"Confronto pubblico — Passante di Bologna" (Public confrontation — Bypass of Bologna") was a consultation process concerning the strengthening of the motorway and ring road system of the Bologna metropolitan area.
Problems and Purpose
The agreement of 15 April 2016, between the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, Autostrade per l'Italia SpA (ASPI), the Municipality of Bologna, the Metropolitan City of Bologna, and the Emilia-Romagna Region considered that "the current infrastructure system [motorway and ring road of Bologna] has a high level of congestion and therefore a deficit in road capacity" so this consultation process aims to "solve a transport problem at a national level and to improve road accessibility at a metropolitan level establishing the conditions and commitments of the parties to:
- the implementation of the upgrade to three lanes in each direction of travel plus emergency for the A14 and the coplanar sections, providing for sections with four lanes in each direction of travel plus emergency;
- re-gauging the junctions of the coplanars;
- the identification of works aimed at improving the adduction of the motorway/ring road system;
- advanced solutions for environmental mitigation and improvement of territorial and landscape integration" (MIT-a, 2016, p. 3).
Article 3 bis of the Agreement deals with the setting up of a "public discussion and monitoring committee" (Ib., P.5). Since this is a project that consolidates the presence of important infrastructure within the urban territory, ASPI committed to developing the preliminary project to activate a public debate which will involve presenting to the territory—in a manner and timing that will be agreed between the Parties—the design solutions identified in the preliminary project, through public illustrations and activities involving citizens or technical scientific institutions (universities, professional associations, etc.), favouring the proposition of ideas that allow the collection of the various contributions by rewarding the best solutions (MIT-a, 2016, p. 5-6). To support this phase, specific professionals with proven experience in public confrontation must be identified by ASPI, in concert with the other parties. The parties will set up a technical-scientific Monitoring Committee, coordinated by the Ministry—in which a representative of each party will participate—which will also have to evaluate any contributions deriving from the public discussion, identifying any improvement interventions in the principles established "by the Agreement" and firm remaining a substantial invariance of the overall cost of the initiative. To this end, ASPI will present the Preliminary Project by 30 June 2016" and "the public discussion phase must be completed by 31 October 2016" (MIT-a, 2016, p. 5-6).
The project was presented on 22 July 2016 at the Bologna City Council and closed on 16 December 2016 in the Sala del Consiglio of the Metropolitan City (the former Province).
Background History and Context
History of the Bologna Bypass Infrastructure: Synopsis
From 1958 to 1970, Bologna became one of the main hubs of the Italian transport system . The A1 (Milan-Florence), A14 (Ancona) and A13 (Padua) motorways were added to the already active railway junction. Coplanar to these two fast-flowing carriageways were created for local traffic.
These motorways, built by the Autostrade Company in the 1960s, all experienced congestion in the 1980s (with the sole exception of the A13) due to the exceptional increase in traffic volumes with a consequent fall in "service levels" (Provincia di Bologna, 2003, p. 3-1, cit.).
After 30 years of honourable service, the "coplanar" bypass in the northern section of the city began to show increasing congestion phenomena especially in the two urban side lanes (now intolerable), with a notable aggravation of air pollution due to unburned exhaust gases at low speeds, but above all with the diversion of ever greater rates of urban traffic that clog and pollute the internal city roads more: radial roads, ring roads, etc. (Ib.). Currently the node is crossed by about 180,000 vehicles a day and is therefore one of the main sources of pollution in the Municipality of Bologna (Ib., P. 3-17).
In thirty years, from 1986 to 2016, there have been several projects for its enhancement. As time went by, the projects increased the size of the node and the ramifications of the infrastructure, while at the same time its undesirability and opposition grew. Bologna has been for years a symbolic city of the Italian Communist public administration that has attracted the curiosity of many scholars in all the human sciences, both for the management of the public good with particular attention to the needs and redistribution of resources, and for its strategies for building consensus and mediation with opponents who entrusted citizens with greater responsibility.
The following section offers a brief and not entirely complete review of the participatory democratic innovations that have been promoted by the Bolognese managements from the post-war period to today. Expired democratic innovations have been administered to the public to support the business management of an (almost private) infrastructure, increasingly perceived as a threat by the population.
History of Public Participation in Bologna: From the Red Juntas to Post-Communism
Since the post-war period, the Municipality of Bologna has always been governed by “red” juntas led by the solid majority of the Italian Communist Party, which until the 1995 elections, remained granite. This era was characterized by important innovations regarding transparency and democratic participation, with the creation of decentralized consultation tools to incorporate citizens' requests on public services (popular councils) and taxation according to a principle of progressivity (tax consultations), which from the districts—in the fifties and sixties, with strong demographic expansion—had to flow into the council led by the mayor, Giuseppe Dozza. In harmony with the DC of Bologna, led by Giuseppe Dossetti, the districts were established in 1960, which had their own councils with advisory and monitoring functions on the work of the administration. Since 1966, the administration led by Guido Fanti further strengthened the activities and functions of the neighborhoods, with the aim of making them evolve into "civic centers", not only political and technical headquarters but also places of social and cultural expression in the area.
Subsequently, the Zangheri administration introduced a regulation to define the functions of the neighborhoods, entrusting them with greater decision-making skills, city assemblies with a consultative role, petitions, the city consultative referendum, the opinion inquiry, and the area councils. Since 1985, with the Council of Renzo Imbeni, further democratic increases have been introduced, including the direct election of the district councils by the residents, the positions of President and Vice-President of the Council. Their consultative and propositional skills were strengthened as was the expertise on various investment items relating to local public services and maintenance. In 1984, the first city referendum on the limitation of private motorized traffic in the historic center of Bologna was promoted, in which almost 70% of the Bolognese declared themselves in favour. For the first time in Italy, some restricted traffic areas were created in Bologna. However, only after 20 years have some more incisive measures been taken in this regard.
With the crisis of the traditional parties (Tangentopoli scandal) and the abandonment of communism as an end, although still present in its roots with the creation of the PDS, the Democratic Party of the Left, a new political era began. The turning point took place precisely in a PCI club in the Bolognina district in 1989 and materialized later in 1991. The direct election of mayors (Law 81/1993) was then introduced with national law, which in 1995 still prevailed in Bologna with the PDS candidate, Walter Vitali, former councillor for institutional affairs in the outgoing administration. The Municipal Statute and the regulation on participation and information rights and on decentralization were approved. Furthermore, the referendum was used on two issues: the privatization of the municipal pharmacies and the reconstruction of the railway station on a project by the architect. R. Bofil. In this referendum, which did not coincide, like the previous one in 1984, with the European elections, participation was scarce; turnout was 37%, not reaching the quorum of 50% which would make the outcome binding. The administration therefore, despite the clear opposition of those who had participated in the referendum, privatized the pharmacies, but did not continue the project of the new station. A further innovation was the introduction in 1998 of the public investigation, a sort of mini public debate—that is, an organized debate open to the public that foresees the contradiction between different positions. Furthermore, the late 1990s in Bologna saw the first participatory processes promoted by Local Agenda 21, the local participation program in global environmental issues launched at the 1992 Rio Conference, which used the EASW (European Awareness Scenario Workshop) tool.
In 1999, however, the continuity of the red tradition was interrupted by the defeat of the candidate for mayor Silvia Bartolini by the center-right candidate, Giorgio Guazzaloca. And perhaps that signalled an end for that identity, cultural and administrative tradition, which had tried to resist longer than elsewhere, but for some time now was no longer able to reproduce that reformist model that was coherently organized throughout the Emilia-Romagna region (Bonora, 2004).
History of Public Participation in Bologna: Global, No-Global, Committees
These were the years of neoliberal-globalist optimism (at all scales), which opened the way to the privatization of services, the outsourcing of work, to telematic technology without reducing work, indeed with forced overtime, flexibility and precariousness; the pursuit of financialization and immobilization, which were then causes of the global crisis. Fundamental to this plan were the weak urban planning policies aimed at favouring real estate trading, clientelism and corruption (land rent). Precisely that form of pre-industrial capitalism that was the main opponent of popular, mutualistic and cooperative Emilia-Romagna reformism, not only communist, now became one of its main core-businesses, which, like a mutagenic narcotic, transforms cooperativism through a a process of corporatization of which only an image remains, made up of logos, brands and missions (Ib.). The movements from below and associations on various fronts (from environment to peace) that met at the first global Social Forums could do little.
Comitism, born in Italy at the end of the seventies, was a reaction that spread enormously in the nineties and obtained a certain response: the middle classes, especially on a territorial basis (residents of the same street, square, district or neighborhood ) autonomously, also outside parties and parishes, began to self-organize spontaneously on the basis of precise, circumstantial, but sometimes also complex issues (to counteract the measures to stop traffic, as well as to increase them, from the works of the railway to Alta speed, to commuter committees, from the polluting chimney to urban decay and to the strengthening of the ring road), putting in place transversal skills and alliances, capable of mobilizing important resources and hindering, if not interrupting, sometimes, the decisions of the public administration or its functional systems. There is also a certain anxiety about increasing immigration, which the municipalities would prefer to avoid and therefore tend to maintain at a subordinate and marginal professional and social level (Ib.).
In an attempt to heal the break in the red tradition, Sergio Cofferati, ex-secretary of the CGIL, ran. In 2004, he won the elections in the first round with 56%, after a year of electoral campaigning in which he built his own program in a participatory manner, involving various associations and citizens. In the program—carried out a few years after the Social Forums of Porto Alegre (2001) and Florence (2002)—keywords and experiences began to circulate, which will be increasingly widespread, elaborated, and subsequently institutionalized. It highlighted that Bologna urgently needed a large investment in democracy and that democratic participation must become the foundation of a new way of governing, including through tools such as participatory budgeting and participatory urban planning .
With Cofferati, a phase of intense experimentation began in Bologna, led by the councillor Virginio Merola, now mayor in the second term, but above all a season of debates and comparisons on the subject in which all the city agencies participated. In fact, in 2007, regional law 69/2007 on participation was promulgated in Tuscany and in 2008, on the initiative of the councillor Ugo Mazza (Democratic Left), the process for a similar but differently structured law proposal began in Emilia-Romagna (regional law no. 3/2010).
19 participatory processes were initiated, the most important being the long-term urban plan, the Municipal Structural Plan, which was launched in 2007 with a series of city forums and then at the neighbourhood scale with several design workshops. A process was also started, at the request of the Islamic Cultural Center, relating to the construction of a mosque for practitioners of the Islamic faith, but despite the outcome of the first phase being approved by the Council, the second phase was interrupted (Marchetta, 2016, p. 92). Absent was the announced but never organized Participatory Budget. With Cofferati, participation was declined in more active forms, not waiting for popular mobilization, not relying on institutionalized forms, not limiting listening to organized subjects and its right to Italian citizens only; but errors and excesses of manipulation, perhaps due to an excess of caution, did not go unnoticed. Furthermore, Cofferati distinguished himself for prohibitionist rigidity and the Bolognese have no nostalgia for his departure.
History of Participation in Bologna: Crisis and Expired Participation
After the brief parenthesis, Flavio Delbono, interrupted almost immediately by a scandal, elections were held in 2011. In the first round, Virginio Merola, former city planning councillor in the Cofferati council and referent for most of the participation paths, won. In the electoral campaign, his announcements in this sense are not wasted, such as his citing a Citizens' Forum selected on a sample and reimbursed  which would express itself on the choices of the administration, of which nothing will be known after the elections (Lewanksi, 2016, p. 185). With the Merola administration, participatory processes increased (25 processes in 5 years) but above all they were more structured (with internationally codified methodologies) and were managed (in 9 cases) by professionals in the sector (Ib., P. 96). Most of the projects were to be neighbourhood urban planning micro-projects. During his first mandate, processes such as the one on the Strategic Plan and the one on the Metropolitan City started. The latter, promoted by Laboratorio Urbano (a Bolognese think tank on city issues led by the ex-mayor, Senator Walter Vitali) and financed by the regional law on participation (Regional Law 3/2010) took place in 2013 and early 2014; its results would then be largely disregarded, given the effects of the state law "Delrio" n. 56 of 7/4/2014 and in any case the lack of attention from the new metropolitan authority. The references to participation and "public debate" (art. 8 c. 6) in the actual Statute of the Metropolitan City, which also came into force during Merola's first mandate, in December 2014, could have already been governed by a specific regulation that has not yet been drawn up to date (22/2/17) (Marchetta, 2016, p. 138). Similarly, the methods of implementation of the participatory budget announced several times and even inserted in the Municipal Statute (Ib., pp. 102—103), and not present in the mandate program, have not yet been clarified.
It should be noted that in the 2009 elections, the candidates of the 5 Star Movement (M5S) appear, reaching 3% but no seats on the Council. In 2011, instead with 9.5% they obtained two and in 2016, with 16.6% they got four. The Northern League is also growing. Present in the elections since 1990, it had never managed, until 2009, to go much beyond 3%, while in 2011 and 2016 it achieved a result of just over 10%.
The History of the Design of the Bypass
The issue of upgrading the ring road dates back to the late 1980s, when the Imbeni Board (in 1986) planned to widen it from 2 to 3 lanes. At first the residents of the San Donnino area opposed giving life to a spontaneous committee, then they were joined by the other areas crossed by the road and other critical voices of the city, "so much so that the then Giunta Imbeni came to the determination to abandon the project to study other solutions" . On this point it would be interesting to reconstruct in detail what happened, to understand what caused the decisions already taken by the Imbeni Council to be moved or postponed.
The project for the expansion of the headquarters was re-proposed in the following years but was abandoned in August 2002 (during the Giunta Guazzaloca, center-right) with an agreement between MIT, local authorities, and ASPI for the construction of the "dynamic third lane", i.e. the occasional use of the emergency lane in times of heavy congestion, and of an off-site extension project, i.e. a new motorway link that affected a much larger area north of Bologna, for a route of about 40 km, called the "North Highway". Also on this occasion, in 2003, a committee between the residents of the 12 municipalities of the Bologna metropolitan belt was born and began to organize itself, proposing an alternative project concerning the enlargement of the current infrastructure . The Northern Bypass was however included in the Provincial Territorial Coordination Plan (PTCP) in 2004 and was to be subjected to a long planning and negotiation phase. The dispute becomes complicated with the entry of the European Union and with the various changes of views that have taken place over the years in local administrations. ASPI was asked for modifications and new studies, such as a new, relatively shorter path.
In July 2014, an agreement was partially found and an agreement was signed between the actors and the municipalities, which would then be denied by two mayors of the territory who did not believe they were sufficiently involved, Irene Priolo and Claudia Muzic (Marchetta, p. 111). A new “North Bypass metropolitan table” was to be established which, coordinated by the Province, would involve all the mayors. Meanwhile, the long-running regional president, Vasco Errani (ex PCI, PDS and perhaps soon ex PD) , resigned in his third term in September 2014 because he was convicted of false ideology (he would then be acquitted in June 2016) . He was succeeded by Stefano Bonaccini, supporter of the new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who inaugurated a new course in the regional PD. Bonaccini's position was not favourable to the north motorway bypass (Ib., P.112). On January 25, 2015, one month after the inauguration of the new Council, a letter arrived to the new President of the Region from the mayors of the table in which clear opposition to the work was expressed in terms of how it was designed. New changes and feasibility studies were requested. The letter was also sent to the Mayor of the Metropolitan City of Bologna, the new body created with the “Delrio” law 54/2015. The delegation of infrastructures was entrusted to Irene Priolo, mayor of Calderara di Reno, who was already opposed to the North Bypass (Marchetta, pp. 111-112). This generated a relational chain that connected all personalities of the PD who want to "unblock Italy" quickly, from Prime Minister Renzi, to his Minister Delrio, up to the local level on multiple scales . In February, Bonaccini, Merola, and Priolo definitively archived the project of the North Bypass and on 15 April 2016, the agreement was signed for the upgrading of the current bypass, also called, by Merola, "Passante di mezzo" (Ib., p.113).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The promoters were the signatories of the Agreement which in turn make up the Monitoring Committee, the decision-making authority which will then have to accept or not the results of the process (MIT-a, 2016). The financier was Autostrade per l'Italia SpA (ASPI) which was responsible for assigning the tasks to the professionals assisting the design and to the curators of the public comparison process. On the web page of the “Numbers” a lot of data are presented, but neither the costs related to the project nor those related to the Public Confrontation path are mentioned . The process was entrusted by the Monitoring Committee to Andrea Pillon and his staff of Avventura Urbana SrL of Turin, who had already collaborated with ASPI on the occasion of the Public Debate on the Genoa motorway gutter, between 2008 and 2009. At Genoa, the supervisor of the Debate was prof. Luigi Bobbio—mentor of the Avventura Urbana society—who in Bologna is an "impartial" member of the scientific committee (Link 1). The Concluding Report makes it clear that the cost of the work was 650 million euros, of which 260 million relate to mitigation and adduction works (Pillon, 2016, p. 39). It should be noted that resorting to the regional law 3/2010 and its structures is not mandatory but it is an opportunity that offers quality certification and consistency with the regional policy of qualification of participation experiences. There have been no requests from the proponent or the entities or the curator to the regional guarantee technician or concerning the certification offered by the same with respect to the participation model supported by the regional law 3/10 nor relating to any kind of advice.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
0. In the preparatory and planning phase of the itinerary, the curator carried out interviews (50) and consultations with the Monitoring Committee. There is no accessible information on the list of interviewees or reports relating to this phase.
1. Once the public discussion started, in its first phase, the presentation meetings were open to everyone. It was declared that "public discussion is a path open to all citizens" (Link 1). "Citizens" likely refers to its more generic meaning: those individuals who understand and speak Italian, who are interested in the issue, and approach it after having seen the advertisements or word of mouth.
2. In the second phase of discussion, in the in-depth meetings, 25 experts were involved as privileged interlocutors. 7 were selected by the proposer (ASPI); 5 were managers of technical sectors indicated by the institutions involved; 5 were experts indicated by actors in favour of the work (e.g. the committee against the North Bypass, see the History of the Design of the Bypass above); and 8 experts were indicated by the opposing actors (Pillon, 2016, p. 70). This balancing is based on undeclared valuations and appears completely arbitrary. Anyone could participate in the meetings but only as listeners, without the possibility of speaking, except by written means and a deferred response.
3. In the third phase, neighborhood workshops were set up reserved for a small number of citizens to elaborate project proposals for landscape mitigation and integration. The participants in these workshops were recruited already in the first phase of presentation of the project; each discussion table of citizens was asked to identify a contact person. Out of 59 initial applications, 45 then participated (Pillon, 2016, p. 66). Together with these citizens divided into 4 groups, there were the technicians of the proposer, 3 district presidents, the metropolitan councilor for mobility Priolo and the Orioli environment (ib., P. 70). This group attended all the phases of the Confrontation (Pillon, 2016, pp. 63 - 72).
The scientific committee (Link 1), also called in other reports the "committee of experts" (Pillon, p. 63) was made up of 7 experts: 4 identified by local authorities and the University of Bologna and 3 indicated by committees opposed to the implementation. Some of its members participated in the public meetings of the first and second sessions, with interventions as experts, both among those in favor and against (Pillon, 2016, pp. 63-72).
Of the representatives of the Monitoring Committee who have participated in the meetings, only those of the Ministry are missing. ASPI managers and technicians (from 6 to 12); Priolo and Orioli (Metropolitan City) politicians, the presidents of the 3 districts most involved (Municipality), experts at the in-depth meeting as delegates of local institutions (Region and Metropolitan City), and 2 public managers of the technical sector participated. There is no evidence that any members of the Ministry attended the meetings (Pillon, 2016).
Furthermore, anyone—a single individual or organization—could send a document with their observations, called the “actors' notebook”, as in the case of the Débat Public (Ib. P. 71).
Methods and Tools Used
The Dèbat Public (Public Debate), sometimes called the "French Public Debate", was introduced by law by the French government in 1994. Following the virulent protests of local populations against the route of the high-speed line (TGV) Lyon-Marseille, the French government decided that the design of the major works should be subjected to a public debate in advance among all interested parties. With the Barnier law of 1994, partially modified in 2002, an independent authority was established called Commission Nationale du Débat Public (CNDP), which has the task of opening the public debate on all preliminary projects of large infrastructures that meet certain requirements. The debate lasted four months and concerned not only the characteristics of the project, but also the opportunity to carry out the work. The public debate is preceded by a broad information campaign, characterized by pluralistic information from all citizens, associations, and groups who wish to participate in it. A contradictory phase then opens, usually through public meetings, as well as written forms (Les Cahiers des Acteurs, I Quaderni degli actors). At the end of the public debate, the president of the commission draws up a report in which they illustrate the arguments for and against that emerged over the course of the four months. Within three months of the publication of the report, the proponent of the work must communicate whether they intend to continue the project, modify it, or withdraw it. The Débat Public procedure suffers from an excessive uncertainty of the outcomes, and instruments for measuring the representativeness of preferences are not usually applied.
There have been valid objections to the fact that this case has been repeatedly presented by the curator as a "French Public Debate", confusing citizens for the similarity and terminological synonymy in the common sense (Lewanksi, 2017, p. 3). Furthermore, the method adopted in the present case has been touted as an improver of the Debat thanks to "some important methodological innovations" (Pillon, p. 66). Lewanski (2017) points out that in addition to numerous inconsistencies, such as the timing, the absence of alternative options (zero option or other paths) relating to the opportunity to carry out the work, the non-sharing of the information framework with the failure to include pluralistic information, the innovative claims—regarding in-depth meetings with experts—are inconsistent and in any case do not increase the democracy of the French model but reduce it (2017, pp. 3 - 9).
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The route project was set up in the following phases:
- Preliminary preparatory phase (June 2016): analysis of the press review; analysis of technical documentation; and conflict analysis. In this phase, the only dialogue with the actors in the field was of an exploratory type: 50 interviews were carried out, aimed at identifying the interests, the main concerns, and forecasting the positions that would emerge in the process. No information is provided on the contents of this phase. There is no mention of any willingness to agree on the methods of carrying out the course with the players in the field.
- Route planning phase (June-July 2016): "the governance of the route" was defined and was agreed only with the Monitoring Committee.
- Comparison phase (September-November 2016): according to the curators, it was designed following “the typical scheme of the French public debate [Débat Public] with some important methodological innovations” (Pillon, cit. p. 66).
"As a further guarantee that the principles of transparency and responsibility in listening to citizens are respected, an authoritative and independent scientific committee has been set up, which carries out the function of supervision and control of the public debate" .
The Committee of Experts met four times: a "first technical meeting to illustrate the project was organized on 1 September, followed by three meetings on 7 September, 3 and 18 October; the experts indicated by the committees opposed to carrying out the work also participated in the last two meetings ”(Ib., p. 64). It is not clear whether it was their will or why this recruitment took place on the way.
The real consultation phase began with the presentation of the project dossier on 22 July in the City Council. The project dossier, with the relative data, was drawn up only by the Monitoring Committee, that is, in particular by the proponent and its staff. No other publications have been produced with an information framework including multiple sources and points of view. From that moment on, the technical documentation is made available, which is presented on a dedicated website (passantedibologna.it) and in an exhibition corner at the Urban Center as well as various printed material provided to interested parties. All the information material on the project and also many pages dedicated simply to comparison (Link 1), are clearly constructed in support of the positions of the proponents, almost in a propaganda form.
As in the French Public Debate, the possibility was then given to send written documents: 23 "notebooks of the actors" were drawn up, responding to criticisms and proposals (Pillon, p. 71).
1. Presentation of the project
The presentation meetings of the route started from 7 to 14 September, distributed in the 5 areas affected by the route. Each meeting was divided into: a) presentation of the preliminary project, b) discussion of citizens divided into tables (with facilitators), c) questions to the designers and administrators.
700 appearances were recorded in five appointments. During the meetings, at least 386 questions emerged that can be divided into 9 macro-themes and space was given for six presentations by the Coordination of the committees against the construction of the work, two by the Committee for the alternative to the North Bypass (the work set aside) and one intervention by the Il Cerchio Verde Association.
The contents concerned the following themes (Ib. P. 68): 21% — landscape and environmental integration of the work; 18% — characteristics of the infrastructure; 16% — possible alternatives to enlargement; 12% — impact on citizens' health; 9% — traffic data presented; 8% — costs of the work, indemnities, and expropriations; 8% — public comparison; 4% — construction site; 4% — adduction works.
2. In-depth meetings
After that, from 24 September to 15 October, four in-depth meetings were organized on the topics of greatest interest that emerged already in the planning phase and confirmed by the presentation meetings: traffic scenarios; environment and health; urban environment and landscape quality; and the management of construction sites. 313 attendees were registered who listened to the discussion between 25 experts, without being able to intervene. In fact, citizens could participate but only as auditors; if they had questions for clarification or objections, they could forward them in writing which would be followed by a deferred response (Lewanski, 2017, p. 12). The structure of the meeting in fact provided for: the illustration of the theme by the proponent; the presentation of critical interventions; and the debate between experts and proponents (Pillon, 2016, p. 69).
Among the arguments that emerged in the third meeting on urban, environmental, and landscape quality, an architecture professor, critic of the work, spoke of the burying of the infrastructure as some US cities did with the "Highways to Boulevard" program (Boston, Chicago , San Francisco), the City of Seoul (Pillon, p. 18) and Madrid. These interventions have as their objective the elimination of caesurae and the reconnection of large parts of densely populated cities; the elimination of the acoustic and visual impact and the concentration of air pollution which could then be treated and purified; and the recovery of large spaces for urban use, green areas, and other local mobility paths (Ib.).
The proponent affirmed to these requests that "the hypothesis of landfill has never been taken into consideration" because it is technically and economically unsustainable. From a technical point of view, the greatest difficulties concern the very conformation of the two infrastructures that would like to be buried. The presence of numerous junctions (15 entrances, and exits 500/800 meters away from each other) and the intersection with the A13 motorway make "the idea of the tunnel not feasible, because it would be necessary to build a tunnel that should return to quota near the single exits ”with very high costs and obvious safety problems (Ib.).
3. Design meetings
Before the last thematic meeting, on 12 October, a meeting was organized divided into 5 planning groups, called “neighborhood laboratories”. 45 out of 59 candidates recruited in the initial phase, produced specific design indications for the mitigation and landscape insertion of the work and its adduction works, junctions and roundabouts, and secondary roads. The workshops seem to have taken place in an hour (Lewanski, 2017, p. 15). The workshops were also attended by the representative members of the Monitoring Committee (managers and technicians of the proponent, Priolo and Orioli, district presidents). Furthermore, in order to collect specific proposals, micro-planning meetings were organized (21 September and 21 October) through inspections in the areas concerned. These meetings have not been scheduled and are not visible in the calendar, nor have any minutes have been published in case they exist (Link 1).
The Concluding Report of the Public Confrontation (Pillon, 2016) was presented on 7 November in a public meeting, of which there are no minutes available. In the report, not only the path report, the criticisms of the infrastructure project, are mentioned, as well as the criticisms attributed to the way it was carried out, communicated to the curator in the public meetings: "Some [committees and municipal councillors] have also criticized the methods of implementation of the path, judged to be very tight, and the timing, judged too short. The comparison provided a preliminary phase to the meetings on the territory—in which citizens were able to view the project and prepare their arguments—and an intense phase of discussion in the field in the months of September and October 2016, which actually proved to be very demanding. While on the one hand, the activity in the field was tight (about 8 weeks), much longer was the time dedicated to the preliminary phase of analysis and study of the documentation. This lasted about 6 weeks [July and August] compared to 2 weeks foreseen by the main national and international experiences" (Ib.).
Finally, on 16 December, the Final Report drawn up by the Monitoring Committee was presented, which includes the various proposals drawn up by the Consultation, in the form of an agreement between the parties (MIT-b, 2016). The presentation took place in the City Council in front of the media, physically preventing access to citizens and committees, despite the public invitation that appeared on the website (Lewanksi, 2017, p. 7).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
With respect to the objectives that the process had set itself of identifying the measures of landscape insertion, noise mitigation, and integration to improve local road connections and urban green spaces, it can be considered, given the final report (MIT-b, 2016) that there was an almost total acceptance of the proposals that emerged from the design laboratories in which the proponents were also present. This is so even if there are no reports nor is this decisive appointment indicated in the calendar of meetings. The method of transferring the proposals therefore appears to be completely arbitrary. These are interventions worth approximately 170 million euros for mitigations and 90 million euros for connection works, or respectively 27% and 13% of the total estimated investment value of 650 million euros.
The executive project was presented on 13 January 2017 and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is underway at the Ministry of the Environment.
Having said this, it must be noted that the opposing actors are initially still on the same positions and express strong criticism (through their web channels, dossiers, local press, locally with rallies, banners and flyers), not only at the work itself, as was already the case, but there are also those regarding how the process was organized (Coordination, 2017; Lewanski, 2017). The opposing actors will likely try to hinder the executive project during the EIA phase by forwarding observations and verifying that there is no formal defect in the procedure. Furthermore, there is an increase in the already high rate of distrust towards the Public Administration and in particular a worsening in the public perception of participatory processes as possible solutions to the crisis of democratic representation (Lewanski, 2017). An analysis of the positions and reactions of party actors would be interesting to evaluate a short-term impact on the structure of political representation and an estimate of future dynamics.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The process turned out to be a comparison with the DAD approach (Decide — Announce — Defend)—partially disguised—with a relative share of "negotiated" compensation, partly mandatory by law (acoustic mitigation measures for example) or because it relates to functional adaptation (e.g. adduction works) and partly optional (e.g. tree-lined bands) or symbolic (the architectural design of some elements such as overpasses or underpasses). Among other things, these mitigation works had already been negotiated with the Municipality, which already considered them acquired in the 2016 mandate program .
The main negotiating moment was concentrated in the so-called "neighbourhood workshops", consisting of a meeting divided into five working groups. Information about the appointment and the report is missing at this time. It is only mentioned in the final report. It is not publicly known who the participants actually were, apart from the presence of the proponents in each group and the duration of the meeting. There is a lack of information and a very serious lack of transparency precisely in the only moment in which it was potentially possible to negotiate something in the process. In the previous stages, the refusals of the proponents towards alternative proposals had already been motivated (e.g. the almost total burial of option zero) and concise answers had been given to the critical aspects of the work. There remained, after defending the project, to negotiate some compensation measures with some unspecified "citizens" (the delegates expressed by the discussion tables in the presentation meetings). Certainly it is easier for the proponents of any work to digest its public acceptability, using DAD approaches—in this case well masked by a willingness to compare—when it comes to extensions, renovations, and enhancements of works already in place. The availability of public consultation does not sincerely seem to be “an important innovation to the model of the Débat Public”, as the curator has declared (Pillon, ib., P. 5 - 66); in the DAD approach, the willingness to hear objections is offered but one pretends to respond with one's own convictions, very often referring to technical data and objective considerations. Obviously, a definition of the situation and of the reality built by power is generated, which as such is always deconstructible. However, this approach also has its own pragmatism, condensable in the willingness of the (proposing) authority to put its face up to the point of not losing it, that is, to the point where the assumptions or considerations made do not show obvious indefensible flaws. It does not seem that such serious deficiencies in the merits of the work have yet been highlighted as to make those who have proposed it lose face, but it seems instead that serious deficiencies have emerged more in the method examined here.
However, the costs of the proposed improvements received are not accounted for and shown in the final report (MIT-b, 2016) and, given the budget initially offered (MIT-a, 2016), it is not clear if and how (with ASPI or municipal finances) they will be realized. There are also no commitments regarding the monitoring of the construction of the work.
Despite the typical uncertainties in the context of Italian public administrations, the result achieved could be considered a gain for all the parties involved—albeit not entirely satisfactory for those against—compared to what could have happened if the trial had not been organized or if some actor (especially those against it) had decided not to participate. Given that the representatives of the opposing committees, and their delegated experts, participated in the meetings and were also integrated into two meetings of the scientific committee, as well as people willing to contribute to the neighborhood laboratories, it seems that even those against have implicitly accepted the process, trying to get some benefit over the non-collaborative option and protest. By doing this, the opposing actors may have obtained some results but have also de facto legitimized the entire operation, confirming its overall political acceptance. Furthermore, the proponents obtained free advice provided by connoisseurs of the area (Lewanski, 2017, p.9).
The communication disseminated in the period between the signing of the agreement of April 15 (MIT-a, 2016) and the administrative elections of June 5 and 19 (second round) should be verified, to analyze the role of local media and the strategy communication of political territorial bodies. The opportunity may have arisen (whether intentionally or unintentionally) not to let the dissent to the project flow too much on a possible (decrease in) electoral consensus; in other words, before the elections it was better to reassure about the good intentions and ample room for empowerment of the future confrontation which was also called the Public Debate or it was better not to talk about it at all. Subsequently, a possible success, as it happened later, served, in an instrumentalizing way, to legitimize the choice already made and to limit the margins of the debate to a simpler "confrontation". It is no coincidence that the relative success, in the recent elections, was also used by Merola and PD as proof of the democratic legitimacy of the "Middle Bypass" and the abandonment of the North Bypass (Marchetta, p. 158). It should be noted that the agreement was signed on April 15 and already spoke of a public "Confrontation" but did not specify how it would take place. Furthermore, participatory intentions were declared in the program, albeit very generally . Finally, in the electoral competition the theme of the bypass is a single and important question which, however, is lost in the rest of the other competitive contents.
It is understandable why the proposer completely ignored the optional opportunity to resort to the regional law on participation (lrn3 / 2010), as already mentioned. Indeed, it requires certain quality criteria to be respected. The most obvious and important is that relating to the sharing phase of the path it envisages the organization of a negotiation table (lr3-10 art. 13 c.1 l. c) from the earliest stages of the process. The presence of the table is a necessary element of the participatory process. Its lack makes the proposal for access to regional support unacceptable .
The Scientific Committee cannot be considered a substitute for the negotiation table. At most, it could be considered a substitute for the Steering Committee (art. 14) but the total arbitrariness of its composition and the absence of the delegates of the opposing actors, at the first two of its four meetings, also exclude this possibility, categorically. Even less can the Monitoring Committee be considered a substitute for this body, despite the misleading name, composed only of the proponents and the decision-making authorities. More fundamentally, the process lacked a phase of sharing the participatory path project with the actors interested in the issue and in particular with the opposing actors who have never been contacted and included to define the path and negotiate its procedures. According to the law, this is a sufficient reason for not obtaining the regional certification .
Compared to other critical interventions (Coordination of committees, 2017), it is suggested that without a clear and documented phase of sharing the path with the actors, one cannot actually speak of a "participatory process", even before empowerment, transparency, impartiality and neutrality, dialogue, deliberation, and consensus. If there is no sharing phase, there is no agreement on the path of consultation, therefore there is no participatory process, but only a persuasive and manipulative communication operation, completely heterodirected. If there had been a sharing on the path, in the sense that it is not excluded a priori that the power relations could not be explained and consequently elaborated by the parties, a path related only to how to carry out the mitigation works or manage the construction sites would also have been acceptable. A second serious deficiency (which would always be required by law 3/10) is related to the management methods, which did not provide, in the final stages, methods of counting preferences of any kind in order to increase the representativeness of the consensus on the result achieved. Instead, a filtered / arbitrary and not very transparent transfer of what would have emerged in the neighbourhood workshops was opted for.
However, it is on the first critical aspect (failure to share the path) that the total negative judgment on the project is expressed again and it is also noted that "modest requests for lengthening of the time" of the path have not even been accepted (Lewanski, 2017, p. 9). It can be assumed that this aspect was deliberately avoided due to a lack of arguments and political and cultural authority. This deficiency is also attributable to the so-called Scientific Committee, whose meeting minutes are not accessible, if they were ever drawn up.
This judgment not only increases the very negative evaluation already expressed by Lewanski (2017), but highlights the quality of a participatory process as a determining criterion (in accordance with the 3/10 law, which, although optional, should be a reference for participatory policies for local authorities of the regional territory) has not been respected, putting all the other more negotiable planning-management criteria in the background.
One wonders why no requests for mediation have been made to the warranty technician, always provided for by law 3/10 (Article 15). There was a loss of opportunity that could have been asserted by the opposing actors in their public communications, if their requests for modification of the route had not been accepted, even partially, by the proposers. In general, it seems that regional law 3/10 has never been mentioned as a reference for promoting participation and the quality of participatory processes and one wonders what the reasons may be.
This project confirms the thesis already expressed (Mengozzi, 2015) which argues that in Italy—and in particular in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, which should be the two most advanced regions with respect to public participation—the territorial processes that involve risk allocation (LULU infrastructures - Locally Unwanted Land Uses) or subtraction of resources (rationalizations, privatizations, cuts, and cessations of public services) systematically avoid confrontation with the populations, limiting themselves, at best, to agreements with local authorities.
This should be alarming given that, in these first months of 2017, preparations are starting for revising the regional law 3/10 and its national counterpart to replicate models of public debate or confrontation of the type described.
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