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End of Degrado

July 25, 2015

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It’s an exciting time to be living in Rome (when is that not true?) and the world is watching to see what happens next.  A recent article in the New York Times highlighted the urban blight that reached its greatest depth in recent years, and Mayor Marino’s patient efforts to reverse the trends.  Along with the headlines of the past few months regarding Mafia Capitale, the temptation is great to see Rome as another Cairo, a once-great capital fallen into third world conditions (at least when I was in Cairo in the 80’s that was the scenario; it’s probably much improved like Istanbul today).

On the ground in Rome the perception is quite different.  The “degrado” described in international newspapers today peaked a few years back and signs of improvement, albeit small and slow, are taking its place. The corruption that was visible to anyone involved in city affairs in recent years is being attacked through arrests and firings. Press releases from the city offices announce concrete solutions to problems of public transit, waste management, public safety and decor, and environmental issues which have been unaddressed for years.

It’s still difficult to be optimistic; the visible examples of before/after improvements are rare, and it is still way too common to witness blatant illegality on the city streets (sadly,  also occasionally on the part of public officials). But at least it’s easier to denounce that illegality; whereas the attitude toward civic activism in years past was “it will never change, mind your own business” the message from the city hall is now “we hear you and thank you for your participation.” (Okay, I’ve still never got this answer in writing but I hear the sentiments and respect the intentions)

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