Mayor Shinichi Takehara of Akune, Kagoshima Prefecture, was recalled in a Dec. 5 referendum. He has been criticized for taking advantage on many occasions of a provision in the Local Autonomy Law that allows a local government head to take action on important matters without calling an assembly session if there is not enough time to let the assembly approve a proposal. He unilaterally halved the bonus of city office workers, introduced a per diem system for assembly members and made a former police officer of Ehime Prefecture vice mayor.
The internal affairs ministry plans to submit to the Diet a bill to revise the law, making stricter conditions for a local government head to take unilateral actions and to allow the assembly chairman to convene a session if the local government head ignores the assembly request for convening a session. Because an action like Akune mayor’s had been unexpected when the law was written, the revision appears unavoidable.
Mr. Takehara plans to run again in a mayoral election in January. In Sunday’s referendum, the margin between anti- and pro-mayor voters was only about 400 votes. Many voters apparently accepted the mayor’s explanation that he tried to reduce the economic gap between ordinary citizens and public sector people. He may make a comeback. The city assembly members and city office workers may have to examine whether they had acted in the interest of residents. In voting, Akune citizens have to consider what is best for the city.
Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura said on Nov. 26 that he will resign and run again in the next mayoral election in February 2011, after his supporters’ attempt to hold a referendum on whether the city assembly should be dissolved failed. The assembly has been opposed to Mr. Kawamura’s call for making permanent a 10 percent cut in the residential tax. The tax gives no benefit to low-income people, who are exempt from the levy, and may cause administrative services to worsen. When casting their ballot, Nagoya citizens must carefully consider whether Mr. Kawamura’s proposal will benefit their lives.