City Management, Getting the News Out/Managing Expectations, Building a Reform Team and Staff, Countering Criminal Economies
Overcoming corruption, Building citizen support, Making services accessible, Organizing a municipal center of government, Revenue generation
Laura Bacon and Rushda Majeed
Sicily, Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, tourism, culture, arts, education, historic preservation, public spaces, civic identity, corruption, Cosa Nostra, Mafia
In 1993, Palermo residents elected Leoluca Orlando mayor with 75% of the vote. At the time of Orlando’s election, a series of assassinations of high-level anti-Mafia leaders had left the city reeling. For decades, the Sicilian Mafia had held a strong political, cultural and physical grip on the city. Orlando’s election affirmed that voters wanted him to continue what he had begun but couldn’t complete during his first mayoral term (1985–1990): to purge the government of Mafia influence and help restore Palermo’s cultural and economic vibrancy. Prior mayors had tolerated or assisted Mafia activity while the city center deteriorated, cultural life and business activities dwindled, and the education system weakened. Backed by a national crackdown on organized crime, the mayor used his second and third terms in office (1993–1997 and 1997–2000) to engage civic groups and businesses in revitalizing Palermo. By the time Orlando left office in 2000, his administration had renovated or reacquired hundreds of public buildings and monuments, built a cultural center and founded a downtown concert series, kick-started entrepreneurial activity and tourism, built dozens of schools and integrated civic consciousness into classrooms. Those actions helped reawaken civic pride. Although subsequent city administrations abandoned or rolled back many of the reforms, Orlando’s administration helped define and lead a “Palermo Renaissance.”
Laura Bacon and Rushda Majeed drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Palermo, Italy, in March 2012. Aldo Civico, assistant professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Rutgers University and cofounder of the International Institute for Peace, provided initial ideas and guidance on this case. Roberto Pitea, Valentina Burcheri, and Brian Reilly provided research assistance. Case published September 2012.