BATTLE lines are first drawn and protagonists stay behind their respective lines. The excitement starts when the battle is joined and protagonists go at each other. In the arena of Cebu City politics, Mayor Michael Rama first drew the line when he prioritized the repair of roads, the unclogging of drainage and the beautification of the city.

Although desirable, these hardly trump the priorities for jobs, housing and health services. Nevertheless, I applauded Mayor Rama because with these projects he clearly refuted the former mayor’s claim that the city was clean and pretty. As a result Cebu City is beginning to show signs of the pride of place that was starkly missing in the former mayor’s stinky, dirty and seedy excuse of a city.

As if on cue, the council drew their battle line also by slashing the incumbent’s budget without informing him beforehand. We all know, of course, the council would never have dared slash the former mayor’s budget, much less do it without clearing it with him first. We can, therefore, reasonably surmise from the unilateral slashing who still holds the council’s puppet strings. It’s not the incumbent.

If the slashing was for reasons of economy, how come the council now favors the vice-mayor’s proposal to buy vintage airplanes? This is just so incredibly inane that it boggles the mind how and why it came about that old planes became a priority for a city that needs most of its money to provide the basic services that were neglected by the previous administration. Not surprisingly, the former mayor’s endorsement is the only clue.

It would be less inane to give Mayor Rama his band. At least the band can showcase a cultural heritage, which is the Cebuano’s talent for music. After all, culture is an essential part of total human development. But old fixed-wing aircraft are absolutely useless in and around the city unless you build runways. And where, at the SRP’s wide open spaces? If, and only if, the city needed a plane, any fool would know it would have to be a helicopter.

Battle lines seem to have been drawn between the Tommy-controlled council and the (Tommy-unloosed?) mayor. Will the battle ever be joined? Not if Mayor Rama would stand his ground and the council would adopt the priorities of the people who voted them in. Not also if Mayor Rama, God forbid, should capitulate to a council that insists on acknowledging the former mayor as their sole boss.

The battle will also most probably never be joined if Mayor Rama does not dare touch the SRP. One thing is certain, though. Basic services can use a lot more attention from Mayor Rama than what it got from the former mayor, whether battle lines are joined or not.