Corridors of Power

The mayor, snow, PR, and an ice-skating rink. What's really going on in Safra Square.

lupoliansky 88.298 (photo credit: )
lupoliansky 88.298
(photo credit: )
Sparkle and genius are not enough to solve real problems, but sometimes they give you a blessed respite. Last week, after a long litany of troubles, our smiling mayor experienced a welcome relief - at least for a few days. The problems began some several weeks ago, as the list of names of high-ranking employees who have resigned from the municipality continued to grow: Half of the high-ranking employees of the education department, the municipal engineer, the head of the supervision and licensing department have resigned. Stubborn rumors persist that Eytan Meir, general manager, is on his way out to take a prestigious job in the government. Then came the "coup d'etat," as Meretz and two influential members of Lupolianski's own coalition engaged in an exercise of rare cooperation to make their point: Representatives of Agudat Yisrael had asked the mayor to name a street after Rabbi Shapira, one of the founders of the haredi movement back in the 20th century in Germany. But Lupolianski is a member of the Degel Hatora party, so he ignored their request. In a rare but brilliant move, the Agudat Yisrael members of the coalition - Rabbis Pollack and Rosenstein - joined forces with Meretz city councillors, forcing him to agree. During this momentous battle, Lupolianski's patron, Rabbi Eliashiv, was admitted to the hospital for the second time in less than a month. For those who don't follow haredi politics, it is important to note that Lupolianski was not born into a religiously observant family. Therefore, his status in the haredi world is almost totally dependent on Rabbi Eliashiv. Pollack and Rosenstein were thus doing much more than merely getting a street named for an illustrious rabbi. They were reminding Lupolianski who the real bosses are. It got worse. Even the young upstart - which is how some haredi members of the city council refer to councilman Nir Barkat - managed to secure a position as head of the Kadima campaign in Jerusalem, a position which guarantees him strong support from the "big boss" (likely future Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) in the future. Then a truly serious blow: the general manager of the Tourism Ministry announced that he is unilaterally freezing all budgets to the municipality - totaling more than NIS 80 million - until the city cleans up the streets and religious sites. Sources at Safra Square say that Lupolianski had, for the first time, lost his famous affable smile. Then came what was nearly the coup de grace. Danny Roop, weatherman on Channel 2, an expat Jerusalemite, apparently couldn't help himself. And so, as he has for the past two years, Roop promised that the capital would be blanketed in white snow. Smiles returned to the Corridors of Power. Snow is a great opportunity for Lupolianski to show himself, smiling and frolicking in the snow with the children of our fair city. Snow is a great way to cover things over and help the denizens of our city forget trivial issues like municipal scandals, missed financing and dirt. The public relations experts acted swiftly to show how prepared the municipality was for the wonderful white. But the snow was really nasty this time and refused to fall. The preparations cost the city NIS 103,000 - part of the annual budget, according to the municipal spokesman. Even the weather seemed to be against Lupolianski. But have no fear, dear readers, all was not lost. No snow doesn't mean no ice, the municipal PR department thought. "Let's announce that to comfort the children disappointed by the nasty snow, the kindly mayor will provide them with an ice rink," the advisers suggested. Great idea. Brilliant and sparkling - even if a bit inaccurate. The rink project was approved several months ago, the NIS 100,000 was budgeted long ago, work commenced two months ago and it was always slated to open around Purim. According to sources at Ariel, the municipal company responsible for the ice rink, the budgeted money has not yet shown up in their accounts. But who cares about such details? And why spoil the fun or the brilliant PR idea? After all, if it weren't for such ideas, why should we, the arnona payers, provide the millions of shekels the municipal spokesman and PR departments costs us each year?