Perché la Strada Più Comoda Per Andare A Votare È Chiusa.

Maybe it is because I grew up in New Jersey where political manipulation runs rampant.  Or maybe it is because I remember the Chicago of Mayor Daley.  Or maybe it is because at this point in my life I’m cynical and see corruption and conspiracy behind lots of doors.  Whatever the reason,something happened today that made me angrier than hell.

Today, Sunday, April 17 is voting day in Italy.  There is only one item on the ballot.  Thank you Wikipedia for laying it out – 

A referendum on oil and natural gas drilling will be held in Italy on 17 April 2016.[1] The referendum proposes repealing the law that allows gas and oil drilling concessions extracting Hydrocarbon within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion of the useful life of the fields.

It will be the first referendum requested by at least five Regional Councils in the history of the Italian Republic: all the previous 66 referendum questions since 1974 were required after collection of signatures of citizens. 

So this is green legislation, and doesn’t make big oil companies happy, I’m guessing skids can be greased.  Look at the skids greased in Washington.  Here is what pissed me off.  My niece is here and wanted to vote.  She needed to get a tessera elettorale – like a voters registration card.  Because of the election, the municipio was open. Now there are two ways to walk there – which is also how you walk to the polling place. One is the lower easy walking medieval viale – which takes un-athletic me five minutes. The second requires legs of steal, is up hill and longer.  Guess which road was closed? You got it, we walked the lower road and came to a temporary barricade that closed the road. Of course, we walked around it! Because we did not see anything wrong with the road, we continued on. A group of young men were right behind us. Eventually, however, we came to barricades that were a fixed between two buildings.  One of the young men leaped over it and offered to help us over it.  We were 30 seconds from the municipal building.  Since I didn’t want to give them hernias, we walked back the way we came.  There was no way I could walk up the other street.  Alex grabbed a pal and went on.

Here is my conspiracy theory.  In researching, before I voted absentee a few weeks ago in the USA, I discovered –

Il referendum è valido se si raggiunge il quorum ovvero se un determinato numero di persone si reca a votare.

That essentially means the referendum is only valid if a quorum of Italian citizens who are able to vote – actually vote!  So if car-less folks want to walk they can’t.  I mean they can, but is more difficult. If you want to easily access the municipal building you can’t.  So, less people vote and maybe then there isn’t the necessary quorum for the referendum.  I wonder if there are some types of road blocks to voting in lots of town? 

Here is a road block that happened to my sister and I. We got our absentee ballots and noted you voted Si or No.  Just like double negatives have peppered American referendums, we immediately thought – we don’t want those rigs off our coast we will vote no!  Oops, it is a vote to “repeal” the law so we would have to vote yes.  Even some Italians I spoke to here agree that if you are not paying attention it is easy to get confused. 

Just like the majority of windmills- which now predominant some vistas are in the south and appear absent in the north – it looked like most of the drilling is in the south. Hmm.

After I took a breath I thought, maybe it is not a conspiracy – maybe they repaired the road 4 months ago and forgot to take the barriers down.  I mean, Questa è Italia.

PS. My niece was told she couldn’t vote because she lives abroad and even though she was here in person, she should have voted absentee. One less body count toward a quorum.

Ci vediamo.

Italian Elections 2014 – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This super long link will tell you what is now happening politically in Italy.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10856075/EU-election-2014-Italys-Renzi-triumphs-as-comic-Grillo-loses-ground.html

I’ll tell you what I observed from my table in the piazza.

Sipping caffè one day and attempting to read Il Sannio, the local newspaper, I nearly choked on a headline.  Gli sconti per chi vuole spostarsi in treno in auto o in aereo (discounts for those who want to travel by train by car or by plane).  For folks to get back to their home towns to vote there are heavy discounts on travel!  There was a 60% discount on regional trains, 70% on national trains, 60% for travel by sea and the one that really kicked me in the ass – a 40 euro reimbursement for air travel.  Now my ticket on May first was a hell of a lot more than 40 euros but my niece in London could have flown over for the weekend for practically nothing.  Maybe they don’t do absentee ballots or they just like to have folks come home once a year.  This is definitely a good thing!

Another good thing is the short campaign season. I can’t find any on line resources to validate what folks have told me but it seems that candidates and parties can only campaign for one month.  Yeah!  No political BS for years in advance of an election.  Here, it is simply signs on the approved village sign boards and visiting folks in their homes.

This is the actor/comic Beppo Grillo's party.
This is the actor/comic Beppe Grillo’s party. He lost but had cute signs.

My landlord did get mail from parties but only one from each – not a thousand from each and no robo calls! How civilized.

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Notice the palm card – well 4 palm cards – with the X through the icon – in case you forget how.

 

What’s bad? A hefty percentage of the people I surveyed in Pontelandolfo were not going to bother to vote.  “Why – what does the EU do for me?”  “Politics – it doesn’t matter they are all the same.”  It was interesting for me to hear this laconic attitude.  Last year when the election was totally local it seemed like everyone in the commune came out to vote – and they practically did. When I went to the polls this year I was the only one in my district’s room.  Good news is I didn’t have to wait.  According to AGI.it – there was a nationwide drop in voters for this particular election:

(AGI) Rome, May 26 – Turnout in Italy for the European election on Sunday fell to 57.22 of percent of eligible voters from 65.87 percent in 2009, when polls also remained open on Monday morning. 

Here is some of the ugly.  One afternoon, I thought I was in Hudson County, NJ.  Men at the next table were listening to a recording on a cell phone and getting angrier and angrier.  They played it a couple of times – it was hard to eavesdrop with all that cursing but…  In a local race at a village whose name I didn’t catch, a candidate was calling people and literally threatening their jobs.  Being a middle aged white woman and obviously harmless, I asked what the men were upset about and they told me.  Some creep was calling older voters and telling them he would insure they lost their government jobs and never get another job unless they voted for his party.  My question was how the hell would anyone know who you voted for?  Paper ballots – you hand write a person’s name on paper ballots.  The villages are so small and there are so few folks that vote in a district that you can figure out who voted for you especially if they use the mark.  The mark?  You are told how to write the person’s name – I’m not kidding here this is what they told me.  Like, I’ll steal your cow unless you write me in as MiDge.  They tell the next old dude to write it midGe.  Since challengers get to review all ballots too……  This is pretty ugly. Uglier than anything I’ve heard of in NJ which can get pretty ugly.  How is that bridgegate scandal doing?

 

Yes, I voted. My dad ingrained that in my brain.  In Pontelandolfo we were only voting for the party who would send representatives to the EU.  We vote in the provincial high school – it is a specialty school for jewelry design.  Talk about good artsy vibes on election day.

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This picture was from last year’s election. Yesterday there wasn’t a line nor a policeman.

I went into district two, showed them my voting card, carta identita and like last year started to give them my passport when the election worker said “we know you.”  H’mm is that good or bad?  They handed me a pencil and a piece of paper.  Horrifying the pool workers, I started to put my mark right there and stuff the box.  I mean all you have to do is put an X across the icon of the party.  They pointed me to my secure screened space, I made my X and then stuffed the paper ballot in the box.  There are no hanging chads you literally make an X over an icon.  I am a good cittadini.  I vote early and often.  Look – I had my voter ID card stamped to prove it!

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See – I officially voted! Weeeeoooo!

 

 

 

People Vote for People – Politicking Pontelandolfo Style

I can’t really talk about politics without talking about the one guy who understood it best, made sure I understood it and got frustrated as hell when newbies to the process refused to listen.  Good old “Johhny G”, my dad Giovanni Francesco Guerrera, was a politician in the grand style of  former speaker  of the House of Representatives – Tip O’Neill.  “People vote for people.”  “All politics are local!” Those are the clear cut salient facts that my dad foisted upon me at a tender age.  Dad was one of the men who moved Hillsborough Township into the 2oth century.  He was Mayor and on the Township Committee for numerous terms in the 60’s and 70’s.  He was always involved in local, state and national campaigns – sending me to represent him once to a meeting in the Jimmy Carter Whitehouse – but that is another story.  His passion for politics was learned at his daddy’s knee – Pontelandolfo’s Francesco Guerrera.  My nonno, with other Italian immigrants, started Hillsborough’s Democratic Organization!  Whoops – let’s get back to today and personal politics.

Dad's head shot for a State Senate Run.
Dad’s head shot for a State Senate Run.

Yeah, yeah, we all care about issues, platforms, programs etc.  But the reality is, if you are my friend and I ask you to vote for me you will.   Just like we buy candy from our friends kids to support organizations we don’t particularly agree with – for me it is the Boy Scouts.  I hate the politics of the Boy Scouts but love the kids in my extended family who pound on my door in cub scout costumes – I mean uniforms selling candy.  So ethics be damned, I buy the candy.  See – people buy from people.

Daddy always said the way to win an election is like pyramid marketing – you get a core of folks who adore you for whatever reason – and get them to contact and pitch you to the friends who adore them for whatever reason.  People respond to people.

National and domestic issues are important but how does that break down to me, my family and my home town? Now you get it – think local.  Well, politics in Pontelandolfo is about as local centric as you can get.  It is time for me to stop thinking about my larger than life political pappa and tell you about Pontelandolfo.

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X marks the Sindaco circle!

The candidates actually go from house to house and talk to people!  How amazing!  No robo calls here just house calls.  That means you need a strong bladder, because at every house you have a caffè and conversation.  What really amazed me is that people actually told you if they would vote for you or not!  Having lived in Asbury Park, where if everyone who swore they voted for me really had I would have been Queen for a day, I was amazed that folks might actually deign to tell the truth.  “Hey, you’re my pal and I love you but I don’t like the guy at the top of your ticket so – sorry no can do!”  Remember from my earlier post, you vote for the Sindaco (mayor) and then write in one name from his ticket to be your choice for consigliere (council).  Check out the sample ballot – put an X in the circle for the Sindaco and write in one name. ( I did discover later that some folks had indeed told a wee lie to my cousin and really didn’t vote for her – but that was an anomaly.)

Lots of cars in the piazza means lots of folks are gathering in shops and the bars (cafés).
Lots of cars in the piazza means lots of folks are gathering in shops and the bars (cafés).

What people were talking about in the bars and around the piazza were the local problems that the commune has.  Some of these issues are indeed national – like there are no jobs for young people.  Others are very local and personal. This is beautiful village and yet some folks are dumping their garbage and nothing is being done to clean it up.  The elderly often can’t subsist on their incomes and something must be done to provide local support – or to petition the province for help.  The local library was something I witnessed and heard “Rocomincio Da Te” candidates talk about.  It needs books!  It needs to be perked up and better utilized.  Programs for young people are always an issue.  Are sports enough?  Should the commune increase arts based programs?  Each list of candidates distributed their platforms and spoke about issues like these.

Technology is not totally ignored in this very personal approach to campaigning.  Cars are outfitted with speakers and festooned with campaign posters.  A pre-recorded “Vote for XXXXX,” and  “Vote for the (insert name of ticket” could be heard blaring up and down the streets and barely streets of the country side.  At first I was taken aback – whoa is that an obnoxious gelato truck?  Well, there is no obnoxious gelato truck – what a gift that would be – but campaign aides rousing the voters.  The second time I heard it I went out on our balcony to see which ticket it was.  It was the one I was voting for so I waved and cheered.  Does the spirit good to see your team out and about.  Since Pontelandolfo has lots of small family farms and the families really are out working the fields and tending the animals, I could see the benefit of the mobile system.  Where I couldn’t see it was in bigger cities – where the blaring through the busy streets was constant.  If I lived in one I might be forced to wear earplugs or toss pomodori out the window.  Jack and I followed one rolling billboard and blaring sound system for about 20 minutes in a town that shall remain nameless.   Well – here see for yourself.

Collateral – Getting Out the Vote – Pontelandolfo Style!

Collateral (posters, yard signs, fliers and other printed stuff):

Tired of the blitz of campaign signs cluttering the highway?  Starting in August, do you hate going to your mail box stuffed with political name calling, back biting and substance-less tirades?  Then start spending election season in Pontelandolfo – of course it is not in November.  There may be some whispering and cajoling but there is no crush of collateral.  The placement of signage is regulated by the commune.  I first discovered this in Florence when I was teaching an arts administration course.  My students were doing some volunteer work for a theatre company.  The goal was to place small posters in as many shops as possible because large posters placed throughout the city had to be approved by the city, a fee paid per poster and – this is the best part – a city employee hung the posters!

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Equal billing for all!
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Only one poster counts.
VOTE MANCINI

When the political posters went up in Pontelandolfo I was surprised to see them all neatly mounted on stone walls adjacent to each other.  Each ticket was snugly posted next to another.  The posters are large and placed in only a few spots around town.  When I asked if the campaigns had to pay the commune, it was explained that political tickets don’t have to pay the posting tariff but the commune still approves the signs and hangs them.  What is truly amazing is that except for color the signs all look the same!  Ahhh a civil way to post those bills!  We still get to look at the beauty that is Pontelandolfo and not political signs flapping in the breeze.

This is the official sample ballot posted in town.
This is the official sample ballot posted in town.
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Candidate for Consigliere, Giuseppina Mancini.

Let’s talk about campaign literature – how the hell can we possibly call the scurrilous crap that fills American mailboxes “literature”?  Innuendoes coupled with pictures of politicians looking drunk, dead, demented.  Glamour shots merged with tales of perseverance, family and patriotism.  The only piece of campaign material that I saw was the Sindaco and List’s “programma” – their platform!  That is right – shake your head in disbelief  – an actual pamphlet that explained – not just 3 bullet points but explained – each plank.  The “Programma Di Governo” of the ticket called “Ricomincio Da Te”  included economics, jobs, environment, health, culture, education, police – well you get the point.  They actually wrote in complete sentences about issues that really matter – none of this “lower taxes” generic bullshit that I hear in Hillsborough, NJ.  This is my cousin Giusy Mancini’s ticket so we are prejudiced – openly and often.  The platform was explained and the pamphlet  handed out at an evening event in the village’s small theater.  I’ll bet over  200 potential voters turned out to hear the candidates and “brava” their support of the platform.  Note – the people had to come and pick up the collateral – no one was standing in front of the local grocery waving it at them.

The "Ricomincio Da Te" team just before the event.
The “Ricomincio Da Te” team just before the event.

The theater was absolutely packed – to the rafters really – well folks were hanging over the balcony.  When we got there a bunch of men were standing outside looking – well just looking.  It reminded me of the wild political days of the late 60’s when rooms were packed and the energy was high.  People listened, clapped or not, cheered or not and PICKED UP the one piece of literature!

In the spirit of honesty – yes I do have an honest bone or two in my body.  I must admit that in other towns in the area – much bigger cities – I did see not only more signs plastered on poles everywhere, but huge billboards on skinny trucks wending their way up cobblestone streets.