I was asked the other day how I thought the new administration of Rome, in office now since June, was progressing. My answer was positive, but with reserve. I shook hands with the new mayor on June 13th when he took often and pleaded with him to “make us proud”, which he promised to do. Yesterday we met again, at the presentation of Pietro Abbate’s interesting book Fare di Roma un capolavoro, and I congratulated him on living up to his promise, so far.
The “reserve” comes from the daily experience we all share in Rome–the long list of annoyances from the cars blocking the wheelchair ramps to the dirty, inefficient transit system to the blah blah blah, the list goes on. Numerous blogs and twitter feeds document this continuously and I have suggested previously that before the mayor expends too much effort on sensational new urban initiatives it would behoove him to enforce basic rules of civic behavior, starting with public officials. I think that is starting to happen.
After many failed attempts I recently received a fantastic response from a member of the mayor’s staff. I won’t quote it in full here, nor does it matter who the exact author is. The overall message was on-target: this city needs “maintenance” in order to become a “normal city” where daily life is less exhausting and where rules are respected. But the letter went on to affirm that Rome will never be a “normal city”; an observation I made in a previous post “Extraordinary Rome“. It must be an extraordinary city where normal civic standards are only the lowest common denominator.
Bit by bit, slowly (much too slowly), with growing citizen participation which Abbate points out is key, this is starting to become a reality. Yesterday I saw one less car in the pedestrian area outside the cultural superintendency (why not eliminate all these cars?), one more ticket on an car parked in a tow-away zone by the Campidoglio (why not tow them all?), one more bus departing on schedule.
Thus, I continue to hold a “pragmatic optimism” that Rome is on track to see a cultural, civic, and (why not) economic revival in days, months and years to come.