Oh, for the bad old days!

Oh, for the bad old days

'Corridors of Power" was born out of the drama of city council meetings during the former mayor's term, out of a desire to share with readers the sometimes unbelievable heights of absurdity and marketplace atmosphere. The total lack of discipline and the unmanageable behavior of the city council members - coalition and opposition alike - was often closer to chaos than a gathering of elected officials. Who would have imagined that within a year since the new council was elected, "Corridors" would become nostalgic for those wild and wooly days? Believe it or not, this is a feeling shared by a number of city council members, especially those who had been on the previous council. Why would anyone feel nostalgic about the kind of anarchy that prevailed for years at city council meetings? What, at the sight of a city council member walking in the large hall, talking simultaneously on two cellphones while paying no attention to what the mayor or the leader of the opposition were trying to say, could inspire any longings? Not to mention the rudeness, sometimes even brutality, of many of the dialogues exchanged between representatives of the various parties. Well, that is, of course, not exactly the situation "Corridors" has in mind while trying to explain what is missing nowadays at Kikar Safra's monthly meetings. Though it has also something to do with it - namely that if we want to keep some vivid expression and perhaps even some spontaneity in the encounter between the powers that be and the representatives of the people (in this case, the residents of the city), some healthy interaction is a necessary spice to our public life. The typical Israeli balagan - the kind of arena in which everyone says something at the same time, to say the least - is not necessarily a negative thing. Besides the cursing or personal insults, city council members who brought their convictions and beliefs to these meetings did, after all, try to faithfully represent their constituencies. So what happened to our local city council members? Have they lost all the passion expressed on the former council? Well, yes and no. It depends, of course, on whom you ask. For the few city council members who are officially still part of the coalition but in their hearts are already way to the opposition position, the answer is simple. "We are not encouraged to speak freely and openly," says Meir Margalit (Meretz), who hasn't, so far, stopped himself from making a few insidious and even subversive statements. "This mayor and his administration obviously prefer the cold and somewhat alienated atmosphere that prevails in the hi-tech world instead of the good old traditions of a parliamentary democracy," adds Shmuel Yitzhaki (Shas). At least two other members have simply disappeared from the meetings - a rather radical solution that as yet has not made any impression on the sixth floor tenants of Kikar Safra. "Corridors" wishes to remind readers that upon entering office, this mayor opened all the committee debates and meetings to the public. Almost a year has passed since this revolutionary decision was applied, and beside the planning and preservation committees meetings, the number of residents who attend the other committees is negligible. "What can we do?" an official at the municipality tried to explain. "You can't compare the appeal of a committee closed to the public to one that invites you to hear all the boring discussions. Like with everything else, there is no sex appeal in triviality." Which leaves us with a very functional city hall: Debates are restricted to the meetings of the board of the city council (a meeting that serves to prepare city council meetings) and limits the monthly meetings. And monthly council meetings are reduced to short and well-organized votes, without the stormy, tumultuous open market atmosphere of past glorious days.