Some people - should we call them naive? - are inclined to believe that the city council and its committees are a kind of remake of the Knesset and its committees. You know, one deals with big issues and one with local issues, but all are still follow the same democratic principles of debate and argument, coalition and opposition. Well, the fact is that they are the same, yet they are so totally different. Take the money issue for example. No, I'm not hinting at the fact that the city council deals with much less money than the Knesset. That goes without saying. Nor am I hinting that the way we (or should I say our representatives) treat public money is the same here and there. It is, and it is more often than not a shame rather than a public service. But that is already common knowledge, and it's one of those issues that won't be solved in our lifetimes. No, I'm talking about the fact that city council members are not paid. Again: City council members do not receive a salary, unless they are a deputy mayor, and in order to be a deputy mayor you need to prove you have a few skills. For example, that you were clever enough to find your way into the coalition. If, let's say, you've been negligent enough to be a member of the opposition, too bad for you, or in other words: Let's hope you haven't turned down that job offer you received from Bill Gates. The Jerusalem city council has 31 members, including the mayor. The mayor is paid, and his six deputies are also paid. Well paid, if you really want to know. In fact, very well paid: between NIS 36,000 and NIS 46,000. The other 24 members work for just the glory. So the next time you hear or meet a city council member who is not a deputy mayor, please show some consideration. Until recently I was convinced that since these 24 men and women are actually volunteers, they would probably want their actions to be publicized. Imagine a weekly session of the finance committee - if you were a member, wouldn't you want to see citizens listening religiously to what you have to say about, let's see... the best way to use a few millions shekels of their property tax (arnona)? It turns out that apart from the city council monthly meeting, all the committee sessions are closed to the public, unlike those of the Knesset where some debates are even shown on TV. Opposition city council member Nir Barkat has been trying hard to convince Mayor Uri Lupolianski to change this policy, without success. The official reason given by the municipality spokesman is that "in all the local council commissions the public is present through its representatives at those commissions and thus its debates are not secret." I, of course, was raised to believe that no one, especially parliament or city council members, are to be suspected of anything, but it seems that Barkat thinks differently. "I wonder, what do they have to hide in those committees that they refuse to open them to the public?" he commented on the mayor's refusal to do so.

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