Corridors of power: Back in business

City council recovers after long summer (and fall) break.

safra square 88 (photo credit: )
safra square 88
(photo credit: )
For the past few weeks, official declarations from Kikar Safra have had more of a national character than a local one. Behind the ethereal proclamations on our eternal and undivided city, both by our mayor and our head of opposition, earthly Jerusalem is still here, and so is the municipality with all its shenanigans. Like for example, the discovery (it's about time) that the Calatrava Bridge turned out to be far more expensive than planned. And that's not all. Since work on the bridge turned out to be, to put it mildly, more efficient than that on the light rail, it will be ready on time. The problem is that the municipality is committed to paying for the maintenance of the bridge for eight years. But if the light rail is not ready, for at least two years our property taxes will go toward maintaining an unused bridge - and that's a lot of money. But there's more. Let's start with some good tidings for the Anglos who still haven't mastered Hebrew. Our dear mayor is learning English. Sure, it will cost us a few thousand shekels, but let's not be petty and hope it won't take too long. And some more good news. Mayor Uri Lupolianski now has a foreign affairs consultant, also paid for by our taxes (NIS 300,000 a year, if you really need to know). And in case you are wondering what happened to the saga between the Open House and Lupolianski, they are still tied up in court. Ever since city attorney Yossi Havilio refused to represent the mayor, arguing that refusing to finance the Open House's activities (the gay pride parade) was illegal, the mayor has relied on the legal services of a private attorney. The bill is now up to NIS 200,000, with no end in sight. But the mayor is not the only one spending our tax money. Last Thursday, at the first "real" city council meeting after the summer vacation and High Holy Days, the haredi coalition members refused to approve the new criteria for municipal funding. According to the proposal, any kindergarten that isn't official (meaning private institutions, many of which are haredi) still has to uphold certain guidelines, including permits for occupying buildings and a nondiscriminatory admission policy. The new criteria were proposed in light of too many Talmudei Torah (haredi elementary schools) having been housed in illegal buildings, or without a permit, and the pervasive discrimination by haredi institutions against children of Sephardi background. The proposal maintained that municipal funding be contingent upon fulfilling these demands. The only council members who opposed this embarrassing decision were from Meretz. "It's a matter of dignity," said city councilor Sa'ar Netanel. But let's end on a sweet note, with the story of the municipal succa-riya. Every year Kikar Safra gets more extravagant: One year they constructed the biggest succa in the world, another year the brightest. This year we were treated to a succa made of candy. The idea began sweetly, but soon turned sour, as attendance projections were grossly underestimated, leaving too few sweets for too many kids.Well, at least the intentions were good.