Good news, bad news
The Knesset has approved a 1.65 percent rise in arnona (property tax) for 2010. This is good news for those who care about municipal finances, as according to Kikar Safra the increased tax revenue will add NIS 25 million to its coffers. But those who are more concerned about the impact on their personal finances will be dismayed to find out that they might have to pay an additional few hundred shekels. Gyms and bowling alleys will receive a special arnona discount, in line with a former Knesset decision to encourage residents to keep in shape. And residents of the luxurious Nof Zion project will pay the same (lower) rate of taxes as their Arab neighbors. A kind of poetic justice.
Not quite the ticket
As well as increasing arnona, the city has another plan to raise money. As of 2010, parking inspectors will be issuing more tickets: Fines will be issued until midnight (instead of 7 p.m.). Outstanding fines will be collected from residents of other cities, perhaps even from tourists or local homeowners who spend just a few weeks a year in Israel. The aim is to raise the current income from fines from NIS 33 million to at least NIS 50 million, in addition to a campaign dedicated to collecting some NIS 70 million in outstanding fines. Be warned.
The plight of the Jerusalem Pool on Rehov Emek Refaim continues to make waves. The Action Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org) has hired a lawyer who has confirmed that, from a legal standpoint, the position of the pool members fighting its possible closure and rezoning is strong. However, the committee is concerned that if the pool is shut down at the end of the year on the pretext of renovation work, as the pool management has announced, it will be hard to ensure that it reopens or that it retains its nature - as an affordable neighborhood pool and the only Olympic-size one in the city. The pool management has not committed to a reopening date or denied reports that it is seeking to change the land use.
At a committee meeting this week, members stressed the importance of not being lulled into a false sense of security. "We need to carry on making it clear to the pool's management [Moshav Shoresh and the Ela Brothers] as well as to the municipality that we do not intend to give up the fight to protect the only 50-meter pool in the city and an important asset to the neighborhood," said one participant.
The public is being invited to a meeting on the subject on Sunday, November 22 at 8 p.m at the Ginot Ha'ir International Cultural and Community Center at 12 Rehov Emek Refaim. A colorful parade will leave the area outside the Jerusalem Pool at 7 p.m. and walk to the meeting together.
"We have heard a rumor that we have not yet been able to confirm, that the pool management has submitted a renovation plan for the Health Ministry's approval. If this is the case, we see it as a good sign," said the Action Committee in a statement, "but we will insist on the public's involvement in determining the nature of the renovations and the length of the pool closure required to accomplish them. The renovations do not change the nature of our fight to ensure the continued operation of the pool in the future, to which the owners are obligated, and to prevent construction on the site."
Don't worry, we're protected
Elisha Peleg, the city councillor in charge of security, is taking his role very seriously. Last week, at a meeting he initiated between officials of the city's Security and Emergency Departments and the representatives of the Mahaneh Yehuda Market, a decision was made to install 30 security cameras in the shuk's alleyways. According to Peleg, since the municipality is already planning next summer's cultural and tourism events in the area, the need for increased security has been raised by the merchants. The cameras will be linked to a monitoring center as a first step in a more comprehensive security apparatus for the shuk, which is becoming a very popular tourist venue.
Kept in the dark
Government housing company Amidar, which is in charge of the caravans in Givat Hamatos in southeast Jerusalem, has announced to the area's remaining residents there that they will be given two weeks to pay their outstanding bills to the electricity company before their electricity is cut off. The Givat Hamatos caravan plot was created in 1992 as an answer to the huge wave of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. It was intended as a temporary solution until more suitable housing was found. Most of the original residents have left, and today there are only about 30 caravans on the plot, all inhabited by elderly - and mostly needy - people. According to Amidar, until now the company has been paying the bills - which amounted to hundreds of thousands of shekels - but it has decided to stop covering them. Social activists have warned that there is no way these people can afford to pay these debts, especially since most of them don't even understand they are supposed to pay them, and they may end up without heating in the winter. So far, the municipal Welfare Department has been providing basic services, but it is unlikely to pay the electric bills.
How green is my city
This week and next will be devoted to the growing popularity of the community gardens in the city. Today, Jerusalem stands way ahead of any other city in the country, with 40 community gardens throughout the city - at least one in almost every neighborhood. After the first one was planted in 1999 in Baka, the initiative quickly caught on in other areas. Some 18 out of the 40 gardens will host visitors, who will have an opportunity to become familiar with the gardens through performances by local choirs, compost workshops and seminars on everything one needs to know about green and sustainable environment in a city that is getting closer to green issues.
The community gardens festival runs until the end of the month and is an initiative of the Society, Sports and Youth Department at the municipality, with the support and participation of the Jerusalem Association for Community Councils and Centers and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Info: 625-7682 or at community centers.
They're singing for the rain
Local residents, members of the Ginot Ha'ir community council and center (representing the German Colony, Rehavia and Talbiyeh) and Uri Krauzer, musician and leader of the Community Singing project, organized an evening of prayer for rain last week. The initiative follows a tradition that requires special prayers to be said if there is still no rain by the first part of the Hebrew month of Heshvan. The idea was to revive an ancient tradition for religious and secular residents alike, as the need for rain is important for all, Krauzer explains,
More than 100 people, mostly residents of the neighborhoods, shared a moving evening of prayer, as well as contemporary songs and poetry. The organizers said that if there was no rain in the coming weeks, an additional encounter would be considered.