This week in Jerusalem 384382

Peggy Cidor’s round-up of city affairs.

Hanukka (illustrative). (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hanukka (illustrative).
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Big brother
Kobi Kahlon, deputy mayor and president of the city council’s planning and building committee, is taking a three-month leave – without pay – to help his brother, former MK Moshe Kahlon, with his campaign for the next general elections. Kobi Kahlon said he had decided to take the leave in keeping with his brother’s principles – and his own – regarding the importance of transparency in public affairs.
The deputy mayor will still vote on important issues in the monthly city council meetings, and perhaps occasionally join the weekly meetings of the building committee, which is considered the most important committee at Safra Square. In his absence, deputy mayor Meir Turgeman will replace him.
Kahlon will manage his brother’s electoral campaign for the March 17 elections. He will, for that matter, be a registered member of his brother’s list. Sources at Safra Square say this may be an indication that he doesn’t plan to return to the position and will instead follow his brother, for whom polls forecast a high number of seats in the Knesset elections.
Roadwork reprieve
The paving of new streets or sidewalks in residential neighborhoods will no longer be done at the residents’ expense: As of this month, following a decision by Mayor Nir Barkat, the city will no longer require residents to pay the extra taxes for this purpose. The paving taxes – which are not part of the annual arnona (municipal tax) payments – could sometimes reach tens of thousands of shekels and were a serious burden on residents, especially in underprivileged neighborhoods.
Although the city has a legal right to impose the tax, it has drawn criticism in the past, mostly because paving projects are often unpredictable and outside the residents’ control.
At the last city council meeting, members voted to amend the local rules pertaining to the tax – which are based on an Interior Ministry law – and cancel it. Barkat specified that the move to do so had come after a serious and thorough examination of the city’s budget capacities and the law.
The city’s chief engineer will lead a team to figure out how to implement the cancellation for residents on Shimoni, Tchernichovsky and Harakevet streets, who have already received orders to pay the tax.
Hanukka in the Old City
There will be a plethora of hanukkiot, doughnuts and festivities in the Old City over Hanukka, especially in the Jewish Quarter and its surroundings. Thousands of colorful olive-oil lights will illuminate the quarter, and there will be activities for children of all ages as part of the festival. There will also be guided tours around the Jewish Quarter – free of charge for parents accompanying children – including a visit to its large hanukkia exhibit. Children will get the chance to dress up as Maccabees and visit the place where the Hanukka story happened – near the stairs that led to the Temple. The Jewish Quarter events will take place December 21 to 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost NIS 30 per child.
Homat Shmuel’s new boss
Some may not have known it, but until now, the Homat Shmuel (Har Homa) neighborhood’s planning and management has been under the administration of the Construction Ministry. As of this month, it is now fully under the control of the Jerusalem Municipality, which will, in its first act of ownership, invest NIS 50m. in developing the neighborhood.
Homat Shmuel (named after late deputy mayor Shmuel Meiri, who served under former mayor Ehud Olmert) was conceived, planned and built by the Prime Minister’s Office under Ariel Sharon, and sparked a lot of protest on the international stage at time for being on land beyond the Green Line. Meanwhile, the neighborhood has grown extensively and is now reaching its second stage of development. There will be a new park – costing NIS 22 million – as well a library and a community center. The developments will also include the renovation of existing playgrounds and the addition of new ones, the repaving of streets, and the installation of new street lighting.