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Interview: Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv has been dubbed the ‘start-up city in the start-up nation’. Jonathan Andrews met with the mayor, Ron Huldai, to find out if other cities can learn from Tel Aviv’s example

You were first elected in 1998, so how has Tel Aviv changed in those 17 years?

The city today is completely different from what it was. The city I got when I became the mayor was a neglected city. There was a negative balance of immigration– more people left the city than came. It had a deteriorated infrastructure, in all areas–roads, streetlights and sidewalks. There was a huge deficit and huge debts to banks and suppliers.

Photo: Tel Aviv–Yafo Municipality

I had a problem in paying staff salaries at the beginning. Within four or five years we managed a real turnaround and we jumped to a balanced budget. Since then we have had 13 consecutive years of balanced budgets. We are investing four times more in infrastructure and facilities. People then recognised that this city is a good place to live in and the balance of immigration changed completely. Everyone now wants to live in the city of Tel Aviv, so the price of real estate is going up and we are growing. We have doubled the number of kindergartens in the last 15 years and Tel Aviv is a very vibrant and prosperous city.

We also believe that the city is not just a city here in the state of Israel, but a model for democracy and pluralism. It is a model for tolerance, art, culture, science, research, rational thinking, and one that is open to the world. We are a global city and a home for every minority. These are not just phrases or slogans; the city invests 6.5 percent of its total budget in art and cultural activities when the state of Israel only invests one-third of a percent.

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Cities without borders How mayors are taking the lead on the migrant crisis - The new role of insurers in resilience planning - Which city will be first to carbon neutrality? -The need for global standards on urban data Cities Today is the only global magazine containing analysis, comment and best practices on sustainable urban development, connecting local governments with public and private sector solutions. With an expert editorial advisory board comprising the World Bank, UN-Habitat, UNEP, and city associations ICLEI, C40, UCLG ASPAC, UCLG Africa, UCLG MEWA, Sister Cities International and FLACMA, the publication highlights the challenges facing city leaders and local governments in mobility, finance, smart technology, health care, energy efficiency, water, sanitation, security and housing

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