Rome: the new Duce is a reformer

Yesterday night Romans were partying. It was not about the beloved local team, As Roma. This time they were saluting their new mayor, the one they have elected with a vast majority and the person in which their hopes lie. Viale Cristoforo Colombo (like other major streets) was invaded by honking cars; people were hailing like old fashioned fascists would, chanting “Viva il Duce” and raising their right hand at the sky.

Don’t worry though. Romans did not turn fascists again, the problem being: they are stressed out, frustrated, they can’t cope with the way their city has been managed by Veltroni: the perfect scenario for a Cinema happening with George Clooney, a living inferno for everyone who is not a movie star.  

That’s why Giovanni “Gianni” Alemanno (you would say: “Johnny Al-ea-man-n-oh”,  “Al” as in Al Capone, “ea” as in earth) is the new mayor of the eternal city. This guy born in Bari (Puglia) on March 3, 1958, somehow managed to gather the votes of 53,66% of Romans. His counterpart “the scooter driven by no-one” (as Beppe Grillo once called him), alias Francesco Rutelli, only got 46,34%. He used to go around Rome with a Honda “Sh” scooter when he was the mayor (1993-2001).

At the elegant Pd’s headquarter (a glamorous loft at center of the city), the feeling was already bad a few days ago: “the sensation of déjà vu is too strong”, someone whispered. People were uncertain about Rutelli’s possibilities to become mayor for the third time. This fear was, in fact, on solid ground. Veltroni’s comment was, at least once, illuminated: “This defeat is very serious and heavy”. After the Berlusconi’s Pdl victory, the left was counting on Rome to preserve a glimpse of power, although that hope vanished in the air.

One thing is for certain: the “Modello Roma” (Veltroni used to refer to his way of dealing with the many problems of the city with the expression “Model Rome”, as if he started a new deal like the Roosevelt one), is defeated, it never existed and the Romans had  understood that a long time ago. As it is now, Rome reminds its citizens about a quagmire of holes in which having a accident with your motorbike it’s easy as drinking water, the buses are unreliable, the metro system is the worst in Europe, the center is totally invaded by peddlers and illegal immigrants are free to rape women in the suburbs.

Forget about the cliché of the “European capital” used by Veltroni to describe Rome, if you are a tourist, you might enjoy the incredible historical sites, but try to live in this city for a while, get yourself a normal apartment far from the center (very high priced anyway). Things appear way different than what it looks like in Via Veneto during a Sunday afternoon.

Alemanno understood all this.  Like the majority of the Romans that have voted what they still consider a former fascist, even though “Johnny” has already changed his mind about fascism. He said that, once a Mayor, he would have started the construction of a Synagogue in Ostia and incremented the school visits to Auschwitz. 

Alemanno understood that Rome was “burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, poisoned in the bushes an’ blow out on the trail, hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn” as Bob Dylan would say – and really needed: “Shelter from the storm”.  Especially now that the city’s climate has turned into a London-style perennial rain (it has been raining almost every day during the last two months). The Pdl’s candidate (virtually) pronounced the magic words: “Come in” he said “I’ll give you, Shelter from the storm”, as in the famous song.  

A mountaineering lover, Alemanno now will have to climb the seven hills. Not an easy task, let’s admit it. The “right-wing  troskyist”, as someone called him not long ago, can anyway count on a spirit that seems to be suited for the job. When he was the Minister of Agricultural Reforms – in order to save some time – he used to shave himself in the car and became famous for his non-sleeping ability. He would stay up for two nights in a row, so to solve problems faster.  He could as well phone a colleague in the middle of the night asking: “you’re still sleeping?”.

This is just folklore tough. The truth is that Romans have decided already.  On the base of an articulated program that touches every single nerve of the infected Roman wound. The Program is called “The Pact with Rome” and will provide Roman citizens with the wave of reforms they long awaited for. First: the city will finally have (like all other great cities throughout the world) a District for itself; this will enhance decisional power for the Region, allowing Rome to benefit from the fiscal federalism wanted by the Lega Nord. Second: a Statute reform will start, aimed at balancing taxes with services offered by the city. Third: “Plan house”. The housing problem has been overwhelming citizens,  since the disappearing of the “Equo canone” (the fair rent policy) in the early nineties, Alemanno wants to build 25 thousand new houses to help solving the issue.

Going ahead with the program, you will discover a plan for the re-qualification of the suburbs and the appropriation of 1,5 millions for the development of the outskirt. It is undeniable that the city needs these measures. Another good point:  the public transportation system will be dramatically increased with the construction of a new Metro line and the expansion of the existing ones. Priceless.

According to many pundits here in Rome, Alemanno has won mainly because he pointed the finger at security issues.  We mentioned before that the curse of illegal immigrants is a sensitive spot for Romans. Well, the new mayor will close illegal nomad camps. On that point, even the toughest leftist would agree.

Also, the Omni-present peddlers in the center of Rome will have to either leave or transform their business into something legal, otherwise they will be out of business, it’s the 9th point of Alemanno’s program.

Other issues regard the garbage problem (even in Rome), the case for citizen’s health and the elders. Alright, we know by now that a political program could be a pie in the sky.  Let us hope, though, after fifteen years of “Rome Decadence”.  

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Andrea Loquenzi Holzer

The truth will set you free

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