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Rome's City Services Falling Behind

Aug 4, 2018
Originally published on August 5, 2018 1:27 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

All roads lead to Rome, but the roads in Rome full of potholes and uncollected trash. Romans are not happy and blame the Five Star Movement political party. It's run Rome for two years and recently took hold of the national government. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

SIBI MANI: I am opening the bag and filling the pothole.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Sibi Mani, a native of India, has lived here for 29 years. He belongs to a group that goes around repairing potholes. It's called Tappami, which means fill me.

MANI: Even pass the tire of the car, it will press and fill and will complete the filling.

POGGIOLI: This is tar?

MANI: Cold tar.

POGGIOLI: In three years, says volunteer Raffaelle Scarmardi, Tappami has filled 5,000 potholes.

RAFFAELLE SCARMARDI: (Through interpreter) Rome is very dangerous, especially for motorcycles and scooters. There have been thousands of accidents, many fatal. By filling 5,000 holes, we certainly saved a few lives.

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POGGIOLI: It's not just roads falling apart. Public transport is literally exploding. An average two buses short circuited and burst into flames each month this year. In May, one bus caught on fire on a central street with passengers still on board. Rome's other major affliction is uncollected trash.

This is Piazza di Montevecchio right in the center of old Rome. There's a huge pile of garbage that's been opened up. Trash is all over the place. The bags have been left under a printed sign that says, please do not leave your garbage in this square.

Local residents put the sign up, but Mario Pastacci admits it's useless. He shows me a courtyard with overflowing trash bins.

MARIO PASTACCI: (Speaking Italian).

POGGIOLI: "It's at least a month," he says, "since our trash was collected - one month. That's why people simply leave it on the street."

PASTACCI: (Speaking Italian).

POGGIOLI: Pastacci pins the blame squarely on the Five Star Movement mayor, Virginia Raggi. She's totally inexperienced, he says. She did everything possible to make this city worse. At her administration's two-year market in mid-June, Raggi met reporters at the Foreign Press Club. Pressed about Rome's decline, she repeatedly blamed her predecessors, accusing them of mismanagement and corruption. She was also asked about the arrest that morning of one of her closest aides on charges of bribery, influence peddling and criminal association.

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VIRGINIA RAGGI: (Through interpreter) I know nothing about these facts. Clearly, we are on the side of legality. Anyone who did anything wrong will have to pay.

POGGIOLI: Raggi sidestepped questions on one of her counselor's proposals to use grazing sheep and cows in parks to trim grass that's grown tall and wild. After all, Romans are used to animals. Flocks of screeching seagulls and wild boar scavenging in the trash are common sights. Massimo Zampa runs a fruit and vegetable stand in the Campo de' Fiori market. He now regrets voting for Raggi and the Five Star Movement.

MASSIMO ZAMPA: (Through interpreter) What a disappointment. If they run the national government like they've run Rome's city hall, it will be disaster. Rome is destroyed - ruined.

POGGIOLI: In recent countrywide elections, Five Star Movement got the most votes. And in coalition with the Hard-Right League, it's now running the national government. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.