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According to the Jan. 14 editorial “Scrutinize Osaka mayor’s moves,” Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is now fleshing out a plan to reorganize and integrate the Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City governments to end the duplication of services and organizations. He has been insisting that the conventional Osaka municipal government should simulate the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Hashimoto has been popular for his decisive and bold remarks and behavior, and “The Osaka Metropolitan Idea”, which he has been suggesting, looks very attractive and new enough on its face to mesmerize a lot of people in Osaka, but there are a lot of ambiguous points in this suggestion.

Tokyo and Osaka both divide their areas into “wards,” but the nature and functions of these wards are different. The 23 wards in Tokyo have been allowed by special legislation to function like cities within prefectures. Each Tokyo ward has an assembly, politicians and a mayor elected by citizens. However, Osaka’s city wards as well as those of another 18 cities in Japan are like precincts. These wards have been set up to boost the level of municipal services within the city, but they do not function like a municipal government.

If Hashimoto would have Osaka simulate Tokyo’s municipal government, he will have to allow for the establishment of offices and an assembly in each ward with the leaders and lawmakers elected by citizens, not nominated by him. It is evident, though, that going to this kind of trouble would belie Hashimoto’s claim that the reorganization of Osaka prefecture and city will cut costs.

In light of his career, Hashimoto should already know this. So, why does he suggest such a useless plan? Maybe he thinks the word “metropolitan” will please citizens in Osaka and become a symbol of reform. I agree with the editorial’s admonition that we should be vigilant against hasty measures toward reorganization. We must scrutinize Hashimoto’s Osaka reforms as long as we cannot yet draw any concrete and viable suggestions from them.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

shuichi watanabe

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