"Mayors Institute" Model Comes to Israel (With a Little Help from CNU)

Mayor Ramiz Jaraisi of Nazareth and Mayor Rabbi Yaakov Asher of Bnai Brak

Aiming to import the success of the Mayors Institute on City Design — the National Endowment for the Arts program that has helped prepare more than 800 US Mayors over 24 years to be the "chief urban designers of their cities" — the Movement for Israeli Urbanism hosted the inaugural class of the Israeli Mayors’ Institute on City Renewal from June 1-3 in Tsefat and Tel Aviv.

The mayors of Tsefat, Ashkelon and six other cities were represented and CNU President/CEO and former MIlwaukee Mayor John Norquist and CNU-member urban designer and Torti Gallas principal Neal Payton were there as headliners. "When I was a mayor, the US version opened my eyes to ways to improve Milwaukee. Now Israeli Mayors will have the same opportunity," said Norquist, whose opening night presentation was coveredin Tel Aviv's Globe newspaper.

Shown above are Mayor Ramiz Jaraisi of Nazareth (pop. 80,000) and Mayor Yaakov Asher of Bnai Brak, Tel Aviv's biggest suburb (population 165,000). Jaraisi is of Arab descent and Asher is a rabbi. The Movement for Israeli Urbanism adopted the Mayors Institute model after concluding that the most effective way to promote sustainable Israeli urban development and local economic development is through mayors. According to the news release from the MIU:

The primary tool of the Mayors’ Institute that MIU is developing is to hold a series of intense 3-day workshop sessions in which a small group of mayors (8 in each session) and a similar number of professionals (in urban design and planning, architecture, local economic development, transportation, environment, law) analyze specific urban projects presented by each mayor. Through the sessions, the mayors undergo a significant learning process, open up to new conceptions of urban planning, and come out with knowledge and applicable tools to help them promote the best projects for their community’s long-term economic development and urban quality of life.

Norquist and Payton also spoke at an Movement for Israeli Urbanism chapter meeting on May 31 at Tel Aviv's old City Hall. Norquist showed slides to a group assembled on the rooftop of the art deco landmark.

Payton also treated the group to an educational lecture and a constructive critique of Israeli projects.

And John Norquist congratulates MIU chair Irit Solzi and Dror Gershon on the successful launch and accepts a framed certificate from them for participating.


Building momentum for change in Israel

It is great to see the Mayors in Israel raising the bar on design for their towns. The Movement for Israeli Urbanism is doing great work. When I visited their conference in http://www.cnu.org/node/638/edit
">Haifa the movement generated a lot of positive change for communities. In the US communities like http://www.cnu.org/elgin
">Elgin witnessed the benefit of the Mayor's Institute on Design, after Mayor Ed Schock went through the training he focused on providing value to Elgin's streets.
Also a lot of credit goes to Irit Solzi, Yodan Rofe and Dror Gershon for organizing this change in Israeli Culture. For more information on the Movement for Israeli Urbanism visit http://www.miu.org.il

Tel Aviv and Nazareth

It was my second trip to Israel. My first was in 1990 and was concentrated in Jerusalem. This time I had time to enjoy Tel Aviv and a fabulous dinner al fresco on Dizengof Street. Dizengof is one of the world's great sidewalk cafe places. Urbanism is not fully accepted in Israel. Much development follows the US sprawl pattern, but the older parts of Tel Aviv have gained popularity and are attracting in fill development. Also Israel is building Light Rail in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The Israeli urbanists fight the same battles we do in the US. Rodan Yofe, who wrote the Boulevard Book with Alan Jacobs and Elizabeth MacDonald, is battling to turn oversized Ben Yehuda Avenue into an urban boulevard. Meanwhile the Transport Ministry has plans to make it even bigger and more like a freeway. Yodan has won some battles. Rothchilds Boulevard, which stretches from Jaffa across the older parts of central Tel Aviv, has become more urban and beautiful since I last saw it in 1990.

I enjoy mayors having been one myself in Milwaukee and none more than Mayor Ramiz Jaraisi of Nazareth. Nazareth is a predominantly Arab city inside Israel's 1948 boundary. During the Mayor's Design Institute we studied and deliberated on Nazareth's challenges. The Mayor hopes to undo some muddling that had degraded the walkability of Nazareth's old city. During the 80s and 90s surface parking and suburban style road improvements had undermined Nazareth's large Souk. The solution we all agreed was to undo the damage and resist any further efforts to add road capacity or surface parking to the old city. The day after the Institute, Neal Payton,Dror Gershon and I toured the site with the Mayor's Planner. We confirmed that the problem was as described at the Institute, discussed remedies and then dove into the Souk to shop for gifts to take home.


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