It could have been the perfect end to a difficult year: unlike last year, the last city council meeting did not coincide with St. Sylvester's Day (celebrated by some as New Year). Nor did it collide with a major soccer game or other sports event, or with anything else, for that matter. The main course - er, issue -- on the table was to have been the municipal budget. And since the proposed budget is balanced for the first time ever, and since it seems to reflect something for everyone, no one anticipated any serious opposition. But somehow, it all started off wrong. And while the meeting was scheduled to convene at 6 pm sharp, at 8:00 the action was still going on in the foyer of the 6th floor. Why? Because there wasn't a quorum. Only a portion of the opposition and three members of the coalition, including Hizzoner the Mayor, even bothered to show up on time. By 8:05, head of opposition Nir Barkat (Jerusalem Will Succeed), had begun to fantasize about teaching the mayor a lesson. "We should take this opportunity to make him understand that we are important, too," Barkat proposed. "Let's take the matter to court and prevent Lupolianski from opening the session." But just then, even before the other members of Barkat's own party had finished explaining that they couldn't go to court and boycott such an important meeting, Lupolianski convened the meeting. Without an explanation or an apology, a few minutes after 8 pm, all of the ultra-Orthodox city council members nonchalantly sashayed into the meeting room through a side gate, the mayor took his cue, and the meeting commenced. Just in case some of you, dear readers, insist that you must know the reason for this collective tardiness...well, as singer Tom Jones once crooned, "It's not unusual..." In this case, it's not unusual to want to light the Hanukkah candles at home. Is it? But the mayor had specified that the meeting should begin at 6 pm sharp, right? Right, but so what! "Sugt hir," ("So he said") explained, in Yiddish, one of the city council members from the mayor's own party. Mayor Lupolianski, by the way, had lit the candles in city hall. In Hebrew. But once the meeting began - two hours and 10 minutes late - it was fairly unexciting, certainly in comparison to previous end-of-the-year sessions. One speech by Ruth Ralbag (Jerusalem Will Succeed - Nir Barkat's party), and not much else. Even the unusual presence of the Tzion Dahan, head of workers' union, didn't disturb the calm atmosphere -- and I don't think I was dreaming when I watched Dahan and the general manager exchange a few pleasantries. The high-ranking employees who have resigned, already on their way out, enjoyed a casual and open conversation. For once. On the sidewalks outside city hall, local journalists and citizens enjoyed the relaxed encounter: the politicians were inside, municipal spokesman Gidi Schmerling was on reserve duty, and head of information Gil Sheffer was away. No action. A real detente. At least for one, end-of-the-year evening. Now, that's unusual!


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