Itzik Braverman seems to take his role as mayor for the people quite literally.
In September, the Petah Tikva public administrator decided to connect with residents by riding in a taxi for a day and asking real passengers their opinions on the city.
“I decided to surprise riders hailing a taxi,” Braverman, 58, wrote in a Facebook post. “I was a passenger in the back seat of a cab and rode in the taxi as the driver picked up people. The passengers were surprised to see me. We spoke, I listened to their wishes and complaints, and I heard good feedback about some of the changes in the city since I took office.”
Braverman stepped into the role of mayor in 2013. The city in the central district of Israel, just 10 kilometers from Tel Aviv, had been run from 1998 to 2013 by Mayor Yitzhak Ohayon, who near the end of his term was charged with bribery.
When Braverman, a lawyer, took over he sought to hammer home the idea that he truly is interested in hearing what the residents of Petah Tikva want.
“I see great importance in keeping in personal touch with residents of the city and this is the reason I decided to initiate a number of programs to strengthen this connection: random meetings, scheduled meetings in the different neighborhoods, and my open-door office policy,” he posted on Facebook.
And so, taking a cue from reality TV, he moved his office temporarily from behind a desk at City Hall to the back of an Israeli cab.
“What are you doing here?” an embarrassed woman asks Braverman upon realizing her taxi ride is now a documented shared journey. “I don’t know if I’m more nervous that I’m sharing a cab with the mayor of the city or that I’m being filmed.”
Conversations covered a range of subjects from the train station being too far from the city’s center to the status of education in the schools, to traffic snarls at rush hour.
“Not everything is as smooth as honey,” one of the passengers, who said he was a teacher, tells the mayor. “When it comes to bureaucracy, there are a lot of hurdles until you actually reach a person who can help you get to where you’re trying to go.”
As the video moves forward the embarrassed woman has gotten over her fears and invites the mayor to her mom’s for coffee. Braverman enquires about cake to go with the coffee. “We’re into healthy eating,” she replies to his marked disappointment.
“It was a refreshing day at work,” Braverman sums up at the end of the video clip. “Usually, I’m so busy running the city, working from day to night with bureaucratic issues. This was a revitalizing day, getting to talk to the city residents and hearing for the most part that they’re satisfied.”
The video was posted on Braverman’s Facebook page and within a week garnered more than 23,000 views. The post also fielded more than 100 comments from locals complaining about problematic issues they face.