(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
While the idea of "dividing Jerusalem" often evokes passionate responses, the Jerusalem Municipality has announced plans to do just that - but not as part of a diplomatic agreement.
In an effort to improve municipal services such as sanitation and maintenance, City Hall on Tuesday announced a new program that will effectively divide, or demarcate, the capital into seven operational zones, with the goal of boosting the city's residents' quality of life along with the capital's overall appearance.
Under the plan, a "zone manager" will be appointed for each area. Tenders for those positions would be issued this week, the city said.
The managers will be responsible for coordinating all municipal activities that fall under their jurisdiction, and expected to respond to the requests and problems of the residents in their zones.
"The demarcation of the city into operational zones will bring an improvement to the municipal system, and will improve the connection between the various municipal branches," Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said of the plan on Tuesday.
"It will also provide residents with a clear address to come to when they need to deal with problems that exist in the areas in which they live," he added. "It will allow for those problems to be dealt with faster, and on a wider scale. This will help develop and improve the appearance of the city as a whole."
According to a press release that was sent out by the city on Tuesday, the municipal branches currently operate under a "headquarters" with no real command in the field, and not enough coordination between them.
"As such, an all-encompassing location that is responsible for an entire area is lacking, and problems fall between the cracks," the statement read. "The preferred methods are not being used, the proper checks on the ground are not being done, nor is the public's assistance being enlisted enough."
The new zoning plan aims to correct just that, and by providing a central location for residents to turn to instead of a maze of bureaucracy - City Hall - the municipality hopes that residents' lives will be made easier.
Zone managers will also be tasked with developing work plans, based on the issues facing their areas, and with the help of all the necessary municipal bodies, the city hopes that coordination and planning will be more successful when they are localized.
The managers will be expected to become experts in their areas and be in constant contact with residents and community leaders. The zone managers will meet with one another on a regular basis, along with representatives of the various municipality bodies, to ensure that renovations and repairs are going according to plan.
"We're talking about one of the most complex reform programs the city has ever undertaken," said the municipality's policy and strategic planning head Roy Folkman.
"The demands on the various [municipal] branches is very high, and it's important that we be creative in order to bring results with the limited resources that exist. But I'm convinced that by 2010, we will see a noticeable change in the condition of the city," he said.
Municipality representatives have already begun touring the neighborhoods that make up each zone, to gain a better idea of the challenges various district managers will be facing.