The day after: Jerusalem's new mayor draws up a plan of action

Moshe Lion has less than a week to get ready for the next five years of his life.

Moshe Lion voting with his wife today November 13, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Moshe Lion voting with his wife today November 13, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The most probable thing that both of the final candidates for mayor did once the results were known was to get some sleep.
Upon waking, the new mayor has less than a week to get ready for the next five years of his life.
The first stop will be on November 19, when the newly elected mayor steps into the mayor’s office on the sixth story of Building 1 at Safra Square. Among his top priorities are to select his closest staff and to decide how best to utilize the almost 10,000 employees and budget of NIS 9 billion (NIS 6b. for the current annual budget and NIS 3b. more for special large projects).
The new mayor takes hold of the reins of a city that has undergone a long, tense and exhausting election period. The residents’ expectations are high, the issues at stake are tremendous and there are formidable obstacles to overcome.
Luckily, there are a number of activists and professionals that the mayor can turn to help draw up a plan of action.
DR. ELAN EZRAHI, chair of Ginot Ha’ir Community Council and author of Awakened Dream: Fifty Years of Complex Unification of Jerusalem, says that the first thing that needs to be clarified is something that was sorely lacking throughout the campaign.
“There was no vision. None of the candidates spoke about a vision for Jerusalem. We heard plans, ideas, projects – but no vision whatsoever.
I believe that this is one of the key things that this city and its residents need. Whenever candidates tried to outline something on this point, it was immediately reduced to a discourse about who was more likely to destroy the city; this is not really a vision.”
He adds, “The new mayor will have to heal the rifts that occurred throughout the campaign, especially in the past two weeks. Candidates were maneuvered into narrow positions regarding which part of the electorate they represent.” Ezrahi says that a large coalition demonstrating that he is the mayor of all parties with a clear willingness to work with all sides is one of the most urgent steps to take.
“The new mayor must reassure all sides who lost the election that they are not being pushed out.”
Another issue, according Ezrahi, is the centralization that took place during Nir Barkat’s two terms of office. Control needs to be given back to the professionals in the different administrations of the municipality.
The urgent needs of the eastern neighborhoods need particular attention now that budgets have been obtained (a first step is the NIS 2b. specifically for the infrastructure that has already been approved). Plans should be drawn up and projects initiated.
HAGAI AGMON-SNIR, director of the Jerusalem Intercultural Center on Mount Zion, emphasizes the need to include civil activists, valuing them “not as annoying individuals but rather as partners for the sake of the city.” He says that new approaches to some of the major issues in the city are required.
“The status quo has become a way to freeze everything and prevent any initiative. We, at the Center, have been working on a new pact that will provide the tools necessary to promote more understanding, more options and opportunities to meet the needs of all the sectors. That is what this city needs now.”
Like Ezrahi, Agmon-Snir stresses the issue of cleanliness in the city.
“This issue cannot be ignored any longer and needs the immediate attention of the new mayor.” Agmon- Snir calls for “a bold decision to give the residents of this city real, professional and efficient municipal services, and a major effort must be made to implant the understanding in all municipality employees that this is their mission.”
Another priority should be improving the traffic in the city.
“There is a feeling among the residents that mass transportation plans have somehow faded away. There is an urgent need to improve the public transportation, for example to speed up the light rail projects. That is one of the most highest-priority issues that the new mayor has to deal with.”