City councilman Arieh King asks the mayor question from the public's benches at the council meeting hall, in protest against the move to close the meeting off to residents last month.
(photo credit: UDI SHAHAM)
Members of the Jerusalem Municipality opposition are to hold an alternative city council meeting on Monday in protest of a recent municipality decision to close the monthly forum to the public.
City Councilwoman Fleur Hassan- Nahoum, the initiator of the move, told The Jerusalem Post that the gathering, to be held at the Knesset, is intended to allow the public to come take part and to make its voice heard.
“In recent months, the mayor has been trying to prevent residents from coming to city council meetings,” she said. “We are forming a body that is doing something that the council is not doing – and that is listening. We want to listen to the residents.”
The municipality has recently told the Post that the decision to close the meetings to the public came after several incidents in which residents used their seats in the meetings hall to stage vocal protests, interrupting the proceedings.
Hassan-Nahoum explained that these protests came in light of the current atmosphere created under Mayor Nir Barkat’s reign.
“The reason that residents are coming to scream at city council meetings is because in this term of Barkat there’s an atmosphere of a lack of public participation [in decision making],” she said.
“We’ve seen this in many examples, in which people have woken up and [discovered] schools have been moved without them knowing...
We had an incident in a youth center in Neve Ya’acov, which all of a sudden they put a synagogue in the same building without any type of consultation.
“The policy became, ‘Let’s talk to the residents the least we possibly can.’ And that’s why residents end up coming to city council meetings to scream. They feel that their voices are not being heard at any level,” she said.
Hassan-Nahoum also complained that Barkat has thwarted any passing of motions that come from the opposition – even when he publicly agrees with them. The opposition plans to discuss these issues in Monday’s meeting as well, she said.
In the last municipality meeting, only the press and municipality workers were allowed to enter the hall in which it was held. As a protest to this decision, some opposition members moved to sit in the public’s benches to ask the mayor questions.
Laura Wharton (Meretz) and Arieh King (United Jerusalem) confirmed to the Post that they will attend the alternative meeting.
A spokesman for Hitorerut, the largest party of the opposition, said that the faction remains undecided as to whether it will attend.
King said that he is happy to see the cooperation between opposition factions to put forward this alternative meeting. That Barkat closed the meetings to the public is “sad for democracy in Jerusalem,” he said.
“The mayor closes these meetings, that were open to the public since the days of [late Jerusalem mayor] Teddy Kollek. A black flag is flying over the Safra Square,” he said.
The Jerusalem Municipality refused to comment.