In Matosinhos we are testing new solutions in order to change routine actions
Interview with Luisa Salgueiro, Mayor of Matosinhos in Portugal
- 21 juli 2020 10:30
- Monika Dimitrova
Luisa Maria Neves Salgueiro was born in São Mamede de Infesta/Matosinhos. She is the first woman to win the elections for Mayor of Matosinhos, a position she has held since 2017.
Between 1997 and 2009, she was a councilor at the Municipality of Matosinhos, having been responsible for the areas of Social Action, Housing, Health and Youth.
To find out more about Luisa Salgueiro, read her biography.
Matosinhos offers a vast and unique coastline where the green Leça River Valley meets the blue Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Matosinhos Municipality
Mayor Salgueiro, please describe the beautiful municipality of Matosinhos in a few sentences.
Matosinhos is located in the North Coast of Portugal. Land of sea and seafarers, it is possible to delight in the many restaurants and taverns, as well as the various delicacies of the most diverse fish, caught and cooked with mastery by the local people.
Matosinhos offers a vast and unique coastline where the green Leça River Valley meets the blue Atlantic Ocean. On its magnificent beaches you can practice sports such as surfing, which is one of the main attractions of the region. It has been a place of great architecture from the Baroque times of Nicolau Nasoni to the most disruptive contemporary projects of Siza Vieira, Souto Moura or Alcino Soutinho.
The Port of Leixões, the largest artificial port in the country, which handles millions of tons of goods and receives thousands of tourists every year, the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, located on the edge of the municipality, and Exponor Congress Center are the three main advantageous infrastructure points of the region.
We are also a land of work and innovation, with important hubs for the petrochemical, food, textile and electrical material industries, alongside companies that work in mobility, the most prominent of which is the Center for Engineering and Product Development (CeiiA), the most important in Portugal in the fields of aeronautics, aerospace and electric mobility.
How has your municipality been faring during the ongoing Covid-19 emergency?
The region of Matosinhos was one of the most affected by Covid-19 but we were always proactive. We try to anticipate problems and prepare responses that we deem appropriate in order to, on one hand, protect the population and, on the other, minimize the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on the lives of people and families.
In the first phase, our major concern was to safeguard the well-being and security of the most vulnerable and most fragile groups, such as the elderly and people in financially fragile situations. We were the first municipality in Portugal to create a phone line to battle isolation, with 12 psychologists from the municipality. This quickly became a social support line, where people could call and tell us about their situation and ask for help, namely food aid.
We carried out an extended medical program for COVID-19, with the installation of a tracking center in a drive-thru system and the creation a mobile unit that went to all the nursing homes and institutions that support people with disabilities in the municipality. All users and employees of these units have been tested for COVID-19.
We have reinforced the Social Emergency Fund with 1 million euros, helping families that have experienced declines in their monthly incomes, and also started a fund to support small and medium-sized businesses in order to minimize the impact of the economic slowdown. Since the Portuguese Government opted for online classes as a way to continuing the school year, and so that no student would be left behind due to lack of web access, we distributed 800 tablets, 500 computers and 300 internet routers to the neediest students.
We were also the first Portuguese municipality to create a program for free distribution of social masks to the population. We are prepared to continue to act in accordance with the needs that arise, and we are certain that it will be due to the resources and commitment from the local authority that will help the people of Matosinhos go through this phase as smoothly as possible.
What are some of the projects that you’re planning on continuing or introducing once this extraordinary period is over?
The pandemic forced the Municipality of Matosinhos to refocus some of its investments. We have always been a municipality with a very intense cultural activity and now, due to the need to allocate resources, but also because much of this activity has been cancelled, a substantial part of our budget will be directed to other purposes.
Continuing to support families, continuing to support our students, continuing to support our entrepreneurs is our priority. Despite this, the major construction works that we had planned for the municipality are still in progress. The renovation of the housing complexes of the municipality and the renovation of the school park continue to advance, with a total of more than 10 million euros of public investment planned for 2020.
Matosinhos is located only 8 kilometres away from Porto. Have you implemented common projects and initiatives?
The cooperation is truly important for us in order to plan a joint cultural and sporting agenda and to promote tourism and economic development of region. The Open House, organized by Casa da Arquitetura is one of the most emblematic projects and, in 2019, it was responsible for 37 578 visits to 70 spaces that opened their doors for free in Matosinhos, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
At the sporting level, we jointly organized the Atlantic Axis Games in 2015 - the largest sporting event in the Iberia Peninsula, which brings together 1500 young people from the North of Portugal and Galicia. Also, in 2015, we held the 49th European Sailing Championship, which was attended by around 150 sailors of different nationalities.
The Wave Series initiative, for example, mobilizes 500 athletes in events included in the Meo Surf League, RIP CURL Circuit, Surf Circuit in the North or National Longboard Championship. The promotion of joint tourism, leisure and entertainment policies was most likely the one aspect that has always been most visible.
However, the work carried out in joint economic promotion, evident in the presence of fairs and the articulation of support for international events, or in the joint defense of regional assets and infrastructure, has also been very effective. Our partnership was essential for having the application for Community Based Local Development (DLBC) instruments approved, having for this purpose constituted a common Local Development Strategy.
Taking into account the characteristics of the intervention territories that make up the DLBC Atlantic Front, three strategic objectives were defined. The first focuses on promoting access and success in the educational pathways of children and young people and on reducing early dropout rates. The other two address the junction between social inclusion and employability of vulnerable groups, based on support for socially innovative projects and training for social entrepreneurship.
Share other good practices from your municipality. How do you finance them?
We are testing new solutions in order to change routine actions. For example, in collaboration with CEiiA, we created a free technological experimental area that, for example, allows people who drive electrical cars to be compensated through a breakthrough app (AYR) that counts and measures the CO2 they didn’t produce. When making sustainable choices, you will be rewarded with AYR Credits that store the value of your savings.
This project succeeded another one called LivingLab de Matosinhos, which won the European Enterprise Promotion Awards (EEPA). That is a living, carbon-neutral laboratory in the central area of Matosinhos to test and experiment with sustainable solutions, and innovative products and services. The LivingLab of Matosinhos aims to be a space for the development of urban intelligence solutions, especially in the area of mobility, but with implications also in the level of energy efficiency in buildings and public spaces, decreasing the consumption of energy and promoting sustainable urban mobility.
For example, various systems and technological solutions were installed and tested, such as a fast charger for electric vehicles (developed by Efacec), a network of electronic lockers for bicycles connected to the public transport network, a parking payment system and support for local commerce, information in real time over a transport network, lamps that measure the use of carbon and an energy generator that automatically reduces vehicle speed. The project was financed by the Portuguese Government and Matosinhos City budget.
How do you evaluate the initiative of a unified platform for European municipalities and its goal to keep European citizens informed about what is taking place in their cities? How can the portal be useful to you and to the citizens of Matosinhos?
It is an efficient way to share good practices in order to aim for urban prosperity, well-being and growth by rethinking existent policies and public spaces. The platform is useful for empowering local elected representatives, municipal staff, citizens and stakeholders to design and implement local policies.
European cities need to work together closely so as to improve strategic planning in fundamental areas, such as training, employment measures and economic aspects. Matosinhos is a door open to the world, and it is important for us to learn from the experience of other European cities.
What are the main goals to develop in the near future to make Matosinhos a better place to live in?
The main objective, in the short term, is to minimize market failures in terms of housing and mobility constraints. On one hand, request an existing housing stock and appear in the rental market that has no offer that can obtain demand, causing restrictions on access to the rental market; and, on the other hand, increase investment in public transport, increase the response capacity and its quality.
Matosinhos aims to combat climate change facilitating more carbon-neutral lifestyles, such as free public transport up to the age of 18, a bicycle sharing network, release licenses for shared transport, a conversion of the municipal fleet to electric vehicles and the expansion of its charging stations.
To find our more about Matosinhos, visit the profile of the municipality.
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