City councilors have been particularly busy in the past few weeks, enacting a package of reforms and initiatives that will keep Florentines talking throughout the hot, humid summer months. It seems that the councilors want to make headway on some key national, regional and municipal issues before the summer fever commences. The yeas and nays emerging from Palazzo Vecchio affect such widely different issues as equal opportunities and immigrant integration policies in the city, a controversial position on gay rights and increased efforts to combat Internet abuse.
As The Florentine reported on May 31, ongoing disputes and recent violence between Senegalese street vendors and Florentine merchants in the San Lorenzo neighborhood resulted in a round-table discussion at the Sengalese Consulate. Despite the effort to find viable solutions to a difficult problem, merchants have since reported that not much has changed since the city imposed a zero tolerance policy on illegal street sales. Determined to reduce the degradation and rampant criminal activity in San Lorenzo, 40 merchants have now employed private security. Meanwhile, illegal vendors, unable to find steady work and often lacking legal work permits, resort to selling counterfeit goods to interested passersby. Palazzo Vecchio has finally responded to both side’s pleas for a resolution to the months-long dispute. City hall will provide a list of opportunities for legitimate work to the Senegalese community. The Senegalese living in Florence with legal work permits will be able to obtain this information from the Sengalese Consulate. At the same time, Palazzo Vecchio warns, the sale of fake goods will no longer be tolerated by the city.
On another positive note, Palazzo Vecchio wore pink for a day after councilors passed a much-desired law that will guarantee a 50/50 split of men and women working there. Following a proposal by of a group of female councilors, the 32 favourable votes were enough to ensure that women will soon have an equal opportunity to represent the masses. The councilors responsible for the move stated that ‘It is a question of democracy, representation and collectivity’. Currently, of 202 positions in government agencies and institutions, only 30 are held by women. Though equal opportunity principles have not yet been applied to other employment sectors that lack female representation, this move by Florence’s city government is an important start.
Among their nay votes, the city councilors refused to send an official representative from Florence to the widely discussed Gay Pride event in Rome on June 16. Representatives from numerous associations in the city, such as the Arci and ArciGay, the Azione Gay e Lesbica, as well as politicians from the Verdi, traveled to the eternal city to take part in the festivities.
Meanwhile councilors from the Tuscan region have joined in the fight against Internet abuse. Unanimously passed within the walls of Palazzo Vecchio, a resolution to fight child pornography on the Internet will have officials at all levels of government actively safeguarding children from becoming victims of online child pornography. The campaign will involve citizen awareness initiatives and increased Internet monitoring by police. The move comes after the discovery that an international network of child pornography websites and individual pedophiles have commenced the so-called Boy Love Day, scheduled for June 23, a celebration of pedophilia and child pornography. The city’s vote supports national efforts to protect children. Like other European governments, Italy’s national government is also actively involved in putting a stop to the spread of online child pornography.