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Organized Legality

June 25, 2015
If one more person asks me what’s up with Rome’s administration, I told myself the other day, I’ll have to finally get back to writing in my blog with my own personal answer.  Let’s call it a hypothesis more than an observation.  Rather than spell out the facts (you can find them with a quick google search) I’ll play the optimist and predict the future.
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But first a general overview.  Two years ago Romans elected a new mayor, Ignazio Marino.  He had made a lot of good promises and despite nominally belonging to the Democratic Party he was politically relatively independent and seemed ready to clean up an already corrupt city. My observations at the time, describing my first meeting with Marino and his promise to “make us all proud” can be found in past posts.
Then not much happened. Rome continued in its slow decine into the new dark ages that anyone who has visited the city recently, much less lived here, has witnessed. Rampant illegality in all areas: pickpockets roaming the subways seemingly immune to the law, street vendors flaunting regulations and evading taxes under the eyes of the tax police, and what’s worse the negative example of (some, certainly not all) public officials and employees violating everything from traffic laws to their own contracts.  Letters to the city offices went unanswered.  Promises were broken (a bike sharing system by March 2014?).
It was really strange to see the gulf between what the administration said and the reality in the street. It seemed that the Mayor really didn’t see the city. Otherwise how was it possible that just outside city hall there were cars double parked on pedestrian crossings around the clock?  How could the Commissioner for “Legality” park his SUV on the sidewalk and not cause a scandal and resign?  The economy continued to stagnate despite the influx of tourist money, and the only thing growing was the following of blogs like Roma Fa Schifo.
And then this spring, ongoing investigations called by the Mayor his first day in office started to bear fruit. Arrests were made, resignations tendered. Again in June a round of arrests thinned out the presence of alleged corruption in city hall.
At this point one would expect the Mayor would be hailed as a hero, praised for his strong actions against the criminal element in the government.  Instead, incredibly, calls were made for his resignation. Even the Prime Minister pulled his support for Marino. Fitch ratings for Rome are going up but the Mayor is receiving threats from within.   What a way to treat a whistle blower!
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Yet in the past few weeks something has started to change.  Traffic laws are being enforced.  The city streets are being repaired and cleaned. Illegal vendors are no longer quite so tolerated.  Rules for the separation of waste are finally being applied systematically.  What’s up? Could it be that the problem wasn’t the lack of action on the part of Marino and his staff but some other element working to sabotage their work?  And now that that element is gone, things are getting done? Just a guess;  we’ll see what happens next.
Here’s the news we want to hear: “A task force of experts, based on meritocracy and accountability, will be brought on board, with the participation of those citizens (thousands!) who have been engaged in community activism, to solve the city’s problems. The years of  inefficiencies and illegality will be relegated to history books and Rome will undergo a revival that it hasn’t seen for decades.”

*title introduced to me by Prof. Avv. Christian Iaione, Coordinatore del LABoratorio per la GOVernance dei beni comuni

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 26, 2015 06:17

    Thank you for being optimistic. I only hope you are right! We are newcomers (3 years) to Rome and it is challenging for an American to understand why scofflaws are tolerated. Enforcement of parking laws alone could bring millions of euros to the government and immediately improve pedestrian life and traffic flow. Why the “tavolini selvaggi” were singled out for enforcement and not illegal vendors is beyond my understanding. Hope you keep up the blogging. It’s helpful for me to read opinions in English!


  2. SoCal permalink
    June 26, 2015 15:36

    Change management gurus espouse that the real trick to successful change is overcoming the ‘black hole’ of middle management. The folks at the top will want change. The folks at the bottom may want change. But the reality of having middle management enjoying the status quo makes change impossible. Marino seems to understand that. It will take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.


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