Monday, October 21, 2013

Local elections

Local elections are taking place in Israel on Oct 22. There are posters up all over the place and many parties are vying for seats on local councils. As in most cities there are a few candidates for Mayor, in Netanya only three. But, our mayor for the past 15 years is Mayor Miriam Fierberg-Ikar, who is a shoo-in. This is because she has done a lot for the city, even though her opponents accuse her of over-spending.

Last week we had an election meeting at AACI Netanya in English, organized by former City Councileman Simon Monk, at which representatives of 8 parties spoke, althugh many more are running. If I were to say that I could remember what each of them said I would be lying. Not only that, to distinguish between some of them is almost impossible. Two things stand out, the Mayor's own party "Netanya One" (Netanya Ehad) argued that we should vote for them so that the Mayor has her supporters on the City Council and therefore she can carry out her policies without opposition. This seems a little dangerous to me, since she has been in power for years and certainly controls everything that goes on in Netanya, too much power can lead to corruption.

The other thing is that her opponents, including Herzl Keren, say that she is spending/wasting the taxpayers money when things could be done much more cheaply. They point out a few examples, Netanya has a new state-of-the-art stadium that was built for 24,000 people. The cost skyrocketed from NIS 100 million to 360 million. But, this is what usually happens with large building projects that take years (in this case 8 years) to complete. They also attacked the cost of renovating and updating the center of town, namely the pedestrian mall (midrochov) and the main square (kikar). However, I think most people agree that Netanya's city center was sorely in need of an upgrade and if you want to be a tourist city you must do things to attract visitors.

On Oct 17 the Mayor herself came to speak to a group of English speakers at a private apartment. This is because as a mayoral candidate she understandably refused to participate in the election forum which featured only Council candidates. I must say that the Mayor was very effective, she warmed up the audience like a pro, with jokes told in English. She also spoke about many different aspects of Netanya, including the improvements she has made to the environment (getting the Govt to subsidize the removal of the old city dump), renovating the city center (the Kikar), renovating the area of the winter pond, developing sports facilities, cleaning up Netanya, from the mafia and from trash dumping.

Someone in the audience told an anecdote, when Miriam came to visit her for personal reasons, she saw that next to her apt. building there was a dumpsite. She went in there and opened the trash bags and took out envelopes with addresses on and went herself to the doors and told the occupants that if she found their trash dumped again the city would sue them. She also got the owner of the land fined and he had to put up a fence to prevent further dumping. Now that's the kind of Mayor I like. She said she eats, drinks, sleeps and breathes Netanya and I can believe it. Netanya has developed incredibly since she has been in charge and I'm sure she will continue with her good works.

In other cities in Israel there are less certain outcomes. Mayor Ron Huldai is running again in Tel Aviv and Nir Barkat in Jerusalem, and they are both likely to be re-elected. In Beit Shemesh there is a more contentious election between a secular and a Haredi candidate. There has been a lot of animosity and conflict between the two communities there and the outcome of this election is being looked at as an indication of how things will develop in the future.


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