In a far-reaching and ambitious presentation addressing job creation,
transportation, educational standards, affordable housing, culture and
government transparency, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday presented a
comprehensive five-year plan to improve the capital city.
As the October
22 mayoral election edges closer, Barkat and challenger Moshe Lion are actively
campaigning to garner votes to win what many believe will be a hotly contested
During the presentation, held at the capital’s downtown Musrara
Youth Center, Barkat claimed that residents “can feel changes in every part of
“When I presented my work plan in 2008, a lot of people said
there was no hope – our children are leaving the city – and I said we can make a
change for the better,” he explained. “From my experience in the army and in
business, I knew I could make a difference.”
Barkat described his
five-year plan as a “continuation” of his 2008 agenda, which he said had
actively addressed and improved the aforementioned issues.
He said his
first priority would be to create 100,000 jobs – including a new business
district – to curtail the exodus of young residents who cannot find sustainable
“Employment is the number one reason why young people
are leaving the city – so increasing employment means more people will stay and
escape the cycle of poverty,” he said.
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“First, I want to create 100,000
new jobs in Jerusalem to strengthen employment,” he said. “Additionally, we’re
planning a new business district near the entrance of the city that will create
40,000 new jobs.”
The mayor went on to address challenges facing
Jerusalem’s school system, saying that investing in education was an investment
in the future.
“Today we have 44,000 students [in the capital] – in 2020
we want to have 60,000,” he said, adding that he wanted to build an additional
500 classrooms over the next five years and increase the number of school days
not only to augment instruction but to give parents more free time to
As for transportation, the mayor said he planned to construct more
light rail lines to reduce traffic, and even an aerial tram connecting numerous
“We are going to connect many important different
locations in Jerusalem so we won’t need [as much] private transportation, and
the city will become more accessible,” he said.
Barkat added that he
would also continue to invest heavily in community centers.
certain neighborhoods in our focus, which the city, together with
philanthropists, will work to strengthen,” he said. “These neighborhoods will be
made more attractive to young adults.”
In terms of housing, Barkat said
he intended to continue to build affordable apartments to help spur growth. On
August 11 he stated his support for a government plan to construct 793 new homes
in east Jerusalem, including 400 in Gilo, 210 in Har Homa and 183 in Pisgat
“New construction in Jerusalem is essential to the development and
strengthening of the city, and for allowing young people to live here and be
able to afford to buy apartments,” Barkat said at the time. “I am glad
that we and the government of Israel see eye-to-eye on this important
With respect to culture, Barkat noted the importance of
inclusiveness among the Arab population and of investing in cultural and
sporting institutions to stimulate economic growth.
“Today the Arab
sector of the city also wants to be part of the culture and I want to continue
to build infrastructures for culture in the city,” he said. “Culture is not an
expense; it’s an investment.”
He also cited the Maccabiah Games, for
which many events were held in the city.
“Anyone who understands
economics knows the importance of investing in projects like the Maccabiah
Games,” he said, “because when the 150,000 spectators returned home, many of
them said, ‘Next year I’m returning to Jerusalem.’” He added that the city’s new
sports complex was transforming Jerusalem into the “chosen place” for such
In overall regard to his plans, Barkat said he had created an
unrivaled degree of “transparency.”
“A two-way conversation is an
important part of the management of the city,” he said.
municipal committees are open to the public and journalists, offering maximum
transparency. Everyone knows what is being done with our resources and there has
been a huge change in creating trust.”
Barkat concluded Tuesday’s
presentation by noting that each variable of his agenda was inter-connected,
representing “the power of the plan.”
“We can achieve the goals of this
work plan, and I intend on turning them into reality in the next five years,” he
In response, an official with Lion’s campaign, who requested
anonymity, accused Barkat of a whitewash.
“As he has done during the past
five years, Nir Barkat is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Jerusalem
residents,” the official said Tuesday evening, stating that more residents had
abandoned the city and more businesses had closed during Barkat’s term than
during that of his predecessor, Uri Lupolianski.
“Barkat’s tenure, marked
solely by elaborately expensive public relations events wasting tens of millions
of shekels, is akin to an elaborately dressed shop window with an abandoned shop
inside,” he said.
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