The author is an expert in general strategy, organization and public opinion
“I invested all my time in the public office. Out of 10 years of activity, I only received a salary for 2 years. Just reviewing the agenda of my city’s local building commission is a 3/4 job, not to mention other meetings, residents’ meetings and my sincere desire to make the city that I I live in it’ better, the price was great. I played with all my savings.”
This quote pertains to the respected and recognized members of the Council in Israel. During his years of public activity, he has led massive social, economic, educational, real estate and environmental changes in his hometown. Changes enjoyed by local authority, residents, businesses, corporations, councils – everyone has benefited tremendously. And what did our elected audience get in return? A pat on the back, political knives, a good feel – sometimes.
The huge gap between the importance of the publicly elected office of the local authority and the mechanism and means available to it to carry out its function is a sad joke.
What council members do in Israel is a large and important intensive public work that includes: representation on committees, professional meetings, many discussions, promotion of projects and many meetings with residents. What they don’t have is a basic financial reward and an internal mechanism for doing their work, they do their job – on a full-time basis.
The gap is huge
The gap between its great public importance and the demand to play such an important role in volunteerism produces an open, tempting, and dangerous openness to local corruption.
Admittedly, council members in the coalition, who hold the positions of deputy mayors, are rewarded for their role, yet the vast majority of elected officials in local government are forced to voluntarily devote their time to the position. Whoever seeks to perform his role faithfully will find that the work is to a large extent, whether he is a member of a coalition or an opposition.
Local government officials soon discover the enormous difficulty of combining family livelihoods with public representation, and thus may or may not choose one of three methods: public representation as desired and expected at the expense of family livelihoods, reduced participation and reduced public image thereafter. Election or, God forbid, promoting economic interests as part of their role that may compensate them for the loss of income.
The State of Israel perpetuates its national democracy. Each elected member of the public in the national government, like a Knesset member, receives: salary, budget, office, and personnel standards. However, this is not the case in the corridors of local government.
An elected local government official suffers from a lack of standard, office, or professional assistance. Nor does it have a basic voter communication budget with which to tell its voters how it works for them.
Many opposition leaders in local government, who are supposed to substitute and challenge the head of the elected authority, find that the room allotted to them by law has been chosen to be the smallest room, in the furthest building if any. . There are also quite a few members of the opposition in the various authorities who stated that they were denied entry on the day they entered the authority building.
When an elected public member, without any salary or activity budget, sits on a sensitive and influential committee such as the Land and Buildings Allocation Committee, the Tender Committee or the Procurement Committee – the door to corruption is particularly large and tempting.
Beyond that, those who do not achieve, are talented, will not be able to survive financially as an elected official in the local authority. We as a whole are the main losers in this situation.
The solution to this is simple. Grant base salaries and budget for partisan activities to elected officials of local authorities. This would allow candidates from the entire social and economic spectrum of the settlement to run for office and to do so successfully throughout their years in office, while frequently reporting to their constituents about their activities. Beyond that, this move will also reduce the temptation to supplement income at the expense of the public interest and moral purity.
It is true that the heads of the authorities prefer their advisors to be small, disciplined and ineffective, but this is not what the citizens who elected them want.
The most important treatment of the lives of Israeli citizens takes place in the local government areas of Israel, and therefore must lead to an important change in the local government system – rewarding elected officials with a mechanism that allows them to fulfill their role and effectively adhere to democratic principles.