Opposites detract

It is more than obvious that it gives the mayor satisfaction that his opponents are working so hard to keep him in power.

In one of her most famous songs, poet and composer Naomi Shemer wrote, "Never a dull moment: either a scandal or a festival." Though there is no evidence Shemer was referring to Kikar Safra, here are a few anecdotes from City Hall that show that the popular singer knew something about the atmosphere in the country and its institutions. This column has already pointed out in the past that one of the peculiarities of this city council is that the rules of the game are not always implemented. For example, battles are not always opposition versus coalition, but too often opposition council members against other opposition members. And while it is not clear how much this attitude helps the residents these opposition members represent, it is more than obvious that it gives the mayor satisfaction that his opponents are working so hard to keep him in power. Take, for example, this past week: In a strongly worded letter that was immediately dispatched to the local and national media, two out of the three Meretz city councillors - Pepe Allalu and Sa'ar Netanel - demanded that Nir Barkat stop presenting himself as the head of the opposition. It's true that since Barkat's list split in two over a year ago, he no longer heads the largest party and thus does not automatically deserve the title. But on the other hand, one can, in good conscience, ask what happened to bring Allalu and Netanel - who barely speak to each other - together now to sign such an urgent plea. Both were eager to explain: Barkat's latest political declarations regarding the status of Jerusalem prompted the two to call a truce for a common cause. Well, considering that in both the Shinui list and the Ohavei Yerushalayim list (split from Barkat's Jerusalem Will Succeed) there are at least four members who share Barkat's views on keeping Jerusalem united, and considering that there is doubt in Meretz whether the party has a chance to obtain even one seat in the next elections, one can be forgiven for wondering what Allalu's and Netanel's motives really are. "I guess this is a sample of what is awaiting us in the next elections," a close assistant to the mayor said in response. "Who said there are no miracles anymore? Once again, we will see how the secular of Jerusalem will split into many lists and assure our victory." But still, all is not lost: This week, Barkat appealed to the court to force the mayor to release what he calls "the secret plans of Lupolianski," after failing to obtain the detailed and budgeted plans for some of the major activities of City Hall - such as the "Marshall plan" for upgrading east Jerusalem or the details of the 2008 budget before it was approved by the coalition. Our dear old city attorney, Yossi Havilio, acceded to Barkat's request, but he still said he had no answer by press time. The municipality claims, however, that Barkat already has access to this information. "It seems that Mr. Barkat does not check the mail that comes to his office, perhaps because he is carrying out pre-election political activity from his office in City Hall instead of attending to his mail," the municipal spokesman responds. "As per his request, Mr. Barkat received the plans and answers regarding the light rail two months ago. "As for the Marshall Plan, Mr. Barkat is welcome to approach the city engineer and get the plans. It is a shame that Mr. Barkat prefers to go to court and to the press before he approaches the relevant officials, from whom he would receive the material immediately but without media coverage." AND LEST we are concerned that the opposition at Kikar Safra is too busy to do its real job - like monitoring what's done with our tax shekels - Mayor Uri Lupolianski has found an interesting way to spend tens of thousands of shekels: the brand new carriages for the light rail, sent by the French manufacturer, have been stored secretly since last November in a warehouse near Beersheba for the sum of NIS 10,000 a month, though the hangar prepared for them near French Hill is free. Officially they are to be revealed to the public on Jerusalem Day - which, by the way, doesn't sound bad at all. It's just that - how should we put it? - Jerusalem Day is so close to the elections! God forbid we should suspect anybody at Kikar Safra of making a political profit - but still, one should be careful not to provide grist for the gossip mill.