Mayor of Palermo, Sicily
Focus: City Management
Topics: Overcoming corruption
Keywords: anti-Mafia, Mafiosi, public contracts, culture of belonging, identity, anti-corruption, social service reform, Maxi trial, Sicily, city management, city reform
Interviewer(s): Rushda Majeed and Laura Bacon
Country of Reform: Italy
Location: Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Date: Sat Mar 17 2012
Leoluca Orlando recounts his anti-Mafia efforts throughout his political career, focusing especially on his terms as Mayor of Palermo (1985-1990; 1993-1997; 1997-2000). He begins by explaining the richness of Sicilian identity and the drawbacks to the deeply rooted culture of belonging. As mayor, he aimed to combat the role of the Mafia by addressing these cultural factors. His first step was revitalizing common spaces, such as reopening Palermo’s opera house. Orlando describes the delivery of social services as a second area of reform. Some neighborhoods were completely disconnected from the municipal services and government, a problem rectified through the opening of schools and other services as well as grassroots efforts to expose citizens to the potential of municipal government. In these neighborhoods and throughout the city, Orlando’s administration sought to demonstrate the benefits of a well-run government free from corruption by providing services reliably and maintaining strong commitments, such as delivering all payments within thirty days. Orlando also describes the initiatives aimed at teaching children about the role of government and police, because he believes lasting change requires a shift in mentality and culture, which can only be accomplished if children learn different lessons than their parents might demonstrate. Throughout this interview, Orlando traces his political career and descriptions of his various party alliances and coalitions. Despite his efforts to make his changes sustainable, Orlando expresses concern that his reforms depended too much on him personally.
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At the time of this interview, Leoluca Orlando was a member of the Italian Parliament and Speaker of the Italy of Values party, which he co-founded. In Parliament he was on the foreign affairs commission and President of the Inquiry Commission on National Service. He also served as Vice President in Palermo Congress and as Vice-President of ELDR party (European Liberal Democratic and Reform). During his career he has been associated with several parties, including Le Rete (The Net or The Network), which he founded. He served as mayor of Palermo twice, from 1985-1990 and 1993-2000. He is well known for his anti-mafia activities as mayor, and has acted in several films about his work. Early in his career, Orlando served as a legal advisor to Sicilian President Piersanti Mattarella, whose murder in 1980 helped shape Orlando’s life and career. He graduated from University of Palermo, where he also worked as a lawyer and professor of Regional Public Law. Orlando also participates in civil society, including serving as President of the Sicilian Renaissance Institute, and has received numerous awards around the world. On May 22, 2012, Orlando took office for his third term as mayor of Palermo.