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Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011

EDITORIAL

Makeover of local government

Several governors and mayors are calling for the creation of new, powerful local governments that differ from existing structures at the prefectural and city level. These officials are apparently frustrated over the slow progress of devolution as well as the overlapping administrative functions between prefectures and major cities. They are vocal, but their ideas lack form and are short on detail.

Gov. Toru Hashimoto of Osaka Prefecture urges the creation of an Osaka metropolitan government. The thrust of his idea is to dismantle the Osaka city government. He faces harsh criticism from Osaka Mayor Kunio Hiramatsu. He seems frustrated by the power the city wields over such matters as urban development, traffic and city water projects, which hinders his own initiatives.

Mr. Hashimoto's advisory panel came up with a proposal that does not necessarily sync with his idea. Noting that it is unclear which — the city or prefectural government — has responsibility for urban management, it proposes that the two governments first create a consultation framework to discuss unified strategy and policy coordination. The proposal highlights the need for Mr. Hashimoto to develop a strategy to deepen cooperation with the city government, rather than trying to dismantle it.

In Aichi Prefecture, new Gov. Hideaki Omura of Aichi and Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya call for merging the prefectural government and the Nagoya city government to create a Chukyo metropolitan government. In Niigata Prefecture, Gov. Hirohiko Izumida and Mayor Akira Shinoda of Niigata propose establishing a Niigata state government by integrating the prefectural government and the Niigata city government.

These ideas fail to convey a clear picture of how the proposed governments will improve people's lives. It is unclear why a drastic change to the present system is necessary. Even without such a change, there should be more room for prefectural and city governments to establish close cooperation to solve problems. Also, it would be difficult for citizens to monitor large local governments as proposed by those governors and mayors.



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