Southern Italians press author Pino Aprile to lead political action

by Anthony M. Quattrone

The Party of the South and 20 other southern Italian political and cultural organizations held a meeting in Bari on 6 September 2012 with Pino Aprile, author of the best seller “Terroni”, to seek his agreement to become the political leader of a wider southern Italian political movement aiming at electing to the Italian Parliament during the elections in 2013, a team of dedicated southern deputies truly committed to the redemption and revival of the Italian South.

There are already many southern Italian deputies elected to the Chamber of Deputies, but, according to Enzo Riccio, member of the executive board of the Party of the South, “none truly represent southern Italians because their parties are tightly linked to the economic and political interests of northern Italian financial and industrial groups”.  According to Riccio, “the South has been in a position of subordination to the north since the brutal conquest of 1860-61, when the Piedmontese occupation army subjugated and annexed the peaceful, independent and sovereign state of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies”.

Antonio Ciano, founder and honorary president of the Party of the South

Southern Italian political and cultural movements complain that during the past 151 years the unified Italian state, which went from a monarchy under the House of Savoy to a democratic Republic after World War II, has fundamentally treated the South as a colonial possession, stripping it of its industry, banks and population.  According to revisionist historians, the vast majority of Italian immigrants throughout the world come from southern Italy because their homeland was brought to misery by the new Italian unified state, which they allege favored northern interests.

The Mayor of Bari, Michele Emiliano, speaks with attendees outside City Hall before the meeting

The meeting in Bari was hosted by the city’s popular mayor, Michele Emiliano, who is a member of the Italian Democratic Party (center left) and is a staunch supporter of the rights of the Italian South.  Last year, in another meeting with Pino Aprile, the mayor opened the event having a band play the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, openly marking his understanding of subjugation of the southern homeland.

The hundreds of participants who filled City Hall were unable to sway Pino Aprile into becoming the leader of the wider southern Italian movement, but they were rewarded for their efforts when they heard him announce that he will play a major role by becoming the editor-in-chief of a new southern Italian daily which is in the making.

Stefano Lo Passo and Luca Antonio Pepe of the “Together for the Rebirth (of the South)” movement

Antonio Ciano, founder of the Party of the South, was particularly forceful in reminding the audience that the battle for the redemption and the revival of the South is uphill against the “strong powers” of the North.  Author Lino Patruno was particularly moved by the presence of many youngsters in the crowd.  Two young representatives of “Insieme per la Rinascita” (“Together for the Rebirth of the South), Luca Antonio Pepe and Stefano Lo Passo appealed to the need for linking the battle for the revival of the South with a strong struggle against all forms of organized crime.

According to Marco Esposito, a member of the Naples City Government and major organizer of the meeting in Bari, the creation of an independent southern Italian newspaper headed by Aprile will provide a major loudspeaker and standard-bearer for southern interests, facilitating the development of a strong and well established southern Italian political movement.

Pino Aprile in Bari

The comments on social networks after the meeting with Pino Aprile ranged from rank-and-file disappointment that the Pino Aprile would not take up a specifically political role, to a more pragmatic approach which acknowledges that, after all, the meeting has led to Pino Aprile’s announcement that the South will finally have an independent paper not linked to any northern financial or industrial group.

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Naples musters its best and brightest to pull off the America’s Cup

Anthony M. Quattrone

America's Cup World Series catamarans in the Bay of Naples (photo from facebook site: Napoli poesia d'Italia...divine napoletane!)

Naples has mustered its best and brightest in getting the city ready to host the World Series of the America’s Cup from 11 through 15 April 2012.  Evening photographs of the bay of Naples with catamarans lit up and a full moon over Mount Vesuvius have been flooding the Internet, in magnificent opposition to the images that circulated worldwide only ten months ago which showed a city submerged under mountains of garbage.

Since the election of mayor Luigi de Magistris on 31 May 2011, Naples has undergone rapid change, which includes rigorous limitations on private vehicle circulation downtown, higher levels of waste recycling and an overall sense of regained civic participation in the administration of the city, with numerous bottom-up events empowering citizens.  During the past ten months, citizen groups like “CleaNap”, “Friarielli Ribelli”, “VANTO”, and “Orange Revolution”, to mention a few, have literally taken over cleaning and maintenance of squares and gardens, trying to complement the work that the over-stretched city sanitation and grounds maintenance service could not accomplish, and have brought to the attention of city officials numerous monuments and places of interest that needed their immediate attention.

Bay of Naples with lit America's Cup catamarams in the water (photo from Facebook: Napoli poesia d'Italia...divine napoletane!)

Mayor de Magistris has also been able to develop the necessary synergy with other local officials to ensure that the America’s Cup events could take place with the maximum positive effect for the city.  He put aside political differences with Region President, Stefano Caldoro, and with Provincial President, Luigi Cesaro, to ensure that the three levels of government would facilitate holding the World Series in the Bay of Naples.  The three officials, together with Paolo Graziano, president of the Industrial Employers Association of Naples and CEO of the America’s Cup Naples organization, pulled off the event which officially started on Sunday 8 April 2012 with an evening show in Piazza del Plebiscito (the former Largo di Palazzo) opposite the Royal Palace, with thousands of people in attendance in spite of a persistent rain.  During the opening ceremony, the seven teams were introduced to the crowd.

There will be nine boats in the water, with two teams, Oracle and Luna Rossa, competing with two boats each.  The other catamarans will be competing for China Team, Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Energy Team , and Team Korea.

According to a strategic plan reviewed by the press, the America’s Cup will cost approximately 20 million Euro while the income should be three times that amount.  Supporters and critics of the event are battling on the Web arguing about the cost and the real effect on the city.  For critics, the operation is only a façade covering up real problems relating to waste management in the province of Naples.  For supporters, the event will be a success on its own merit and it will be a catalyst for further improvement in the city.

Bikers enjoy the waterfront closed to traffic on 2 April 2012. (Photo by Antonella Maiorano)

Mayor de Magistris sees the America’s Cup as an enabler for implementing changes that his administration had already planned.  For example, Via Caracciolo, the scenic waterfront hosting the America’s Cup Village, which is currently closed to traffic due to the World Series, will remain a pedestrian walkway even after the races.  The mayor proudly announced on Easter Sunday that the waterfront will now be a pedestrian walkway connecting the port to the foot of the Posillipo hill.

Click for more information from the AC World Series web site

Click for the schedule of events

Information on Naples and sorrounding areas

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America’s Cup World Series in Naples – final countdown

Course map -- photo by ACEA
Click on photo for full size map.

Anthony M. Quattrone

Events are scheduled to take place from 11 through 15 April 2012

Naples is almost ready for the World Series of the America’s Cup. The water front road, Via Caracciolo, which is closed to traffic, is hosting the Village where the different sailing teams will be setting their headquarters. The whole downtown area is undergoing major traffic rerouting and the City is attempting to make last minutes repairs to pot holes and general asphalt maintenance.

The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, appears to be quite satisfied with the general reaction of the population to the many restrictions imposed on traffic, but he and his team remain open to suggestions from different stakeholders who lament that certain policies have gone a little too far, causing a downturn in income for restaurants, pubs, and bars, especially during the evening hours.

Mayor de Magistris is experiencing a surge in popularity with almost 70 percent of the population approving his performance, making him the best-liked mayor in all of Italy. His sternness with respect to law and order coupled with his attention to the weaker segments of the population has allowed him to implement dramatic changes in everyday life of most Neapolitans, especially in the area of downtown living conditions.

The Mayor has decided that Via Caracciolo will remain closed to traffic also after the end of the World Series. His intention is to transform the waterfront into an area where citizens can enjoy a peaceful walk without any concern for vehicles, noise and bust from traffic.

The extension of the breakwaters in front of Via Caracciolo is well under way. The new breakwaters infrastructure is required to allow the AC World Series teams to safely launch and hoist the AC45 catamarans from flat water behind the protective barrier during the training and actual competition which will start on 11 April 2012.

Mayor de Magistris stated that “The city is getting ready to host the event in the best possible way. There is much enthusiasm and the desire to participate is palpable. I am sure that this event there is not going to be only a sporting event, but it will also be a flywheel for real development, from tourism to employment. The AC World Series will provide great visibility to the already exceptional setting of the waterfront of via Caracciolo. This event will allow us all to fully enjoy the beauty of the sea, of the beach and of the landscape of our city”.

The clock is ticking to the final countdown. Go Naples!

Click for more information from the AC World Series web site

Click for the schedule of events

Read also “Where it happens” published by the America’s Cup World Series staff

Information on Naples and what to visit

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Scrambling for the America’s Cup

Anthony M. Quattrone

Plymouth (UK) 14/09/2011 - - 34th America's Cup - AC World Series - Plymouth 2011 - Naples venue announcement - Paolo Graziano, President Industrial Union; Gennaro Ferrara, Vicepresident of Naples Province; Stefano Caldoro, President of Region Campania; Luigi de Magistris, Mayor of Naples; Richard Worth, President ACEA; Tommaso Sodano, Vicemayor Naples; Riccardo Marone-President of Bagnolifutura. Photo: © ©2011 ACEA/Ricardo Pinto

One of the primary objectives of the municipal government led by the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has been to bring to Naples some major international events which may act as a catalyst for urban renewal and may provide an economic boost for the tourism industry. Three international events that are scheduled to take place during the next three years may help the Mayor meet his objective. The World Urban Forum, a high-level United Nations conference on cities, will take place in September 2012. The event, which will focus on sustainable urban development, rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies, is expected to draw some 20,000 attendees, including world leaders, statesmen, businessmen and academics.

The Universal Forum of Cultures, which was set by the previous Mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, will take place from 21 April through 10 July 2013. Last month, Mayor de Magistris changed the leadership of the committee responsible for organizing the event, by replacing Nicola Oddati, a member of the Democratic Party and a former alderman for culture of the previous city government, with Roberto Vecchioni, a nationally-known singer and song writer of Neapolitan origins. The forum, which is sponsored by UNESCO, seeks to bring together citizens from a varied range of cultures, languages, and religions to promote inter-cultural dialogue and to encourage global civil society empowerment.

Naples will be hosting two races of the America’s Cup World Series in April 2012 and May 2013. Mayor de Magistris, together with Luigi Cesaro, President of the Province of Naples, Stefano Caldoro, Governor of the Campania Region, and with Paolo Graziano, president of the Naples Association of the Industry Leaders, and chairman of the America’s Cup Napoli (CAN), confirmed on 14 September 2011 that an agreement had been reached with America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA), which is responsible for the commercial side of the 34th America’s Cup, to hold the event in Naples. Read the whole article

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Mayor closes historical center to cars – angers organized crime

The limited traffic zone in the Naples historical center

Anthony M. Quattrone

The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, is resolutely proceeding with sweeping reforms aiming at making Naples a “normal” city.  On 22 September 2011, his city government implemented a new limited traffic zone(the acronym “ZTL” appears in the press and on the traffic signs), effectively closing automotive traffic to all non-residents in the historical city center from 07:30 to 18:00 daily. The purpose of the ZTL is to preserve the historical center, cut down on carbon emissions, improve the flow of traffic, reduce noise, eliminate illegal parking, and curb the illegal utilization of traffic lanes reserved for public transportation.  The full implementation of the ZTL in Naples will take effect at the end of October, when closed circuit television systems for monitoring the traffic flow in and out of the concerned areas and electronic governed barriers should be in place.

The immediate reaction by citizens was mixed.  While the overwhelming majority of persons interviewed by the press appeared to support the Mayor’s decision, a small group of inhabitants and merchants of the Cavone area near Piazza Dante held a demonstration on the evening of 22 September, where some protesters overturned garbage bins and blocked bus and taxi traffic for several hours.  Mayor de Magistris reacted to the protest stating that he was not going to let anyone intimidate him and that it was obvious that the decisions of the City had “touched some old accumulated mucky interests”, suggesting possible organized crime involvement in the protest.  Giuseppe Narducci, the city official responsible for security, has no doubts that “the Camorra organized the raid”. According to Francesco Nicodemo, a spokesperson for the Naples provincial federation of the Democratic Party, “it is shameful that a limited traffic zone can be boycotted by a camorra boss.  The honest Neapolitans, who are the overwhelming majority of the citizens, have once again had to suffer at the hands of the clans.”  For Nicodemo, because organized crime is challenging the State, “the civilized part of Naples, the institutions, the police forces, the parties, the associations, and all honest citizens cannot surrender: they must be even more united”.

The day after the demonstration, a group of merchants from the Piazza Dante area condemned the violence but asked the Mayor to reconsider the implementation of the new traffic limits, stating that their businesses would be heavily damaged by the traffic limits.  According to the merchants, they were set to lose about 50 percent of their business because it would be expensive and inconvenient for customers to reach the limited traffic zone for shopping.  The merchants accuse the administration of not involving all stakeholders in the decision making process and that it is underestimating the damage to the local economy.

The city in proceeding with its implementation of the limited traffic zone reinforcing local police patrols on 24 hour shifts and by adding a new bus service, number 55, which makes a circular round on the periphery of the traffic limited zone ensuring that travellers can reach all areas of the limited zone and that they can easily connect with other public transportation stations and stops.

See the map of the limited traffic zone for the historical center

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Naples is becoming a laboratory for social innovation

Participatory democracy, bottom-up initiatives, and social innovation

Participatory democracy in action: Deputy Mayor Tommaso Sodano takes questions from citizens and listens to their proposals in an open-air assembly in Bagnoli on 29 July 2011.

Anthony M. Quattrone

The election of Luigi de Magistris on 31 May 2011 has coincided with a renewed sense of citizenship on the part of many Neapolitans who have become disheartened towards the political process.  During the latest rounds of local and national elections, Neapolitans have demonstrated their unhappiness by simply not going to vote or by voiding their ballot in the privacy of the poll booth.  The “non-vote party” has hovered in the 35 to 40 percent range reaching a enduring level of disaffection towards all political sides.  A famous Neapolitan actor, Beppe Barra, during a concert in support of the electoral campaign of Luigi de Magistris’ for the post of Mayor  bluntly warned the candidate on 13 May 2011: “Luigi, please don’t disappoint me!”  Many citizens in Naples feel that the election of Luigi de Magistris is a last-ditch bid to save whatever is left of the glorious capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, conquered by the North 150 years ago and annexed to the newly formed Italian state.  Some historical revisionist analysts feel that Neapolitans first became disillusioned by Italian politics exactly 150 years ago, when the Capital was downgraded to a mere province in the new Italian state, and the northern Italian conquerors made ill thought political agreements with members of organized crime, the Camorra, making them become the first police commissioners. Neapolitan disenchantment with politics and total distrust of politicians started with the unification of Italy and has basically persisted to this day.

However, with the election of Luigi de Magistris, Naples appears to have become a sort of laboratory for participatory democracy, bottom-up initiatives, and social innovation.  On the participatory democracy front, the new mayor has kept his promise, so far, to consult with stakeholders prior to implementing policies, with the intention of making citizens part of the decision making process.  De Magistris and members of his City Government have taken their policies to the street holding open air assemblies in several neighborhoods, where citizens were given the opportunity to put forward challenging questions and where the mayor and his team have been required to provide candid and straightforward answers. The Mayor has also made time at City Hall to receive social action groups and private citizens interested in providing him with their view on all aspects of governing the City.  De Magistris has stated that 90 percent of the meetings are about issues of general interest while only 10 percent pertain to “personal” matters.  He commented also that most of the meetings produce a wealth of raw information not readily available to City Government officials and, in many cases, citizens also provide reasonable solutions.  The deputy mayor, Tommaso Sodano, for example, held a fiery meeting with several hundred residents of the western neighborhood of Bagnoli, on 29 July 2011, to discuss several practical topics related to living conditions, such as getting more police on the streets, cleaning municipal gardens, picking up the garbage, improving the flow of traffic, and reducing noise at night caused by open air discotheques and hoards of kids roaming the streets.  Although the meeting, organized by the Assise Cittadina per Bagnoli (City Assembly for Bagnoli), was publicized only via leaflets and word of mouth, the participation was high.

Bottom-up initiatives keep flourishing in all neighborhoods.  Three groups that Naples Politics mentioned in a 12 June 2011 article in Naples Politics are still on the move and have not let up their work, receiving praise by citizens and attention in the media.  Two groups are directly involved in taking action to clean up neighborhoods and to take care of gardens, trees and plants.  CLEANAP (whose name comes from combining the English verb “to clean” with “Naples”, to form CLEANAP, which is pronounced like the English “clean up”) continues to tackle different squares and streets cleaning up monuments, scrubbing streets and walls, removing graffiti and garbage, while Friarielli Ribelli (“friarielli” refers to a local type of broccoli and “ribelli” means “rebels”) are involved in “guerilla gardening“, cutting weeds, taking care of the gardens, and planting flowers and plants.  Both groups have continued to make headlines by relentlessly going from one neighborhood to another attacking urban blight and degradation.  The third group, V.A.N.T.O, whose acronym stands for “pride”, is relentlessly documenting and denouncing damage and deterioration of monuments, churches, gardens and buildings in Naples, while indicating low cost methods for preventing future damage.  The leader of V.A.N.T.O, Angelo Forgione together with singer Eddy Napoli were received on 20 July 2011 by Mayor De Magistris who was particularly surprised by the documentation presented by the group and who promised to take get involved.

Naples is getting attention also from international promoters of social innovation.  The UniCredit Foundation, in collaboration with the European Network of Civil Society Leaders Euclid Network and Project Ahead has launched an international competition expiring on 10 August 2011 entitled “Social Innovation for Naples” in which social innovators from across the world are invited to offer innovative solutions to six problems encountered in the city of Naples.  According to a press release issued by the organizers, “Naples is the epitome of state and market failures, its recent history has been marred by a barrage of corruption and a culture that still does not believe in change. These on-going challenges provide the perfect test field for social innovation to move beyond being a ‘nice label’ and to having tangible impacts on the ground and demonstrating that the time for a new approach has arrived.”  According to the press release, the organizers “aim to succeed where all else has failed” and that they “are running a competition to attract the brightest and most creative minds from around the world which can solve selected challenges in Naples.”  The six problems or challenges identified by the organizers are: 1)  Turning a confiscated villa into a financially sustainable Social Business. 2) Making an abandoned Roman bath accessible and sustainable. 3) Creating a sustainable business plan for a volunteering organization. 4) Creating a sustainable business model for a nonprofit organization that works with school dropouts. 5) Creating an innovative new method for inclusion of the young Roma population. 6) Creating an innovative new method for recycling textiles sustainably.

An international panel of judges,  will select a winner for each of these fields of intervention who will receive a grant of €10,000 from UniCredit Foundation, and who, together with a previously identified local nonprofit organization, will turn the idea into a concrete program, drawing up an executive project and a business plan. The second phase of the initiative will consist of the assessment and possible implementation of the most effective projects.  More information for participating in the competition can be found at Naples 2.0 – International Social Innovation Competition.

The city of Naples is going through very interesting times with many citizens involved in participatory democracy, bottom-up initiatives, and social innovation. Neapolitan analysts, historians, politicians, and intellectuals are split between pessimists and optimists, with the former ready to bet that nothing will ever change in Naples, and the latter placing all their bets on the power of participatory democracy, bottom up initiatives, and social innovation. The Mayor and his team are with the optimists.

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Mayor: Foreign country to take Naples waste

Aerial view of the port of Naples - waste may soon be leaving Naples by sea (photo by Antonio Retaggio)

Anthony M. Quattrone

The transfer of garbage from Naples and other cities in Campania to other regions in Italy is encountering a myriad of administrative, political, and technical obstacles, and the streets of the city are once again covered with about 2,400 tons of garbage.

The first obstacle encountered by the new administration headed by mayor Luigi de Magistris was the decision taken by the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Lazio on 31 May 2011, the day that the new mayor was elected, that the procedure adopted by the Campania Region in transferring garbage to a commercial firm, Italcave, in Puglia violated the agreements between the governments of Campania and Puglia.  In particular, authorities complained that trucks from Campania were not sealed and that they were dispersing leachate on the road and bad odor in the areas that they drove through.  The arrangements with Puglia were to take care of 45,000 tons of garbage, but due to the decision by the tribunal only 1,131 tons were delivered to the commercial firm.

In the meantime, the President of the Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro, had asked the central government, headed by his political ally Silvio Berlusconi, to issue a special legislative decree slightly changing the laws in force to allow Campania to transfer to firms in other Italian regions waste that was properly shredded and screened.  On 12 July 2011, forty-two days after that the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Lazio had decided to block transfers from Campania to Puglia, the Berlusconi government enacted a decree partially allowing the transfer of waste.  The decree, which requires the approval of Parliament within sixty days, is heavily opposed by the Northern League, who will fight it during the upcoming discussions in the House and the Senate.

Finally, there is some good news for the administration, because today the Council of State, which is a higher administrative tribunal, suspended the decision taken on 31 May 2011 by the Regional Administrative Tribunal of Lazio which had blocked the transfer of waste from Campania to Puglia, thus allowing the transfer of all properly shredded and screened waste currently sitting in temporary depots in Naples to firms in other regions.  It is now expected that trucks will soon be leaving Naples and other cities in Campania to export waste that will be processed for a fee by commercial companies throughout Italy.  Current legislation, however, places on the governors of each Region the responsibility for authorizing commercial firms to import and process waste.

Mayor Luigi de Magistris has learned the hard way that technical solutions which appear to be within reach are hard to implement when there are interest groups putting up roadblocks at every corner.  Garbage separation and recycling is working in every area of the city where it has been implemented using the “door-to-door” model.  Prior to implementing separation and recycling city-wide, it is necessary to remove from the streets the garbage sitting there and to free up the temporary depots.  The Mayor has issued a fourth city order which provides for the opening of a new temporary depot which will provide the city with necessary relief.

De Magistris has also announced that by the end of this week the city will sign an agreement with a foreign country willing to take Neapolitan waste.  He expressed concern that there is constant sabotage against every action that the city is taking to rid the streets of garbage because special interests want to force him and his administration to agree to the construction of a new incineration plant in the eastern side of Naples and to digging additional dumps.  De Magistris stated that he would not publicize yet the terms of the agreement and the country involved because “as we go along with our plan to make Naples autonomous in terms of waste management, we have noted that processing plants come to a full stop, transfer of waste is reduced, and there is an attempt to create dissent among sanitation workers”.

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Porto_di_Napoli_2005_0602.jpg?uselang=it#metadata

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