Rome Crumbles, and City’s Residents Have Little Faith Mayor Can Restore Ancient City

Mayor Ignazio Marino in his office. Rome, a city of 2.8 million people, has been deteriorating, many say, with public services getting progressively worse in recent months. (Credit: Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times)
Mayor Ignazio Marino in his office. Rome, a city of 2.8 million people, has been deteriorating, many say, with public services getting progressively worse in recent months. (Credit: Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times)

The grass in some public parks sways knee high. Disgruntled subway workers have slowed service to a crawl. Fire has rendered the city’s largest airport crammed and chaotic. The arrests of public officials pile up, revealing mobster infiltration of the city government.

It all adds up to what Romans call “degrado” — the degradation of services, buildings and their standard of living — and the general sense that their ancient city is falling apart. Even more than usual.

Not all those troubles are necessarily the fault of Mayor Ignazio Marino, a former surgeon whose own integrity remains unblemished. But, strangely enough, in Rome his decency is not necessarily seen as part of the solution, either.

Born in Genoa and trained in the United States, Mr. Marino took office in 2013 as the unlikely leader of a city famed for its political intrigues. His outsider résumé initially appealed to Romans hoping for an honest broker with Anglo-Saxon credentials who could clean up their city.

Today Mr. Marino finds himself under political siege in the city he vowed to save from itself. Italy’s news media lampoons him as an honest man in over his head, a kind of David Dinkins of Rome, or as one newspaper called him, a Forrest Gump.

“His virtue is also his main problem; he is not connected to all the rotten Roman relationships,” said Carlo Bonini, an investigative journalist with La Repubblica, a daily newspaper. “He knows the world he operates in too little.”

Romans are notorious for their cynicism about politics, their resignation in the face of antiquated services and sprawling bureaucracy, and no shortage of ways to complain about it. As the problems mount, residents are voicing increasing frustration with services inadequate to serve the city’s roughly 2.8 million people.

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SOURCE: GAIA PIANIGIANI
The New York Times

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