Barkat's agenda

The J'lem mayor is our ambassador to the world. Let Kollek be his model.

Barkat speaks to supporters 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Barkat speaks to supporters 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Fiorello LaGuardia, the legendary New York City mayor between the Great Depression and World War II, seldom disappointed reporters for a quote. "It makes no difference if I burn my bridges behind me - I never retreat," he declared. In truth, the big-hearted LaGuardia figuratively built more bridges than he burned. Which is probably a good example for incoming Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Not only should Barkat avoid burning his political bridges, he shouldn't tear down the concrete one that's already up. At a post-election news conference, Barkat hinted he'd consider dismantling Santiago Calatrava's "Bridge of Strings," designed to allow the light railway to glide over traffic at the entrance of town. Whatever the result of his promised reexamination of the entire over-budget, overdue and under-planned train, he should certainly resist the temptation to demolish the bridge. Why not, instead, hold an all-Jerusalem contest to come up with ideas on how best to put the bridge to use? Let's find a way to give purpose to "the bridge to nowhere." BARKAT'S stunning 52-43 percent victory over Meir Porush is being acclaimed by everyone who sees Jerusalem as the epicenter of Jewish civilization and the focal point of Zionist aspirations, as well as a "normal" city where real people - Jews, Muslims and Christians of all stripes - live and work. He comes to power just as the global economic crisis is being felt in Jerusalem - already the poorest city in Israel. So it is essential that he focus on the issues that matter most: jobs, housing and transportation. Barkat should declare a tax moratorium on arnona payments for enterprises willing to open their doors in Jerusalem and provide employment for eight or more workers. He needs to discourage luxury development aimed at non-residents while promoting affordable housing for the middle class. Barkat should revive plans to build a new sports and convention arena near Teddy Stadium. Most urgently, the new mayor needs to rapidly untangle the downtown traffic mess which is killing business. CERTAINLY for his first 100 days - though we'd like it to be longer than that - Barkat should avoid the meta-issues candidates for Jerusalem mayor relish debating and which, in fact, fall far out of their purview. While mayoral powers are limited, Barkat should use the prominence that comes with the job to be Jerusalem's voice. He needs to press the national government for more money to subsidize housing, jobs, education and transportation. He'll need to forcefully advocate for the fast train between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Linking the capital to Ben-Gurion Airport and the coastal metropolis would give this newspaper's hometown economy a tremendous boost. He will be Jerusalem's face to the Diaspora. So much of what is aesthetically and culturally appealing here is made possible by the philanthropy of people who live overseas. Support from abroad also bolsters Jerusalem's hospitals, yeshivot, non-Orthodox religious institutions and the Hebrew University. Barkat now becomes our ambassador to the world. Let Teddy Kollek be his model. THE NEW mayor must be a healer. He's made a good start by trying to form an all-inclusive city council bringing together parties ranging from the haredi to the devoutly secular. Let him also find an informal way, outside the limelight, of routinely consulting with Arab leaders. This city is comprised of a complex mosaic of communities. All communal leaders owe it to their constituencies to help Barkat do his job. Barkat, for his part, must bring greater transparency to city government. He should encourage HOT and YES to offer live broadcasts of city council sessions and most committee meetings (a la America's C-SPAN). With hard times ahead, the new mayor needs to challenge citizens to pitch in. Let City Hall create a volunteer corps so that seniors and young people can give of their time to make this a safer, cleaner, healthier and more welcoming town. He might turn to outgoing mayor Uri Lupolianski to head such an endeavor which, perhaps, could involve elements of the haredi population. To paraphrase LaGuardia, there's no right-wing or left-wing, religious or secular, Jewish or Arab or Christian way of picking up the garbage or reducing the wait for a bus. Mr. Barkat, get the job done - and do it fairly, efficiently and inclusively.