by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia
On January 29th, the elected members of the Reggio Emilia district councils ‘Consulte’ met together for the first time. Among them are Asia (19) and Vando (80), the youngest and the oldest members of the councils. What do they do in life and what were their inspirations for embarking on this new adventure of civic participation that are the Consulte?
For more information on what is Reggio Emilia’s neighbourhood council ‘Consulte’ and the election process: Results of neighbourhood council elections in Reggio Emilia, Italy
You can read the interview in Italian here.
120 citizen representatives, 65 men and 55 women attended a preliminary meeting with councillor Lanfranco de Franco and the technical staff of the Municipality. Held in the Cloisters of San Pietro - the Open Laboratory of Reggio Emilia, the Consulte members got to know each other and were equipped with basic information necessary and useful in carrying out their functions (how a Municipality works, what are its most important documents, what are the tools available to the Consulte, etc).
One by one they arrived and took their places in the OpenLab of the Cloisters, their faces as the catalog of emotions of a “first time”, from the most confident to the shyest, full of proposals and enthusiasm, all united by the desire to commit to the common good. This is the meeting of the people who want to improve everyone's life.
We had a chat with two who hold a small record, the youngest and oldest elected: Asia was born in 2003 and Vando in 1942.
Asia Ferrante lives in Bagno, attends vocational school Filippo Re. She is waiting to graduate with a dream: to become a management engineer. In the meantime, she works as a waitress in the weekend and in her spare time she is a volleyball coach.
Asia, from school to civic engagement in the Consulte is a big leap. What were your inspirations?
Asia: I think young people are not very present in social commitment, but I would like to be, not just now as a member of the Consulte but also in the future. I wanted to give this opportunity a try and see how it went, to give a voice to young people who often don't have any. At school, studying law ignited my interests in politics; from there, I had various chances to learn about projects carried out by the Municipality, such as that of the Civic Council for Boys and Girls. This opportunity to participate in the Consulte came at the right time for me, so here I am.
Vando Cucchi, from Buco del Signore, finished school in 1962. After the Itis (Industrial Technical Institute), he spent his life in Agac (today's Iren) following construction sites around the world as a technician.
Vando, what prompted you to apply to represent your fellow citizens in the Consulte?
Vando: When I worked as a technician at Agac, I followed construction sites from the start to the delivery of the finished work. Even as a pensioner, I continued to check construction sites around Reggio Emilia and collaborate as a volunteer with the Municipality technicians on various projects on cycle paths and water bodies. Previously, I was also a councillor of the Commission for the use and planning of the territory of District V. To be honest, it was a friend of mine who has always been involved in politics who showed me this opportunity on the Internet and made me apply with him (after all, he really didn't pass, I did...).
In the Consulte, you will find yourself on the one hand having to listen to and interpret the needs of your fellow citizens, and on the other hand interacting with the Administration in the definition of social policies, economic development, the environment, culture, sport and leisure, valorisation of the territory. Which field interests you the most or do you want to improve?
Vando: I will continue my interests in territorial and environmental planning. As the author of many reports to the Maintenance Service, I will continue to find issues that need to be fixed, report them to the Administration, and collaborate to find solutions. However, as a practitioner, I must say that the solutions are often not realised due to lack of funds, you need to have a good deal of money.
Asia: It's the first time for me, frankly I find it hard to say what I could do better, so I'd like to explore various themes, try my hand at various issues, also to better understand how this world works and gain experience.
Let's play a game: You are the mayor, you have the power and one million euros, what is the first thing that you do?
Vando: I would work on the schools, starting with the buildings that need to be renovated.
Asia: For me the priority would be to improve urban mobility.
In conclusion, what advice can you give to each other?
Vando: To a young woman like Asia, I would say to think big, but also to be practical and take into account the consequences of the actions that are done.
Asia: Above all, I would advise the adults to listen. I'm here to give a voice to boys and girls; we are often considered to have no clues, but in reality we have many ideas and projects.
Vando: You're right Asia, I was taught as a boy that it was necessary to be obedient, to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves”. But experience has taught me that sometimes it's better to be less quiet and make yourself heard!
Interview by Elisabetta Simonini, photo by Federico Contini for Quaderno - Municipality of Reggio Emilia