National / Politics

Mayor Ichiro Matsui mulls referendum on 'Osaka metropolis' plan

Kyodo

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui said Monday he is considering holding a referendum next November on whether to restructure the city into a metropolis like Tokyo, in order to seek more effective governance.

A specific date will be determined after consultation with the local chapter of Komeito, which is considering supporting the “Osaka metropolis” plan, a political group promoting the plan said.

“Everyone is busy in December. I want to schedule it when it’s easier to vote,” said Matsui, a former Osaka governor who heads Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka).

Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura, who also serves as acting leader of Osaka Ishin, told reporters that the political group intends to propose to Komeito that a referendum be held “in early November when it is relatively warm.”

An outline of the metropolis plan has already been drawn up by a legal council for discussion by prefectural and municipal assembly members.

The council is expected to hold a midterm vote on Dec. 26 of this year to see whether members of each faction support the plan or not, followed by briefing sessions for residents from March to April. The plan will be formally adopted around June.

Yoshimura said approval from prefectural and municipal assemblies for the plan — required to hold a referendum — is expected to be obtained in early September.

The metropolis plan was originally drafted by former Osaka Gov. and Mayor Toru Hashimoto to reorganize the administration of the city into a government similar to that of Tokyo. The plan aims to save hundreds of billions of yen in taxpayers’ money by reducing functional overlaps between the prefectural and city governments.

Under Osaka Ishin’s merger plan, the wards would have more control over their budgets for issues such as child care, education and social welfare services. Functions such as tourism promotion, transportation infrastructure, industrial revitalization and urban development would all be handled by the prefecture.

But voters dismissed the proposal in the May 2015 referendum, with both the ruling and opposition parties insisting that many costs could be cut without the reform.

The plan gained momentum again after Osaka Ishin won local elections to choose a new mayor and prefectural governor in April this year, with Matsui elected as the new mayor and former Osaka Mayor Yoshimura elected as the new governor.