Councilor of Culture, Municipality of Palermo
Focus: City Management
Topics: Overcoming corruption, Building citizen support, Revenue generation
Keywords: budgeting, conflict of interest, corruption, discipline, job descriptions, reform sequencing
Interviewer(s): Rushda Majeed
Country of Reform: Italy
Location: Palermo, Italy
Date: Wed Mar 28 2012
In this interview Francesco Giambrone discusses the challenges, priorities, strategies, and results of his four years as Councilor of Culture for the Municipality of Palermo. When Mayor Leoluca Orlando, under whom Giambrone served, took office in 1992, Palermo’s cultural icons were largely closed and unknown to the citizens. Giambrone describes the Villa Trabia, Teatro Massimo, and Lo Spasimo as magnificent pieces of Palermo’s culture and history that the municipality neglected. Many Palermitans had never seen or knew nothing about the buildings despite their central location. Giambrone outlines his three interdependent priorities as councilor that aimed to restore cultural awareness and pride in the city. First, he sought to reopen closed spaces like the Villa Trabia, Teatro Massimo, and Lo Spasimo. Second, he needed to spend more money. Giambrone explains that the previous administration often spent only a fraction of the budget, but he used to the full budget to put the civil servants to work restoring cultural spaces for reopening to the public. Lastly, he pushed for a change in the mentality amongst the civil servants. He says that he tried to replace a culture of unprofessionalism and lack of dedication with a more hard-working and responsible attitude. He also describes a close relationship, marked by cooperation and agreement, amongst members of Mayor Orlando’s administration. Giambrone expresses satisfaction with the reforms in the short term. Civic awareness and pride and economic activity returned to the city while crime rates dropped. But he acknowledges that the reforms did not sustain after the departure of Orlando and his administration and speculates why. Giambrone concludes with two anecdotes about the restoration of Lo Spasimo and the reopening of the Teatro Massimo, describing them both as important moments in Palermo’s cultural reawakening.
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Francesco Giambrone served the Municipality of Palermo under Mayor Leoluca Orlando as Councilor of Culture from 1995-1999. He then became the General Manager of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo for three years. From 2006 to 2010, he worked as the General Manager of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence. Currently, he is the President of the Conservatory of Palermo and teaches management of musical performance at the University of Palermo. Originally trained as a cardiologist, Giambrone worked as a critic, journalist, and essayist on music, dance, and culture after his medical education and before his appointment to the Palermo City Council.