Rome needs a new urban vision

I have known Rome since 1969, since it became my home after the first years spent in Genoa, where I was born. Just when I was starting high school, living and hanging out in the city center, Rome was beginning to expand at a dizzying pace, a victim of land occupation, illegal construction or, at best, haphazard construction without a community strategy. The city was growing and changing alone with me.

It is food for thought that since the 1980s about six hundred thousand requests for building amnesties have been submitted in Rome. This shows that 60% of new housing has some king of building abuse, but above all that permits have been issued even in the absence of adequate transport networks and services such as schools, markets, places of culture and worship. To this day in Rome entire neighborhoods lack sewerage, lighting, are not served by public transportation, even running drinking water and yet arr inhabited by thousands of families.

The Rome known to tourists, the Rome of archaeology and architecture built between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is a relatively small area with fewer inhabitants than Perugia. The real life of the vast majority of Romans happens elsewhere, far from the historical center, in poor and often degraded areas.

The beauty of historic Rome will survive over time, but Rome cannot become a community without a new urban vision, which today is completely lacking. A city affected by unresolved crises that exclude more than two million inhabitants from social and economic growth. The absence of a development strategy is caused above all by a local class of entrepreneurs who are generally lazy, provincial and ready to do anything to avoid business risk. The consequence, in the best of cases, is a weak economic system, in tourism as in urban planning, and in the worst of cases even criminal.

Even public institutions, not just private individuals, make choices guided by the interests of a few that conflict with the common good. Not to mention the inconsistency of overlapping, duplication and interference between municipal, regional and state competence on several important issues, which complicates the solution of many problems.

For all these reasons and more, Rome seems to have lost optimism and hope. This also translates into a growing lack of civic sense and poor respect for the rules of coexistence and collaboration. These behaviors are also closely linked to the inability of the ruling class to offer virtuous examples to emulate.

rome need a new urban vision

I have argued many times that the work to be done for Rome should start from a few priority areas which, in my opinion, are transportation, waste management, culture, security, and archaeology.

With regard to public transport, it is important to specify that resources (in addition to those collected through ticket sales) derive from the National Transport Fund which is distributed to the Regions in proportion to the number of inhabitants. Lazio receives from the State approximately five hundred and seventy-six million euros per year, Lombardy eight hundred and fifty-three. But Rome has a territory of one thousand two hundred and eighty-five square kilometers, unlike Milan, which has only seven hundred and three. And again, in 2014 for transport Rome received one hundred and forty million euros from the Lazio Region, while the Lombardy Region allocated more than twice as much to Milan, two hundred and eighty-five million euros.

Rome is not only the largest city in Italy, it is also the capital. How is it possible that the various levels of government do not adequately finance its transportation statemi? For once, the solution is not to allocate more money, but to change the way it is allocated by providing a direct transaction from the State, without the Region as an intermediary.

Regarding waste management, I have often been accused of closing the Malagrotta landfill in 2013 without an alternative plan. This is not true. Our strategy included three main actions that we had begun to implement successfully: plant autonomy, cost reduction with increased productivity of services and development of differentiated collection. I still consider this a valid plan.

As far as culture is concerned, it is essential that in Rome we do not limit ourselves to investing exclusively in the city center but that we aim to establish places for training and qualified aggregation in every area of the city. This could be financed by the public but entrusted to the coordination of local artists and managers who live and know the local communities.

With regard to security, the local government must contribute by investing in lighting and video surveillance in every corner of the city. On the other hand, the points listed so far also have a direct impact on this area. Being able to reach the suburbs easily on functioning public transportation has an impact on citizen safety. Similarly, providing young people with centers of aggregation and cultural initiatives in these areas helps offer alternatives to the risks of laziness and indolence that often fuel delinquency.

Finally, archaeology remains an opportunity for wealth, an economic engine to create stable and qualified jobs, with financial resources to be distributed even outside the Aurelian walls. In a city like Rome the donations of international philanthropists must be added to the induced effect of an organic investment on the central archaeological park. Private donors must be attracted and well managed.

As things stand, however, the Mayor of Rome cannot decide on transportation because the funds are controlled by the Region, he cannot decide on waste disposal because the necessary authorizations are also the responsibility of the Region. He cannot invest in the central archaeological park because his powers are controlled by those of the Minister of Culture.

At the same time, however, the mayor of a metropolitan city has enormous responsibilities, including an annual budget in some cases larger than that of a big company, with the risk of being sued every day.

I was mayor for twenty-eight months and, in connection with this office, I had to enter the halls of justice as a defendant dozens of times. Of course, I was always fully acquitted, but I had to bear the moral and material cost. But in those court hearings I was not accused as a Mayor who had taken seciaiona for the interest of the city, but as an individual. I remain proud of those decisions but I do not agree with the idea that they can be considered by the law as the actions of a private citizen.

Ignazio R. Marino

Professor of Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University

Executive Vice President for International Innovative Strategic Ventures, Thomas Jefferson University & Jefferson Health

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Autore dell'articolo: Ignazio Marino