The re-election of George Τhomakos was a vindication of his work, and an expression of recognition and confidence by the citizens in their city’s leader. A conscientious man, with wisdom and political morality that’s been battle-tested in the whirlwind of elections and not only, talks to us about his goals and vision.
The new year finds you as Mayor of Kifisia for a second term. Do you feel an increased level of responsibility?
A top government official told me, that a second term is an indication of value, contrary to a first term that could be attributed to luck. During the elections, our municipality was one of the leaders in the country, with 14 candidates running for mayor. This makes the end result an even greater honor. Naturally this trust must be confirmed, not only to all those that honored us with their vote, but to the entire community. It’s understandable that some citizens will have reservations, and to those we need to prove we are worthy. With renewed strength that comes from the confidence we were shown, I am again at the wheel with the aim to continue and complete the work we started.
With what goals do you continue?
Our major goals are to deliver to the Attica region, studies to prevent floods that will shield our risky municipality in the years to come from situation with the Penteli slope, to launch a sports and swimming pool facility in Kato Kifisia, to improve our athletics infrastructure with three now sports centers in Kifisia, Nea Erythraia and Ekali. To start with the construction of the new wing of the 1st Elementary School of Nea Erythraia and the 1st Elementary School of Kifisia. Finally, to create the first stray animal shelter in Greece.
You are a shining example with your stray animal adoption results.
Our community is very sensitive. A few years back, when many pets where abandoned by their owners, because they could no longer take care of them because of financial woes, those that could and care, showed with greater intensity their sensitivities. With are the top municipality in the country in the number of adoptions. We have had more than 400 adoptions of dogs and thousands neutered.
The city center of Kifisia is changing. How is that project progressing?
It is fortunate that along with the impressive Christmas decorations we also delivered several streets, that were paved with the new stable, colored asphalt in the center of Kifisia. It is an ambitious project that will continue after the holidays to restore the surface of the roads that was sunk since the beginning of the project in 2010 and at the same time adding a unique traditional color to Kifisia, with the maroon color of the streets. The regeneration will not stop there.
There will be other secondary interventions such as some benches, protecting some areas with special parapets and bollards and upgrading the sewage of Kolokotroni street. There are thoughts of applying a water element to the city center and we have completed the necessary studies. Beyond the aesthetic and traffic restoration, and yes the wagon and automobile drivers are spot on in their grudge about the degraded state of Kolokotroni, we strongly believe that it will invigorate the market. While many have been pessimistic, we have not had any businesses shut down in Kifisia and a stroll in the in the city center is still a unique experience because you can find amazing stores with high quality products and big brands that are returning.
The environment and the development of policies to protect it, is on everyone’s radar locally, nationally and globally. What are you doing about it in your municipality?
We have already started to witness the impact of climate change. The intense storms and floods, that did not happen in the past, are early warning signs. On a national level, our municipality already innovates and sets an example. Since 2015, we modernized energy consumption in many of our buildings. We continuously adopt and implement energy frameworks that exist in Greece and abroad. It was not by chance that a few months ago, we managed to be the only Greek city and among seven in Europe to be awarded a program funded by the European Union. This is not an ESPA program that everyone has access to, but a European program, which means that you need to constantly search for sources of information and research. From this program in the mid-long term, our municipality will be awarded over than 500,000 Euro, for environmentally friendly applications with a smaller carbon footprint and modernizing more of our buildings to consume less energy.
We are working in two directions. The first is to create awareness with younger generations, because our children will either be the victims or save our planet. Our generation managed so far, but is also to blame for the current situation. Children through their schools need to learn about what to recycle, how to recycle, what to consume, what to turn on and what to turn off. Simultaneously, after a process of local democracy, that we are applying for the first time nationally, we created the first energy community with a photovoltaic installation. This is at Ethnikiston and Agoniston community in Nea Erythraia, and we are exploring how to extend photovoltaic use. We have completed important reseach about replacing street lights in the city with other types of LED.
You have started innovative initiatives, such as the development of a startup ecosystem, digital administration and local democracy. What other “new” things can we expect?
In all three areas that you mention, and thank you for the recognition, we need to take the next step. We can not rely on what we’ve already accomplished, but we need to take further action. For local democracy the next step will be to create a digital local democracy, with digital meetups, that extend physical gatherings that satisfy 20, 30, 50 active citizens and take the conversation to hundreds and thousands of participants. There is a common misconception and the reality is that very few cities in Europe apply these type of practices. About startups, we’ve seen dozens of unique and innovative ideas come out of our programs. Now we need to see how we can adopt some of them and put them to work for our community. We are not only here to teach entrepreneurs how to make their first step, but to help them introduce their products to the local community. When it comes to digital administration, we are already servicing more and more of our citizens, by issuing certificates. Citizens can already apply online and our goal is by 2020 for all transactions with protocol and payments to be digital. In recent months digital applications have skyrocketed. For the elderly, we have developed our own programs to teach computer usage at the city’s KAPI and we also partnered with SKAI and “We can together”.
Days of celebration and love. How does the Holy Spirit affect the collaboration in the municipality?
In the first few months, since we adopted this new system of governance and because we have 14 different factions on the municipal council, we’ve seen some negative effects. However, now that you’re asking me a few days before Christmas, in the last meeting of the municipal council we found more areas of convergence and consensus, compared to past meetings. I hope, I believe and I will always strive to overcome the shortcomings of the new governance and I can only hope that what happen during the last meeting in December, will be the beginning of what will follow. I will always aim for cooperation and will repeat in a few months from now my intention to work closely with other municipal groups.
Can you please tell us what your vision is in three words?
Modern, honest municipality