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Shapira singles out Lod in report on municipalities
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
25/12/2012
State Comptroller publishes report on socio-economic safety net, domestic violence, focuses on attention paid to Israeli-Arab sector.
 
With especially harsh words for the city of Lod, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira published a report on local municipal issues on Tuesday, covering issues from providing a socioeconomic safety net to preventing domestic violence.

The report notes that 94 spouses were killed in domestic violence incidents from 2004 to 2011. Covering the years 2011-2012, the report also highlights cities with a concentration of problems, such as Lod, and reviews a host of other issues, including the effectiveness of municipal lawyers at enforcing the law, the quality of structural road safety and a review of a number of cities’ problems with building issues.

The report also devotes special attention to criticizing the Haifa Bay Municipal Association for Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Ministry for poor monitoring of air pollution and hazardous chemical contamination risks in the Haifa Bay region.

Shapira says in the report that the “quality of life for a resident is impacted by the level of the services that the local authority provides him, and by its guarding his welfare, health and security.” He adds that improving local municipalities is key to improving the socioeconomic circumstances of the population.

The report then criticizes local municipalities for poorly defining in advance what socioeconomic services they are due to provide. The deficiency in defining the expected services, according to the report, often leads to the services not being provided with sufficient frequency or to a lack of quality.

Shapira calls on the government as a whole, and the Interior Ministry in particular, to act to fulfill their roles to advance the provision of the basket of services, maintaining at least a bare minimum of quality that citizens can expect from their local municipalities.

He also says the ministry must fulfill past government decisions to establish a unit to inspect and oversee the provision of services.

It also calls for this unit to provide information to residents about their rights so that they will better understand and make use of local services meant to be available to them.

The report’s section on domestic violence points to deficiencies in the conduct of local social services authorities.

Stating they should be “viewed gravely,” Shapira heavily criticizes these deficiencies, including failures to adequately defend endangered spouses and provide them with assistance that would “reduce the extent of the phenomenon.” The report also says that the different agencies handling pieces of the domestic violence phenomenon have poor coordination.

Concrete deficient examples include many school systems failing to implement curricula to increase awareness about domestic violence despite being funding, as well as the Justice Ministry’s failure to publish on the Internet where victims can get help.

The report makes special note of domestic violence problems in the Israeli-Arab sector. The Welfare and Social Services Ministry must “completely reevaluate” its policies in handling the problem in this sector, and Shapira notes a lack of Arabic speakers and special training to account for cultural sensitivities among the staff handling the issue. In Ramle, there was not even a single Arabic speaker, he says.

The report stresses that authorities dealing with the issue in the Israeli-Arab sector need to be better trained to handle it a discrete manner, due to the extra cultural sensitivities and dynamics regarding the issue in this sector.

While the report reviews a large range of cities on a variety of issues, it gives special attention to what it calls failures in administration, law enforcement and economic investment in Lod. The report says the state has invested significant resources in aspects of improving life in Lod, such as professional human resources and infrastructure, but the investment has been uneven and insufficient.

The report returns to one of its themes of poor definition and coordination by local authorities in implementing changes and investing resources, as well as overseeing their effectiveness.

Shapira criticizes the city’s administration procedures for allocating financial resources, educational programs, social programs and absorption programs.

He specifically highlights the problem of widespread crime in the city, which it says makes it difficult to attract new residents, pushes old residents to leave, and creates an obstacle for all programs.

While acknowledging that the police have made increased efforts to fight crime, particularly drugs and public disturbances, in the last ten years, the report says that the efforts have still fallen short in the areas of violence and theft.

Shapira singles out the police’s failures in Lod as being below the average rate of police success in most cities, and notes some categories of crimes have even seen a recent increase.
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