Monday, November 5, 2018

Rome Is Failing

Once upon a time Rome was a great city. It was the center of civilization, the home to Caesar and Augustus, the seat of empire. Rome gave us the idea of Republican government.

What could go wrong? Apparently, a lot is going wrong in Rome these days. The city is literally falling apart. It reminds you of some of America’s blue cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

New York Magazine has the story, beginning with last week’s escalator accident in the subway.

When a descending subway escalator in Rome accelerated last week, shoveling passengers into a writhing pile at the bottom, the lurch produced more than 20 literal injuries (a man lost his foot) and one glaring metaphor. Mayor Virginia Raggi rushed to the scene…. Citing unnamed witnesses, she claimed that Russian soccer fans had been jumping and dancing on the escalator, possibly causing it to collapse. Video of the accident showed no such thing.

A subway system that is almost as bad as New York. Clearly, the Mayor Raggi bears considerable responsibility for the calamitous state of her city. It’s girl power, don’t you know.

How bad is it? New York Magazine has the story:

Rome has been experiencing episodes of extravagant decay on Raggi’s watch. Potholes, some big enough to fish in, have grown so numerous that they have their own Facebook page. Neglected dumpsters overflow and garbage piles up into sidewalk sculptures. Once-verdant parks have reverted to dusty wilderness. Abundant refuse attracts wild boars, which gallop down major arteries, swarm streets, graze in garbage, even take group naps in parks. The transit agency ATAC has a record that almost makes the MTA look good. Two public buses burst into flames on the same day last May, bringing the count of spontaneously combusting buses to 10 so far this year. Just last Sunday, a hailstorm turned roads into frozen, oily swamps and subway escalators into cataracts. Rome is divided between the parts that are crumbling and the parts that crumbled a long time ago.

What is causing the problem? Different theories have arisen:

The populist and right-wing politicians who govern Italy see it as a nation caught in a vise between immigrants storming in from Africa and meddling politicians reaching in from Brussels. But it’s really homegrown ineptitude that is trashing the fragile capital. Free from war, insurrection, disaster, or depression, Rome is being victimized by its own bureaucrats. Anyone who lives in a major city will recognize the syndrome.

One suspects that there is enough blame to go around. One notes that the new national government has clamped down on illegal immigration. This does not mean that Rome does not have an illegal immigrant problem, but hopefully the nation will take control of the situation.

As for the city’s first woman mayor, she has clearly not been up to the job. The fault, of course, lies with sexism:

When Raggi took office as the city’s first woman mayor, and as the genial face of the populist Five-Star Movement, also known as M5S, many celebrated her as the fresh face of ordinary Romans. Others saw her as inexperienced, callow, and easily manipulated. (Unsurprisingly, she was subject to blistering sexist attacks.) M5S, started in 2009 by the demagogic comedian Beppe Grillo, rose to prominence with a mixture of right- and left-wing policies — hostility to immigrants, globalism; advocacy for the environment and a universal basic income. But it has always been more comfortable in the angry opposition than wielding actual power, and it’s never been clear how its radicalism would jibe with the nuts and bolts of managing a major metropolis. During her two years in office, Raggi has proven so hapless that entropy now appears to be running the city on its own.

The problem occurs when an opposition party takes power... and is not ready to do so. Just because Raggi is a woman doesn’t mean that she cannot be incompetent. Even New York Magazine is forced to admit that she is “hapless.”

The moral of the story: if it can happen in Rome it can happen everywhere.


Anonymous said...

At a rate of 9 fall-distances per hour?

Sam L. said...

It's easy to put off maintenance and repairs, but the problem(s) get worse and worse and worse. What is the city government doing with the taxes coming in? I'm guessing the Roman Ruins will have some rather newer ruins to accompany them.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.