28 Nov. 2019
Until recently living in Venice was perhaps inconvenient, but it was wonderful: a city on a human scale, no traffic, little pollution and an incredible social security, even at night, because everyone knew each other and there was a widespread neighborhood watch. It was a city where the children played in the street, while the adults met and competed to offer a coffee or a spritz.
There were those who until recently thought of it as a privilege to live in Venice.
Today, however, that Venice, which many years ago I chose for me and my children, is almost unrecognizable. It is disappearing, overwhelmed by tourism which, other than invading the calli, has replaced local stores and craftsmen with junk and fast food sellers.
But there is another consequence, which perhaps is not so evident to those who don’t live in the city: among the remaining residents there is a growing sense of impotence, frustration and loss of hope for the future.
To understand these sentiments it is useful to recall what some of Venice’s Mayors have said: a philosopher Mayor said: “The future of Venice is in Mestre”; one of his predecessors, a University Rector: “Venice is not emptying, it’s expanding”; and finally the current Mayor: “You aren’t ok with tourism? Go live on the mainland”.
Is it not shocking that not one, but several Mayors allowed themselves, in essence, to suggest to their own citizens – who are also voters – that they leave?
And this is the real problem: if no other Mayor in the world would dream of saying something like that, in Venice they can.
They can because they are not penalized, inasmuch as the residents of historic Venice number half of those on the mainland, and their voting power, which is marginal, does not allow them to elect their own administrators nor control their behavior.
Thus the last residents of historic Venice can be treated, with impunity, like annoying presences with no right to complain, whose existence is impeding the complete and widespread exploitation of the “most beautiful city in the world” for tourism.
The frustration deriving from this sees administrative autonomy, represented by a victory for Si in the next referendum, as the hope for regaining the value of one’s vote and one’s city.
Certainly it will not be enough, it will only be a starting point, because on its own autonomy does not make good administrators.
But at least it will guarantee that they will be chosen by a community to whom they will be accountable, and that it will be possible to replace any in the following elections who don’t show a high level of competence.
Exactly as happens in any city of the world, where a Mayor would never dream of saying “If you don’t like it, leave”, but where instead, if it is the Mayor who is not ok, its HIM who needs to go away.
By Stefano Croce