This week’s featured article
As the city of Osaka prepares for Sunday’s unprecedented referendum on the merger plan being championed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, most media polls show those opposed to the plan holding anywhere from a slim to a wide lead, though the margin is too close to call.
The referendum asks voters if they want to merge the current 24 districts, all of which have representatives in the city assembly. The merger would create five semiautonomous wards, each with its own elected head and assembly.
Hashimoto calls it the only way the city and Osaka Prefecture can eliminate redundant projects, improve efficiency and spur the city’s economic growth.
Hashimoto and his local party, Osaka Ishin no Kai, also expect the new wards to be able to compete more efficiently with Tokyo, especially in luring new businesses. They believe the new system will mean increased local democracy.
But Hashimoto’s message has been greeted with confusion, skepticism or both. Asked about what would happen if, after the merger, the prefecture wants to create a casino resort in one of the wards and the assembly says no, Hashimoto suggested the prefecture could overrule the ward.
A merger also creates questions about who pays for current and future transportation infrastructure projects. Hashimoto and the pro-merger camp want, essentially, to spread the costs around, especially since many of the projects funded by the city benefit residents who live outside of it.
A poll by the Mainichi Broadcasting System showed opposition to be particularly strong among women. This reflects concern over how social welfare services for children and the elderly would be affected. Those living in less-affluent areas are worried services might decline due to a lack of funding from the current central city government.
Tokyo is watching events carefully.
First published in The Japan Times on May 16.
One-minute chat about elections.
Collect words related to Osaka; e.g., “west,” “takoyaki,” “comedy.”
1) unprecedented: never experienced before; e.g., “This is an unprecedented occasion.”
2) referendum: a vote by the people on a proposed law; e.g., “We will have referendum this weekend.”
3) merger: combining of corporations, municipalities, etc. ; e.g., “Our company is planning a merger with that firm.”
4) poll: opinion survey; e.g., “The poll shows 50 percent of the people are against the policy.”
5) skepticism: being in doubt, not believing; e.g., “They treat the rumor with skepticism.”
Guess the headline
Opinion polls go wild on eve of Osaka m_ _ _ _ _ re_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
1) What was the major proposed change in the merger plan?
2) What did Mayor Hashimoto expect as a result of the merger?
3) According to the article, why did women tend to oppose the plan?
Let’s discuss the article
1) Were you for or against the idea of the Osaka merger?
2) What is your biggest concern about your own city?
3) What do you think needs to be done to improve your city?
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