Haifa Mayor Blasted for Using City Billboards for Campaign

Haifa mayor Yona Yahav's opponents have harshly criticized him for what they say is his use of city-owned billboards in his reelection campaign. His rivals say Yahav's name on the billboards under the slogan "Improving for you" is election propaganda at the taxpayer's expense.

An appeal to the elections committee was rejected as Yahav claimed that the signs were old, from more than six months ago. But some residents say new signs have been put up in the past few months.

Over the past year Haifa has been renovating its infrastructure, with many projects underway. Signs explaining the project have been placed near construction sites, and in a prominent position on every billboard is the "Improving for you" slogan with a greeting from the mayor.

"This is exploiting the municipality's resources for political electoral purposes," said Yaakov Borovsky, a mayoral candidate who submitted the appeal to the elections committee. "Such a phenomenon does not exist in any other city."

According to Borovsky, after the city's legal adviser said the signs were old and the appeal was rejected, new signs began to appear, for example on Stella Maris and Anielewicz streets.

City council member Shlomo Gilboa, the head of a party running in the elections, said it would have been more appropriate for the signs to bear the name of the city and Yahav.

A senior city official said that up until a year ago, it was normal for the signs to bear the name of the appropriate municipal department, but a year ago Yahav's name started to appear.

Yahav responded that the decision by the head of the Central Elections Committee, Justice Eliezer Rivlin, speaks for itself. The city has yet to respond to the question of whether new signs have been put up.

In a separate matter, the Justice Ministry said an investigation against Yahav in what is known as the parking-lot affair will be closed for lack of evidence. Yahav was investigated under caution on suspicion of violating election laws, receiving bribes and fraud. The suspicions included hiding illegal campaign contributions from a parking-lot baron by Yahav's aides.

Yahav replied: "I have been waiting for this decision for four years. Since the investigation started we have been through a war; we have rehabilitated and developed a wonderful city. Not for a second did I let the matter harm our work for the city of Haifa and its residents."