Can J'lem mayor find his way to city council chamber?

Last week's meeting rescheduled after some 100 city residents, frustrated over transportation problems, descend on city hall.

lupolianski 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lupolianski 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Even in the annals of Jerusalem municipal history, the last city council meeting was a brief one. In fact, it ended even before it began. Now residents of the capital frustrated over the capital's growing transportation problems are hoping Mayor Uri Lupolianski can find his way to the city council chamber for the rescheduled meeting this evening. The bimonthly Thursday night meetings are more commonly known for their lengthiness, as city councilors from Lupolianski's predominantly haredi coalition routinely wrangle with opposition councilors and vice versa. But last week, there was no action at all. The meeting had all the workings of a heated debate: More than 100 city residents, many angered over public transportation changes resulting from the construction of the long-delayed light rail system, had come to city hall at the invitation of opposition leader Nir Barkat. The residents included some from the Beit Hakerem neighborhood distressed over the cancellation of bus lines Nos. 6 and 14 - lines nixed even though the rail system isn't ready. As they waited in the municipality building, Lupolianski sent word from his nearby office that the meeting was off, citing the lack of the requisite 16 city councilmen. Barkat, however, counted differently, saying there were 18 councilmen in the structure - including Lupolianski in his office. The opposition leader, who is expected to face off against Lupolianski in November's mayoral race, for the second time in five years, blasted the mayor for getting "cold feet." "Lupolianski preferred to hide in his office rather than directly deal with the problems of city residents," Barkat said in a press release. "Time after time we are witness to the fact that his voice is not heard and he is not directly involved when it comes to issues like education, housing, transportation and the economic development of the city," Barkat said. "This is not how to run a city that requires leadership and growth." Lupolianski spokesman Gidi Schmerling countered that it was Barkat's own fault, since not all of the councilors from his own party had come to the meeting - even though he had invited city residents to the event - resulting in its postponement until Thursday night. "The mayor had no legal authority to convene the meeting," Schmerling said. "If members of Barkat's own party had shown up, the meeting would have gone ahead." But members of the public who came to city hall and waited for the meeting expressed dissatisfaction with the mayor. "Even if there were not enough city councilors, it was the appropriate thing for the mayor to come out of his office and meet with residents, including elderly residents, who voted for him, and instead he spat in their faces," said Etty Avrahami, from Beit Hakerem. Avrahami said she had met with municipal officials this week in an effort to solve the problem of the public transportation changes in her neighborhood. "Now they have promised to do something," she said. "We'll see what happens."