National

Kobe mayor Sasayama back at work

KOBE — Kazutoshi Sasayama returned to his office Tuesday to begin a third four-year term as Kobe mayor after beating two challengers in Sunday’s mayoral election.

Sasayama, 73, has pledged to make the utmost efforts to improve the lives of residents and to promote a city plan to build a local airport off Kobe Port. The opening of the airport is scheduled for 2004.

“This election taught me that there are some residents who really need support to restore their livelihoods,” he said. “The city has to provide help to solve various problems that they have.” Sasayama narrowly won re-election in the mayoral race, the first since the Great Hanshin Earthquake, getting 270,000 votes against the 225,000 ballots cast for Kazuo Onishi, the closest of the two other other candidates.

Onishi, who criticized Sasayama’s policies during the campaign, insisted that the airport plan be suspended and that residents be compensated for quake damage to their properties. In a news conference Tuesday, Sasayama said the city will take effective measures to support about 18,000 households that are still living in temporary accommodation units so it is easier for them to make the move to permanent homes.

“Most residents in temporary housing units will start moving to permanent apartments by next summer,” he said. “The city will help them to form new communities. At the same time, we will continue caring for those who remain in temporary housing.”