Like many of [WORD ILLEGIBLES] swept into local leadership posts in the 1975 election, Michalis Panadoupoules, the ebullient mayor of Balonika, has discovered to his frustration that even in small towns here, the central government holds most of the power.
"My responsibilities are limited to public lighting, to collecting garbage, issuing certificates and burying the lead," Papadoupolos, a 59-year-old lawyer, said in an interview,
The central government in Athens has responsibility for the city's water and sewage system, for buses, town planned and traffic control. Even the city swimming pool is owned and operated by the national government.
With no independent source of taxation, the mayors of Salonika, Greece's second-largest city, and of other multicipalities depend on the nomarch, a sapoleonic-Like prefect appointed by Athens. He is the official representative of the conservative government of Constantine Karamanlis and, most often, a solid party man.
Under the Greek constitution, the nomarch has the final decision on all local matters and can veto decisions by city hall. He may recommend the dismissal of city councils if they involve themselves in anything unrelated to local affairs.
Thus, when a number of city councils voted to ban any shore visits by sailors of the U.S. 6th Fleet, Interior Minister Constantine Stephanopoulos warned the mayors that they were interfering in Greek foreign policy.
Despite the lack of local autonomy, leftist officials hope that they can duplicate the experience of Italy's Communist Party, which built up its apparatus in city governments before it challenged Rome.
"Of cource we can be another Italy," said City Council President George Triantafylidis, a Communist, "if there is unity among the democratic left."
"Though local authorities have power only on paper, we can still influence public opinion during our term," he added.
"Greece's local governments have consistently been progressive," said Triantafylidis, who considers himself a "Euro-Communist" who resists Soviet direction of foreign Communist parties. He said localities "are more representative of the national feeling" than the Parliament in Athens.
"Fear is not a factor in local elections, whether it is the psychological factor of war with Turkey or another dictatorship. There are also no presures from the national police and security forces during local elections."
The leftist city council has left its imprint on this northern city of 700,000. There has been a general improvement in relations with eastern Europe, and Balkan tourists flood the city's streets.
During last summer's annual Dimitra arts festival only one entry was not from the East, and there have been scores of teach-ins on Chilean political prisoners and other leftist themes.
mayor Papadopoulos, the honorary chairman of the Greek-Soviet Friendship Society, led a march to the American consulate protesting U.S. policy toward Turkey, espicially the grant of military aid.
But in running the city, with its quagmire of problems, Papadopoulos has virtually no power.
Sitting in his rented offices, in a run-down building on one of the city's bustling squares, he bemoaned the fact that after three years in power he has been unable to convince Athens of the need for a city hall.
"They committed themselves to constructing a municipal building in November 1975. then I discovered through the indiscretion of a number of civil servants that they had canceled the project and decided to build a Byzantine museum instead. We still haven't been informed officially," Papadopoulos said.
"There's a pertual dispute between the government and local administration. Much of our information on government decisions concerning Salonika we read in the Athens press."
When Alexander Panagoulis, the would-be assassin of dictator George Papadopoulos, died in an auto accident a year ago, Salonika's City Council voted to rename a major avenue after him. They were informed by the nomarch that the street they had chosen already had a perfectly good name. Therefore they should find another street.
"It's a total contradiction of the democratic process," said city council man Argyris Maltsidis, a member of a newly formed social-democratic political group. "People vote for local authorities without power and the nomarch continues to rule."
"The whole concept of the decentralization of government is a pressing problem." Maltsidie continued.
"Only when we have a progressive government in athens can there be any real change. The present government is doing everything in its power to prevent a second Italy from occurring in Greece."