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An uneventful budget vote and a surprising rumor.

Headlining the year's final city council meeting was the 2008 budget, which was easily approved by the majority coalition. With such a solid coalition (the coalition holds 20 of the 31 seats), there is almost no place for surprising votes. As a result, city council meetings have become a forum for opposition members to deliver flamboyant speeches rather than a place where sensitive decisions are won in battle. This most recent meeting was no exception. Members of the opposition, knowing that their reservations regarding the budget wouldn't be taken into consideration, decided instead to express their disappointment. But even that modest contribution from the secular representatives seemed too much for deputy mayor and Finance Committee head Rabbi Eli Simhayof. Even though both Pepe Alalu and Sa'ar Netanel of Meretz mentioned the improvement in the budget deficit and the NIS 5 million added to the culture budget, Simhayof hardly let them get a word in. The same thing happened with city councillor Avi Kostelitz. But that was nothing compared to what happened later. After discussing the budget's approval, the second part of the council meeting was devoted to the traditional questions and proposals for the day's agenda, both privileges reserved for the opposition. Opposition leader Nir Barkat presented a proposal to help young locals and students afford to buy or rent dwellings in the capital. But it turned out that Barkat had used the signatures of two other members of the opposition - Kostelitz and Ruth Ralbag - to advance this proposal rather than to order a special session of the city council, as they had been told. When Barkat couldn't get all the signatures he needed for the proposal, Barkat dropped the idea of a special meeting and instead used Ralbag's and Kostelitz's signatures to push the proposal - all this without letting them know in advance about the changes in the plan. Considering that these two were once members of Barkat's list but split about a year ago and are not the closest of friends, they both reacted harshly to Barkat's misuse. Barkat assured them that he had meant no harm and that the whole issue was just a formality, but he failed to convince his two former colleagues that his intentions were indeed pure. The result, by the way, was that Mayor Uri Lupolianski, with a healthy dose of cynicism, decided to reject the proposal, arguing that it was not properly done and commenting on Barkat's problematic behavior. And there was another result: Barkat's detailed proposal, as with other good proposals that couldn't survive the rules of the game, was sent to the archives. Once again, an opposition coalition too hung up on internal differences enabled promising legislation to fall by the wayside while the mayor and his deputy could barely contain their triumph - not that they tried. The same Simhayof has, surprisingly, started to use public relation services. This comes as a surprise since as a member of Shas, all he has to do assure his career is stick as close as possible to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef at prayer services. Unless there is some truth to the hottest rumor circling Kikar Safra's corridors: that Simhayof might join his once "patron" Aryeh Deri, who is rumored to be considering running for mayor along with Mickey Levy, against Barkat, Arkadi Gaydamak and even the haredi candidate, whoever he might be.