction of bi-catches. These are at the very core of the EU's fishery policy.
I did not realise that they also funded Polis.
And of course they've seriously damaged the economies of southern European countries.
High time the EU was disbanded.
So why the cretinos who 'dislike' the comments?
Portugal is allegedly now, after decades of wrongdoing by an 'out of control elite', a free expression country.
Why not more usefully add your comments so we can see where you are coming from? Or are the dislike's coming from the still 'out of control elite' wanting to slither back into the shadows ?
If the Polis regime has been illegal and lacking in public support, how has it survived national examination?
It is my guess that Sebastião Teixeira belongs to the political élite, and that he has been doing the bidding of his political cronies in Lisbon.
The other surprise is that the mayors of the Algarve have taken so long (since last November) to work out that loyalty is a two way street and that they need to support their constituents if they wish their constituents to vote for them.