Staff writerThe foreign residents’ council recently launched in Tokyo should not be political, but it will be a valuable source of foreigners’ opinions for the governor, Yukio Aoshima said in a New Year’s interview.”I don’t want the council to have a political meaning,” the Tokyo governor said. “It is a body (for the governor) to listen to opinions or requests, and I would prefer that it avoid making decisions or resolutions.”Last November, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government established the 25-member panel of non-Japanese residents to reflect foreigners’ viewpoints in local government policies. The council is technically a private body for the governor and has no binding authority, which has made some council members skeptical about its influence.Regarding possible changes to give the panel authority, Aoshima said he will see how the body proceeds for the time being. It was made clear from the beginning that the group was not set up to make political decisions, Aoshima added in the interview, in which he reviewed the past year.In addition to the launch of the council, another landmark event of 1997 that could affect lives of foreign residents in Tokyo was a ruling by the Tokyo High Court that the metropolitan government should not exclude foreigners from general clerical positions that do not require public decision-making.According to the court, positions involving public decision-making should be limited to Japanese, while those that do not should be opened to foreign residents. The governor appealed the high court’s decision to the Supreme Court, arguing it would be extremely difficult to identify positions that do not involve use of public power or decision-making.”At the metropolitan government, many officials are transferred to a variety of positions to increase their experience and competency,” Aoshima said. “It’s easy to say, but it’s very difficult to carry out” the classification of positions, he said.Asked what his priority in 1998 is, the governor repeated last year’s answer: to continue endeavoring to make the megalopolis an “eco-friendly society” where resources are recycled. As an example, Aoshima cited a deposit-refund system for beverage containers that would provide consumers refunds when they bring the containers to a collector.
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