Within the framework of our Deliberative Democracy program, supported by the UJA-Federation of New York, since September we have been facilitating a problem-solving process, together with the merchants, municipal officials and community professionals in the neighborhood of Har Homa. Har Homa is a relatively new neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, and as its name suggests, it, and its commercial center, is built on rather hilly terrain. In an opening meeting we held in September, merchants complained of a number of different issues, such as: lack of parking which causes people to park illegally and block passageways; empty tree beds which have become a safety hazard; lack of shade; problems of litter, when much is blown around by the wind; treatment by municipal inspectors; and a feeling of disconnect between the various municipal bodies in contact with the merchants.
Our first line of business was to define steps toward possible solutions. On the short term, the merchants formed a merchants association and promised to keep the area clean, and the municipality promised to give tickets only for severe infringements. We then arranged for a number of meetings to come to the best long-term solutions – meetings about traffic patterns, with the municipal department of business development, sanitation and municipal enforcement, with city and neighborhood planners to revise planning of the area, and a meeting with the community center, about possible events that could be held in the commercial center to support the local merchants.
As a result of the meetings, the municipality planted trees in the tree beds, the merchants association hired a cleaner to keep the entire area clean. The merchants are in direct contact with the municipality’s regional supervisor, who is assisting them in their contacts with the municipality. A transportation engineer is re-evaluating the parking, traffic flow and public transportation in the area, in hopes that budgets will be allocated to the project soon. Everyone is more satisfied than before about the situation, and capacity has been built such that direct communication takes place between the merchants and the various bodies, without need for our intervention.