A Dialogue with Mayor Mayita Melendez
February 14, 2019
The NYU Brademas Center and NYU Washington, DC welcomed Mayor Mayita Melendez as she offered a perspective from Puerto Rico about local governance during natural disasters, with a focus on crisis management. Mayor Melendez discussed how the island is progressing in its reconstruction from the devastating 2017 hurricanes and debt crisis. Gregorio J Igartúa joined the conversation, which was moderated by Geovanny Vicente Romero.
Dr. María Eloísa (“Mayita”) Meléndez Altieri, was sworn in as Mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico on January 12, 2009. She wrote a new page in the history of Puerto Rico when she became the first mayor of Ponce elected by the people. During her first term as, Dr. Meléndez became the first woman to preside over the organization for the Integral Development of the South (DISUR). Both in 2012 and in 2016 Meléndez was reelected as mayor in her second and third terms, respectively.
Before becoming Mayor, Dr. Meléndez began her professional career as a dental surgeon in Ponce for 31 years (1977-2008), standing out both in the clinical area and in education. The commitment to public service and especially to the city of Ponce, impelled Dr. Meléndez to get involved in various boards and committees in which, on a voluntary basis, she offered her advice, practice and knowledge.
During her administration as Mayor, she has overseen five signature infrastructure projects under the "Ponce Avanza" initiative worth $177 million:
- The Northern Municipal Zone Aqueduct with new water purification plants at a cost of $5 million
- Sistema Integrado de Transportación del Sur (SITRAS) mass transit, at $1.66 million the initial phase
- Parque Ecológico Urbano, at an investment of $4.5 million
- Ciudad Deportiva at an initial cost of $4.5 million
- The restoration of the Juan Bigas Building (old Plaza del Mercado) to convert it into "Ponce Servicios" at an undisclosed amount of money
Dr. Meléndez graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus with a Bachelor of Science in 1973. In 1977, she received the degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine of the School of Dentistry of the Medical Sciences Campus of the University Puerto Rico.
Gregorio J Igartúa is an attorney and Certified Public Accountant. He holds a master's degree (LL.M.) in international and comparative law from the George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. and has served as a consultant and advisor to the Senate of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and the Municipality of Ponce (one of the largest and most important municipalities of Puerto Rico) on various financial, tax, economic development and other policy issues. He has contributed to multiple judicial processes claiming the democratic rights of the American citizens of Puerto Rico, and recently appeared before the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States demanding recognition of these fundamental rights.
Geovanny Vicente Romero (Moderator) is a columnist for CNN based in Washington, DC.He is a political analyst, international consultant and lecturer. He’s written many articles on eradication of poverty, human rights, governance, democracy and elections, as well as the role of women in a society. He is the founder of the Dominican Republic Center of Public Policy, Leadership and Development (CPDL-RD). Reach him on Twitter @geovannyvicentr