Not As Initially Advertised

Zoran Janković’s campaign poster (source)

In the weeks leading up to local elections incumbent mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Jankovič is not having the smooth ride he (probably) hoped for. On one hand the recently passed City Zoning Act is not yet effective as a group of citizens assisted by City Councilman and one of Janković’s opponents for mayor Miha Jazbinšek filed for a referendum on the issue and are now in the process of collecting the necessary signatures for referendum to take place. On the other hand the Administrative Court days ago rescinded Janković’s decision not to allow another referendum on construction of an underground parking lot below the Central Market. This particular referendum was filed for by Councilman Mihael Jarc (he of anti-mosque fame) and repeatedly rejected by the mayor on the grounds that it didn’t meet the legal criteria. Jarc took the case to court and – for the time being at least – won. But despite two looming referenda which threaten to overshadow the election campaign (or at the very least influence it a lot), Janković has bigger problems. Well, problem, actually: Despite initially claiming the opposite, the mayor way forced to admit that the recently completed Stožice complex will come with a price tag: 40 million euro.

During 2006 election campaign Zoki promised to build the stadium in what was widely believed to be just a pre-election PR stunt. After all, the shenanigans around the stadium have been at that time going on for seven years, about almost 20 million was already spent by previous administrations on buying a hole in the ground (at the site of today’s Stožice complex) and running a short-lived city owned company tasked with preparing everything necessary for construction of the stadium. Needless to say the company went through 5 million euro without as much as moving a muscle. So little was expected from Janković, knowing that he just hung a huge political mill-stone around his neck.

But the newly minted mayor did go about it. It soon turned out that even though the city spent 15 million buying a degraded piece of land (and doing it twice over, mind you!), some smart soul agreed to return a strip of land to its previous owners in a process of de-nationalisation (rather than just compensating them in cash) and the first order of business was to buy the new/old owners out. At a price of about 8 million. And then the city announced a tender for a public-private partnership for construction of a new sports-and-shopping complex at Stožice. The idea was that the city would chip in the land and building rights, whereas the private partner would chip in everything else in a 350 million euro project, of which 83 million was estimated value of sports infrastructure.

Fast forward to a week ago and the city has to cough up 40 million. What went wrong? Well, nothing really. Or everything, depending on your point of view. It’s not as if project got out of hand or anything, but as it was developed, additional features were decided upon, which pushed the price-tag above the 83 million mark. Things such as an auxiliary football pitch and another smaller sports hall, a skate-park and number of other features which were all lacking in the original proposal.

But be that as it may, as the project was nearing completion Janković was realising more and more that some public funds will be necessary. Originally this was estimated at around 15 million, but when it was all put together and after some tugging between the private partner and the city, the needle stopped at 38.4 million euro. Regardless of whether you feel Janković just ass-fucked everyone involved or that 40 million still ain’t that bad a price for a brand new stadium, fact of the matter is that things are not as advertised way back in 2008, even though one can’t accuse the mayor of lying or deception, as he did admit the need for public financing soon enough. It’s just that this need wasn’t there to begin with.

Thus Janković will probably have to do some damage control in the coming weeks. The fact that he has to have the city council rebalance this year’s budget in two weeks’ time, 14 days before the elections to pay the initial 16 mil out of 40, means that he’s not out of the woods yet. And since campaign period is a free-for-all with even the most stupid, outrageous and suggestive questions being perfectly acceptable (not to mention those which are actually aimed at finding stuff out), the incumbent mayor will probably take a lot of heat for this one.

Given a somewhat surprising lack of polls pengovsky’s got nothing to go on here but a hunch, but for the time being Janković seems safe in the position of the front-runner. Not just because of his record, which may not be as brilliant as he’d like, but which is still a huge improvement over the last fifteen years of this city being at a virtual stand-still, but also because his opponents in the mayoral race seem either half-witted or half-hearted. However, it will probably not be a walk in the park (nearly) everyone expected. Even if he does win in the first round.

P.S.: pengovsky skipped on blogging last week entirely so we’ll just pick up where we left and pretend nothing ever happened. Thus no MMM this week. Sorry 🙁

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

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