World Mayor 2020

World Mayor vote 20/21
Aldo D'Achille
Mayor of San Bellino, Italy
answers your questions

World Mayor invited participants in the 2021 Project to put questions to Aldo D'Achille. From the questions received, a representative selection was forwarded to the Mayor. He replies with candour, thoughtfulness and in detail. INTERVISTA IN ITALIANO

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Question by Valeria G., San Bellino:
What motivated you to enter politics and run for Mayor of San Bellino?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
Choosing to be mayor could be an emotional choice but wanting to be mayor is a choice of responsibility that is born and prepared over the years and cannot be improvised. So it was for me. In my opinion, to play this role fully and effectively, at least three ingredients are needed: passion, skills acquired over the years and a vision.

What prompted me to enter politics was the civic passion that I declined since the age of 19 in experiences of associations that then led me to apply and to enter the city council in 1999. Since then I have continued to feed this passion with different roles, first as a city councilor, then as a deputy mayor and from 2014 up to now as mayor.

AMAZON Corporation

Question by M.T., Rovigo:
San Bellino is a small town with Amazon, one of the biggest companies in the world, on its doorsteps. Do you see its presence as a threat or opportunity? If the latter, how do you cooperate with Amazon.

Mayor D’Achille replies:
My small town is often considered periphery but I believe that there is no periphery if you can offer those essential services that maintain the quality of life and a human rhythm for its inhabitants. I fought and obtained in 2017 that the town of San Bellino was the first small town in Veneto wired entirely in FTTH fiber: a tool that helps to avoid depopulation and has favored the establishment of new companies. Only if you can offer people all the services necessary for their work, even in a small municipality, these people will choose to live in small municipal realities, thus becoming credible witnesses of the quality of life that can be in small communities, as well as being an important bulwark for the protection of the territories.

The Municipality of San Bellino in its industrial area, shared with the another municipality, hosts the largest photovoltaic park in Europe which today provides clean energy to over 20,000 families; the e-commerce giant Amazon has set up offices in the same area, which today employs over 2,000 employees. In the initial negotiation phase, before the establishment, it was agreed that 900 places will be permanent over three years and today, after 9 months, there are already 600 permanent workers.

The advantage for the territory, all with permanent hires, is multi-factorial because it allows those people and their families to stabilize in neighboring communities and to make life and housing choices. The presence of Amazon has favored an economic development in companies that work as suppliers, bars, restaurants, gyms and among individuals who have decided to rent a house or beds. In an overall view and placing the right political corrections for traditional commercial realities but essential for the social and economic fabric of the territory, I believe that there are margins for a possible and positive coexistence.

Question by Gabriela P., Rovigo:
The presence of Amazon’s fulfillment centre, which employs twice as many people as San Bellino has residents, will change our small town. What do you think San Bellino will look like in 10-years’ time?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
From your question I feel a deeper request resonating in my head: how to protect a small community, keep it cohesive and able to manage the impact of these large commercial realities?

First of all we have chosen to place these realities outside the context of the inhabited center and we have created a series of cycle paths that allow residents or those who choose to come and live, even if for a short time, in the tranquility of a small town to move in a sustainable way to access at the workplace. In recent years we have eliminated the physical barriers in the entire San Bellino, increased the urban decor and the maintenance of the roads, created good essential services to maintain a quality of life and work even remotely (all the municipal reality is wired in FTTH fiber), there is a free community nurse, green areas have been increased with the creation of tree-lined avenues, an 8000 m² park completed and inaugurated in 2019 (the first public park in the world dedicated to Luigi Masetti, the first cycle-tourist in the world, a community truffle ground has been created: over 300 trees with new truffle root types to offer a new perspective to the world of agriculture, so that from intensive and industrial it gradually converts to regenerative for the soil and reconstructs the rows of mycorrhized plants in the countryside. If our experimentation is successful we could offer agricultural entrepreneurs a new business plan that involves the planting of new trees in the perimeter of the countryside. We are proceeding with the "Pillars of the Earth" project: the elimination of telephone columns with the burying of cables and their replacement with the planting of pyramidal oaks in their place.

I believe that this country is already projected towards the next 10 years! The only deficient element is to find an effective way to communicate these politics, thus allowing people from outside the province and region to chose San Bellino as a good place to live! We still have to keep working on this!

Question by Dr. Andrea M., Italy:
What have you done for small businesses to benefit from the presence of Amazon?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
In addition to an information campaign on the possibilities offered by Amazon to open an international market to one's business, the focus was on targeted support for small businesses that must survive and are the heart of the community. We have tried to put it into a system in different ways: as municipality we donated identical external awnings in each shop, thus favoring urban decor that makes it pleasant to walk in the historic center to make it attractive. We have removed taxes for the use of the stalls, an external public space granted free of charge to the shops in the center equal to the surface of the shop itself, in order to allow the positioning of outdoor tables and chairs, a useful measure also in preventing the spread of Covid 19 in this pandemic period.

In my town, those in economic difficulty among citizens do not receive money but numbered shopping vouchers that they can only use in small local shops. An indirect way to support small businesses as well as a strategy for the administration to understand where the economic resources of those who request them are spent, thus avoiding the improper use of public money on gambling, cigarettes or alcohol. There are cases in which those vouchers are used only for the purchase of medicines and this becomes an important feedback for the social assistance then to support that family.

Some businesses in addition to being able to take advantage of the Amazon Marketplace platform for a commercial channel that has widespread logistics throughout the world (Made in Italy Showcase, offers a space dedicated to the excellence of our country, with particular regard to artisanal and agri-food regional products, as many as 14,000 Italian small and medium-sized companies use this international platform).

Some local companies have signed agreements with Amazon offering discounts to their employees in local gyms, cafes, pizzerias and restaurants, discounts in supermarkets. These are just a few possible choices for people and small businesses in the area. But what lies ahead in the near future?

The latest idea accepted by Amazon's managers was to support the only Agricultural Technical Institute in the province of Rovigo, which in recent months had a large amount of unsold flowers. Amazon in exchange for these flowers donated an agricultural machine for the school's educational company instead of money. Then Amazon donated those flowers to all the families in my town.

In this period we are talking with the managers of the local warehouse and seeking contacts in the area with certified associations and ONLUS that provide with the surplus food present in the warehouses or with food products close to expiry, to help families in difficulty not only in the territory of the province. of Rovigo.

Divergent thinking and shared projects at the local level can make even a standardized reality like Amazon more "human scale".

Question by Luca S., Milan:
As someone who aims to protect the environment and strengthen sustainability, do you believe Amazon’s business model harms or benefits these aims?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
The capitalist model that Amazon uses responds to a free market and is increasingly fed in this direction by consumers who find in this company an answer to their needs in this period of pandemic. Answering this question is not easy because it touches on a theme, the environment, in which I believe and in which I have been committed as mayor, dedicating time and energy with targeted projects, for many years. The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, the sustainable, non-intensive agriculture and farming that consider the soil as a resource to be protected, the search for natural ways to store carbon and the development of mitigation and adaptation interventions are absolutely necessary and no longer excludable actions.

To answer the question, I tried to analyze the Amazon Company without preconceptions but looking for data that allow us to make evaluations free from prejudices. I thought that an overall vision was needed by observing Amazon not only for its impact on the territory of my municipality but for the green choices and the objectives that the company has set itself, thus trying to sketch an answer on the choices it is making to protect the environment.

In October 2020, Amazon together with Global Optimism launched The Climate Pledge: a concrete program to achieve the results of the Paris Climate Agreement 10 years in advance and to reduce the net carbon emissions of their operations to zero by 2040. They are pledging to upgrade their global infrastructure to reach 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030 on the road to carbon neutrality by 2040. They are working intensively in Italy to strengthen the Climate Pledge, also involving many private and public companies.

Amazon will invest $100 million in the Right Now Climate Fund to restore and protect forests around the world in partnership with the US NGO Nature Conservancy. The Right Now Climate Fund will help remove tens of millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere throughout the project and create economic opportunities.

To support The Climate Pledge program they have implemented several initiatives:

• Sustainable Energy Projects: Amazon is the largest renewable energy buyer in Europe, with 206 solar and wind energy projects. The total renewable energy initiatives include 71 wind and solar plants on an industrial scale and the installation of 135 photovoltaic roofs on distribution and sorting centers located all over the world, of which 6 in Italy in Passo Corese (RI), Colleferro ( RM), Torrazza Piemonte (TO), Vercelli, Casirate d'Adda (BG) and Castelgugliemo / San Bellino (RO). My municipal area is also involved in this environmental mitigation action!

• Renewable Energy: Amazon is on track to power their business operations with 100% renewable energy by 2024. In 2019, they achieved 42% renewable energy across their entire business. As far as December 2020, Amazon has 127 solar and wind projects around the world, including two in Sicily, which have the capacity to generate over 6,500 megawatts and provide more than 18 million megawatt hours of power annually. Specifically, solar plants in Sicily are agro-solar plants: the projects combine the production of renewable energy with agricultural cultivation, which uses part of the energy produced.

• Sustainable Packaging: Amazon created the Frustration-Free Packaging program to encourage manufacturers to pack their products in easy-to-open, 100% recyclable packaging, ready for shipment to customers without the need for an additional shipping box. Since 2015, they have reduced the weight of outbound packaging by 33% and eliminated over 900,000 tons of packaging material, the equivalent of 1.6 billion shipping boxes.

• Sustainable buildings: they are committed to maintaining their buildings with the highest standards of sustainable design accompanied by international certifications. We also engage with industry-leading programs that support the zero-carbon transition to the environment.

• Recycling Infrastructure: They are working to address the materials that are more difficult to recycle in their operations. They are launching plastic film recycling in more than 55 distribution centers across their network. Through this program, they plan to recycle more than 7,000 tonnes of plastic film annually, in addition to the 1,500 tonnes of plastic already recycled annually in Europe.

• Recyclable Mailing Envelopes: They have launched a fully recyclable paper padded mailing envelope that protects products during shipping while taking up less space during transport. This ensures that deliveries to customers arrive intact and in recyclable packaging with a lower carbon footprint. Does the Amazon model harm or benefit sustainability?

As mayor I feel like saying: posterity will be the judge!


Question by Lorenzo R., Rovigo:
We both live in Veneto where La Lega dominates the political debate. Should you be more outspoken in your criticism of right-wing politics?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
The community must take care of the community. This is the facilitation action that I have tried to implement in recent years, because politicians change but a formed and aware community is an active community.

I do not speak out against anyone, but for years I have been aiming to implement active policies that are an example and practicable for both right-wing and left-wing administrators. The motto that I always say, as coordinator for the Veneto region of the Association of Virtuous Municipalities is "It is forbidden not to copy" what is good, without shouting, but demonstrating with facts the possible change also in politics. What is done and values the community must be copied and put into the system .... energy spent not against someone, but beyond!

If I have to express myself to say what I disagree with the Lega's positions, I can say that mainly I cannot accept the communication that always attributes the cause of each problem to others, specifically to immigrants. In my view of politics this approach is not contemplated, it feeds fears and blocks any active change because it passively delegates those who have the power to solve any problem and by any means.

I am for a policy of inclusion; many people have not chosen where to be born, but in respect of rights and laws I believe they should choose where to live. In recent years, all my active politics has been made evident in every public work that I have created: involvement has been my great strength, because in addition to the work itself there is a great social and cultural value.

An example of all: I planned a lift in the municipal building to break down physical barriers: a part of the sum came from crowd funding. I did not lack the money to be able to carry out that work but I chose this method so that that work would take on a cultural value and co-responsibility in its realization also by the citizens.

And so many other public works, even cheaper, such as the village fountain, in ruins and not working for over twenty years: for its restoration I asked to be able to have, in a training internship, high school students who, with shovel and pickaxe, started the work by preparing the pipe system and thus understanding the effort that underlies the realization of a real and concrete work. In the second phase, the task was given to a specialized company which completed the work.

I could have called professionals right from the start but I believe that those students will never forget the real work they have done and will not damage that work because it was partly done thanks to them. This is the specificity of my policy: the "important" works in my municipality are done in this way, so that public affairs can be narrated as the true wealth of a community.

Question by Jean-Luc S., Rovigo:
Do you work together with other mayors in Rovigo to address the province’s weaknesses and leverage its strengths?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
The mayor administers everything living creatures: people, animals, trees. With some mayors at the various thematic tables there is a deep understanding, a shared vision but with others it is much more difficult. We need a European strategy, an Italy strategy, a Veneto strategy and a Polesine strategy that obliges political dialogue within clear and shared guidelines on climate change, population decline, work, environmental protection and so on. (EDIT: Polesine is an area of land about 100-km long and 18-km wide located between the lower courses of the Adige and the Po rivers, limited to the east by the Adriatic Sea and leaving the western limit undefined. It corresponds roughly with the Province of Rovigo)

Italy occupies 0.5% of the Earth, and 0.83% of humanity lives there. The bio-climatic conditions are unique in the world, allowing the peninsula to be the first nation in the world for biodiversity:

• 7,000 different plants, followed by Brazil with 3,000;
• 58,000 species of animals, followed by China with 20,000;
• 1,800 spontaneous grape varieties, followed by France with 200;
• 997 types of apples, around the world there are 1,227;
• 140 types of wheat, followed by the USA with 6.

Italy owns 70% of the artistic heritage of humanity, the remaining 30% is scattered throughout the rest of the planet. In practice we look like the garden of Eden, but many do not grasp it and do not work to increase this potential, so much so that we are one of the least "green" countries in Europe; here on average three quarters of land freight transport travels by road (76.4%) and less than a fifth (17.4%) by rail; the remaining share (6.2%) moves through inland waterways that have poorly equipped river ports and often poorly connected to the peninsula's road networks, railways and logistics structures.

The reflections concerning the Polesine area in which my municipality is located, must be grafted on this last aspect. The province of Rovigo is the Mesopotamia of Italy. It extends between the two largest rivers in Italy, the Po and the Adige, with a flat territory inside that goes from the hinterland to the sea crossed by a network of 880 canals for a length of 2050km but with very few inhabitants, 235,000. Veneto is a region with 5 million inhabitants, 600,000 VAT numbers, 150 billion GDP, but which suffers from significant emigration of young people, as many as 30,000 a year choose to leave. For this there is a great political responsibility!

Politics must work with the eyes of the rules but also with an imaginative gaze, not bent only towards tomorrow but already aimed at the day after tomorrow. We need a policy aimed at working so that the rear areas become avant-garde places. There can only be lasting development if no one is left behind. I am aware that local development cannot be achieved by a single town, however virtuous it may be and shine with its own light: the lights must be federated because the lights alone are surrounded by darkness!

With our administrative actions we should get to "give the keys" of our countries to young people because only in this way we could change the path we have traveled up to now. I have chosen a City Council composed entirely of young people with diversified skills and with my 50 years I am the oldest in age and administrative experience: they are a forge of ideas and encourage you to always give your best and relaunch the policy for the territory with always new actions and projects.

From here with the 50 fellow mayors of the province of Rovigo we should start, by inserting new young blood within the Municipal Councils and in making choices based on objective data necessary to make technical reflections and political actions. The 50 mayors of the province are connected to each other and daily confront each other on the difficulties but also on the potential to be exploited in the entire province.

The Polesine area with its particularities is a territory with a tourist vocation, but what we need is not mass tourism, fast and consumer, but a slow tourism, made up of unique experiences, which aims at quality and which gives value to environment. We must promote our landscape, our culture, our traditions and our typical products which can become an important driving force for economic recovery. The Polesine can integrate bicycle routes with waterways; Luigi Masetti was born here, the first cyclist in the world, in the area that presents the natural and surprising phenomenon of ‘gorghi’, eddies; seaside and naturalistic tourism in our Po River Delta, which has nothing to envy to the Camargue, with pink flamingos and the excellence of the pink oyster; cultural and religious tourism through paths that integrate our museums, Venetian villas, churches, historic buildings, the archaeological and ethnographic heritage, the carousel district and the enhancement of our typical products.

I believe that tourism in Polesine can become an important economic engine, favor the increase of residents and create jobs.


Question by Gino B., Peru and Andrea M., Italy:
You are known as a passionate advocate of environmental protection. What have you, as Mayor of San Bellino, done and achieved so far?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
I am deeply proud about this definition! Since 2014, the year in which I became mayor, the orientation of my mandate has been characterized by many environmental choices. A public subject does not act by proclamations but by acts and some of these, through regulations and plans, have been very stringent in the direction of environmental protection.

Over the years, various projects with different environmental purposes have taken place: the planting of pyramidal oaks to create the tree-lined access roads to the town in order to improve the urban decor; the experimental truffle ground with the planting of over 300 oaks with micronized roots in truffles with the aim of offering a model that incentives to plant trees in the countryside, offering a possible economic lever to agriculture which today is instead brought to cutting of trees because it is intensive; the creation of a large 8000 m² public park in the city center named after the first cyclist in the world, Luigi Masetti, the father of world cycle tourism.

A way to give a strong signal to the cycling vocation of the province of Rovigo, to insert it in an international vision for enthusiastic bikers, and at the same time to avoid a possible future building speculation in that place.

These environmental projects have been joined by others such as the "Pillars of the Earth", a project which involved burying telephone cables and eliminating the relative poles, replaced with pyramidal oaks, so as to favor a change in the skyline and promote culture of the pursuit of beauty. Over the years, mitigation and adaptation projects to climate change have also been activated that have regional and national relevance, one of these, the project "Let's smile back at the Po Valley" that was born in the dialogue between my town and a small town in the province of Padua.

At first it was an experiment that involved a dozen municipalities but today it has been adopted by over 400 municipalities in the Veneto Region. It was awarded in first place at the Senate of the Republic with the "100 destinations of Italy", as a project recognized in 2018 as one of the most incisive, low-cost and practicable because it requires the involvement of citizens and their private properties.

It brings together environmental education and environmental mitigation action.
The Life project on biodiversity "Pollination" led by the University of Venice in which the Municipality of San Bellino, the only one in our province, has been chosen as an operational partner, is soon to be built but already financed with 3.2 million euros by the European Community: it provides the experimentation of flowery corridors to verify the impact of pollution on pollinating insects.

These are just a few examples that I hope will help to understand what clear direction has been decided and pursued in recent years.

Question by Arturo L., Italy:
You have implemented many environmental and social projects in San Bellino. Do you think some of them could be replicated in other towns and cities? If so, please give examples.

Mayor D’Achille replies:
Up to now I have used my municipality as a laboratory for experimenting with social and green practices that can be reproduced in much wider reality: if I did it small we can do it big! In this period we are working to create the first town in Italy with zero physical barriers, an ambitious project that started a few years ago but is already well underway. After implementing the plan for the removal of physical barriers, we created the first inclusive playground in the entire province of Rovigo. We built the first outdoor gymnastics gym for the elderly in the province of Rovigo. We experienced crowd funding that ended in a positive way to achieve the removal of physical barriers within the municipal building itself: the Municipality is everyone's home! While being able to economically support the expense, we preferred to involve citizens to sensitize them and thus make them understand that public affairs are a necessary and important tool for the community and for everyone.

We succeeded and today the Municipality has zero physical barriers. The small municipality is a large district of a city, the small municipality is a sort of laboratory to experiment good practices quickly compared to a big city. In this period, the experimentation to reduce CO2 emissions throughout the municipal area has started and we have decided to grant municipal incentives in addition to the national ones for every resident who decides to install photovoltaic panels on their home because we believe that this is an investment in a "public" work that helps families and the environment.

The fiber connection is another great project put in place to support the connectivity of families and businesses, a strong support for the project for the diffusion of the ultra-broadband FTTH, with the speed of one gigabit per second, throughout the territory, encouraging, also in this case, citizens who decide to connect to the fiber, with a refund of three months of subscription on the chosen telephone provider.

They are choices, they are gestures that want to foster closeness between the community and those who have the responsibility to make choices for the common good.

With this method of involving citizens in clear projects and with a shared vision aimed at the future, I believe that entire city districts can change.


Question by Lisa B., San Bellino:
Are there any natural or man-made attractions as well as traditions in San Bellino that are currently little known but could be developed in the future?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
My town is home to an important basilica that could become a destination for slow tourism with a religious background.

There are many “minor” pilgrimage itineraries in Italy, directed to particular places of devotion. In recent years there has been a notable increase in interest in the so-called paths of faith and more generally in the historical roads of Italy. The interest is also felt in the rediscovery of traditions now considered lost, in the enhancement and tracing of ancient routes, as well as in the creation of new itineraries. The Way of the Angels, the Macerata-Loreto, the pilgrimage to Superga are just some examples.

San Bellino has been recognized for centuries as an important destination for pilgrims of all origins, as well as boasting its own itinerary of faith that traces the places of the discovery and transport of the body of the martyr Bishop Bellino. The route has an ideal beginning at the same time as the disappeared church of San Giacomo, in the territory of the neighboring municipality of Fratta Polesine, from where you then reach the two Oratories along via Santa Maria which represent the resting places of the coffin of San Bellino, reach the heart of the town, in the place where the remains of the Saint rest.

Since 1774, when Pope Clement XIII elevated the Church of San Bellino to a Basilica and established that the Patron Saint of the town would be celebrated on November 26, coinciding with the anniversary of his death, the tradition has been deeply rooted in the soil of traditions and of the popular culture of the area. Numerous faithful pilgrims use to walk to the Basilica on the day of the anniversary, most accompanied by their four-legged friends, with collars adorned with a red bow.

Not everyone knows, in fact, that San Bellino is remembered as the protector of dogs, since it seems that from the moment of the discovery of his remains some miracles occurred, in particular that of curing rabies. The tradition has never substantially faded, however it could find a new impulse thanks to the consolidation of the religious tourism itinerary, thanks to innovations to make it more accessible, equipped and known to the ever-growing community of walkers and supporters of sustainable and responsible tourism.

The philosophy of the journey marries the values that have allowed San Bellino to stand out as a community and can be one of the keys to integrate our small town within the national, European and world tourism network, favoring the positive interaction between industry, tourism, travelers and local communities, but also in full respect of the environment.


Question by Valeria G., San Bellino:
What have you learnt from the Covid pandemic?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
I learned that the quality of life of a community lays in the relationships between the people who make it, diversity in dialogue becomes richness and the desire for contact and relationship are of great value, like the air we breathe.

We often breathe without awareness but we understand the value of air when it fails us even for a few seconds. I hope that people do not forget the lockdown periods because in that period the scales of values have tuned in and the attention to people, beyond any cultural and social difference, has been united by a sense of belonging to the only race that exists: the human race.


Question by Michele C., Britain:
You have been Mayor of San Bellino since 2014. What difference, do you think, you have made during your years in office?

Mayor D’Achille replies:
Beyond the countless social initiatives and public-urban planning works that can be understood even just by reading what the press has written about us in recent years, with a simple search on the internet, I believe that the real difference was in the method with the passage from participation to involvement. “Participation” and “involvement” are two different worlds. The "participation" hides a perverse trap: citizens are barely consulted on things already thought and decided by those in power. The "involvement", on the other hand, requires citizens to be co-producers and co-responsible for what is decided. Here the power is communal. With my administration we are for the involvement and the results of these years have shown a real change of pace in the management of the res publica.

This work is constant and aimed both in the realization of new actions or public works but also for a more complex and profound work on the memory of the community.

One action in this direction, for example, was to involve people who have lived experiences that must not be forgotten by a community and by the memory of the little ones: three fellow citizens who have lived the experience of deportation and concentration camps. One of them, Bellino, used to clean the public footpath in front of his house every day with his broom despite being very old. A few years ago I decided to symbolically give him a broom to thank him for the service he has been doing to the community because he offered an important example.
These three survivors of the war and the concentration camps have been involved in a narration with the schools, an experience they had never done before because probably the pain did not lead them to bear witness to that tragic period. These three elderly people passed away in the last two years but their memory is strong and is a warning to social commitment.

For years, we have been supporting the publication of books on facts and people who have lived intensely the community life of my town and for some years we have been rewarding university students who decide to do a thesis on historical and traditional aspects concerning San Bellino.

As Theodore Roosevelt said "Do what you can with what you have, in the place where you are." San Bellino is the place where I am called today to give my contribution!