Dec 30, 2012
Lack of Cleanliness in Bet Shemesh Cracking Mayor Abutbol's Strong Coalition
I saw an article referenced in one of the local Bet Shemesh papers over the weekend, and went looking for it to see the source. It turns out the reference was true to the original, and it has a couple of interesting points worth pointing out.
Mayor of Bet Shemesh Moshe Abutbol is fairly well-liked by large sections of Bet Shemesh, especially as a person if not as a politician. Abubtol is a congenial fellow and people like him in turn.
I don't know if this is the beginning of a crack in Abutbol's political standing, if he will repair the damage by making changes to his leadership style, or if the issue will be brushed away for the sake of control and power.
According to the report, Abutbol has been coming under increasing criticism from his coalition members, along with from city residents, about his frequent travels abroad. They point out that in the pas two months, Abutbol has traveled to three different countries and has hardly been in Bet Shemesh. The critics add that Abutbol did not even return from a trip abroad during the military operation Pillar of Defense.
The main problem they have with Abutbol's frequent travels is that the city is falling into disrepair. There is no investment in improving the appearance of the city, in its cleanliness and maintenance. An anonymous haredi city councilman is quoted as saying that many of the city councilmen think that the mayor is a wonderful person, but you cannot run a city simply by being a nice guy and well-liked. He says that the only reason the city is functioning at all is because the people around the mayor are people of action.
Abutbol defended himself by pointing to the awards he has won in the past couple of years, and will be winning this year as well according to a recent announcement, for proper management. He points to this as his accomplishment despite the fact that 30% of the prize money each of those years was withheld due to poor management (specifically lack of enforcement). I am not sure how this works - the Ministry of Interior awards him prizes every year for good management and then withholds part of the prize due to poor management - but that is what has happened. Abutbol claims that the complaints are insignificant and are purely political, made by secular opponents frustrated that they have been unable to find a suitable candidate to run against him in the upcoming elections.
The second point in the article worth mentioning is that Abutbol says he is considering raising the arnona payments. He is aware that the city is not keeping up with the level of cleanliness it requires, but says the city cannot afford to hire the number of workers that is required to add to the workforce to keep the city clean. His only option is to either raise arnona or look for alternative funding.
I am no financial wizard and I am not familiar with the city budget, but one thing I do see them spending a lot of money on is activities during the holidays. The city subsidies trips around the country to graves, to water and amusement parks, plays, performances and films (in the city) among other things. This too (some of it at least) is important under the banner of culture. However, if the city cannot afford to clean the streets, in my opinion that is more important than subsidizing the entrance fee to plays and amusement parks.
The culture budget, or whatever they call it, should perhaps be lessened and the money should be transferred to the city department for improving the city appearance. Culture should be promoted, but at less priority than cleanliness. And, there should perhaps be a debate as to what types of cultural events should be worthy of municipal support. The recent initiative to promote the arts - artist, painters, musicians, etc. - sounds like a worthy cultural investment to me, for example, but subsidizing entrance fees so kids can watch films or get buses to amusement parks at cheaper rates does not seem like it deserves the same priority. City cleanliness and maintenance should have much higher priority than events like those.
It has gotten so bad that someone has even started a website to publicize, in the hopes hat such publicity will increase the pressure on the city leadership, the problems in cleanliness and lack of maintenance around the city, specifically in the newer neighborhood of RBS that already pays a higher rate of arnona.
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