Mayor Moshe Lion is delivering the goods he promised during his campaign: housing projects; working spaces; more funding for culture; some lowering of the high cost of parking in the city center (one hour of free parking was recently approved by the city council); special grants to help small and medium businesses to improve their storefronts and signage; and more.
Lion repeated during his campaign that he was the right man, the only candidate with the required ties and skills to bring the necessary money from the government.
Many of his promises are being implemented already, less than four months into his term. Jerusalem obtained, for the first time in many years, a significant increase in its budget through a special grant from Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Moreover, a strategic agreement was signed this week between the government and the municipality for an investment of several billion shekels for the implementation of a large housing construction project. Lion saved three hostels for youth at risk that the Welfare Ministry had planned to shut down for economic reasons.
He has even managed to defuse the tension between haredi and other residents regarding the fate of the First Station – nobody talks anymore about closing it on Shabbat.
For all of his successes, there are also a few simmering issues that he has so far cautiously kept his distance from.
1) While it is not necessarily the role of the mayor of Jerusalem to take the lead in ending the discord between the government and the liberal Jewish communities in North America over the Kotel issue, he might be expected to raise his voice against the violence that took place there last week when haredim clashed with the Women of the Wall group. Lion issued no comment.
2) The cable rail from Talpiot to the Old City and the route of the Emek Refaim segment of the Blue Line are controversial matters of significant ongoing concern among residents, yet Lion has not yet taken an official position on either. Residents have the right to hear what their mayor thinks about these projects.
3) Haredi kindergartens continue to open in pluralist/secular neighborhoods. Since Lion has obtained a green light to build some 8,500 housing units inside haredi neighborhoods within four years, he could have taken steps to lower the apprehension and tension among secular residents. He didn’t, and what is commonly known as “Barkat Plan” continues transforming the character of some of the last secular neighborhoods.
4) Deputy Mayor Eliezer Rauchberger (Degel HaTorah) recently canceled his participation in a panel when he discovered that the venue was identified with the Conservative movement. Mayor Lion didn’t phone him to express any protest, nor did he call a representative of the Conservative movement to express sympathy.
Not everything that comes to one’s mind is a mandatory and immediate action item, but since Lion is described by most city council members as a person with gentle manners who means well, it seems that – based on these examples – there is more that he can do.