National / Politics

New Tokyo Gov. Koike names Toyosu scandal, Olympic overspend as policy priorities

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Half pay, clarity in the Olympic overspend and accountability for planning lapses at the new Toyosu food market were among policy priorities Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike set out Wednesday for her term in office.

She urged Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly lawmakers to help identify officials who cut corners in handling pollution at Toyosu, saying they must be held accountable to restore public trust.

She was addressing a plenary session of the assembly, her first since becoming governor.

“We have to clear up all doubts on the decisions made, who made them … and who has been hiding this information,” Koike told lawmakers.

“I know that all parties and assembly members have long worked hard for the success of the project to relocate the Tsukiji fish market to its new site in Toyosu, but I have to say that in the process the Tokyo administration lost the public’s trust.”

Koike criticized the fact that decisions were made behind the scenes, adding that this led to safety concerns and a lack of transparency in spending.

And she restated concerns about ballooning construction costs. She said the assembly has a duty of oversight when it comes to major projects.

On Tuesday, the governor said she would meet with Shintaro Ishihara and ask him about decisions relating to the Toyosu project. Ishihara was governor from 1999 to 2012.

The former industrial land, previously owned by Tokyo Gas Co., was known to be highly polluted. Extensive work was planned in a bid to remove the worst of the toxins and reduce the risk to workers and the foodstuffs passing through the market.

However, earlier this month Koike revealed that a layer of clean soil that was supposed to underlie the foundations had never been laid. Suspicions of corner-cutting and a cover-up were fueled when she said five individuals involved in the project denied knowing about design changes or even the decision to build basements where the soil should be.

Ishihara is on record as saying he was unaware that pollution remediation was not carried out.

Koike said last week she will shortly reveal details around the metropolitan government’s decision to amend the plan and why it failed to announce the changes.

Further findings may follow a first meeting Thursday of experts that Koike has tasked with examining health risks at the site.

Separately, Koike addressed a long-standing issue that dominated her election campaign: financial waste.

She has promised integrity in spending decisions, including bringing transparency to the soaring costs of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In her speech Wednesday, Koike appeared to repeat a threat to revise existing Olympic construction plans if needed.

Koike’s two immediate predecessors — Naoki Inose and Yoichi Masuzoe — both resigned over funds-related scandals, both of them since Tokyo was named Olympic host city in 2013.

The governor put her money where her mouth is on pay, saying she will seek an amendment to a salary ordinance to halve her salary.

She said she will bring up the chronic shortage of day care centers and the shortage of jobs for mothers who want to work when she faces assembly members during a question-and-answer session next week.

The assembly’s plenary session, this year’s third, will end on Oct. 13.