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Mayor Hosts Graduation of Little Municipal Administration Bee Participants

* Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je discussed city government administration-related issues with students from the first college and university group of the Little Municipal Administration Bee at noon on June 27 and personally presented them with graduation certificates. He encouraged the students to study more diligently and maintain ‘hearts of gold’ in order to transform Taiwan into a country that respects professionalism and culture.

When exchanging opinions on city government administration, students asked what the mayor is most proud of in terms of reshaping the political culture in Taiwan, as well as what his future plans are after retirement. Ko replied that he has yet to make any post-retirement plans because it is imperative to finish what is at hand first. As a matter of fact, he has no predispositions in life, as he believes life is merely a process, and it is important to find meaning during that process. Consequently, success and failure are part and parcel of life, and we can only play the hand we are dealt; nothing is set in stone, so one cannot but roll with the punches.

As for the question of how he has reshaped political culture in Taiwan, Mayor Ko believes that talking about the vision of the nation or national sovereignty is absolute nonsense. If the Taipei Twin Towers project will not be approved, announce that in 5 days instead of taking 5 whole months to inform Taipei City Government that it’s rejected, because that’s a waste of time.

Mayor Ko commented that since he was elected mayor, the capital budget execution rate improved from an average of 66% to 77% after 4 years of pushing for results and harsh words on a daily basis. Together with 4% contributed to the treasury, the total comes to 81%. Although this may seem like an improvement, to him it is still less than satisfactory. Besides, neither the central government nor local municipalities have established a system to evaluate budget execution performance, therefore he has requested Research, Development and Evaluation Commission to dispatch delegates to Japan to learn from the country's experience during summer break. Simply put, he believes that managing city government through numbers is difficult enough, therefore talking about changing the culture to law-based administration and governance will not be an easy task – it has taken him 4 years, and he still has not achieved that goal.

The mayor mentioned that his proudest achievement when campaigning for a second term in office in 2018 was not raising several dozen million dollars within a matter of hours, it was when his campaign office was shut down by the Construction Management Office 2 weeks after it was established, because it meant that Taipei City is shifting towards a culture of law-based administration. He often says that culture involves 3 dimensions: doing the right things, avoiding the wrong things, and doing the right things assiduously. A great deal of hard work is needed to shape culture.

Some students hoped that the mayor could facilitate the Wei Chuan Dragons taking up residence at the Tianmu Baseball Stadium, to which Ko replied frankly that Tianmu Baseball Stadium is a difficult venue to call home because it has time constraints. From a business point of view, the team’s owners will take into consideration of the benefits that can be reaped by investing in the stadium. Another potential venue is the Taipei Dome, but no one knows when it will be completed. The mayor also took the opportunity to explain the daunting challenges associated with the Taipei Dome, the main reason being the 60m height limitation of the main stadium, and if 10.5m of the structure is built underground, it will present an enormous problem because emergency evacuation of 10,000 or 20,000 people would be extremely difficult, as they would have to ascend nearly 3 floors to evacuate the premises. If it were up to him, he would never have complied with the height limitation regulation. As far as the Taipei Dome is concerned, he will strive to remedy the problem to the best of his ability, but the fact of the matter is that he is cleaning up after his predecessor’s mess.

As for the students’ suggestion of reinforcing animal protection and improving the welfare of animal control officers, Ko commented that how people treat animals is a sign of the society’s degree of civilization, therefore animal protection indeed needs to be improved. However, the government’s budget is limited, so it can only do as much as possible within these limitations. Another approach is to combine private sector resources. He believes that as the GDP in Taiwan increases, perhaps more money will be available to improve the status quo, but at the current stage there is simply no room in the budget to do more; if animal protection budget is increased, the reality is that the ‘crowding out’ effect will emerge.

Using senior citizens’ allowance as an example, Mayor Ko said that the city council announced its intention to start disbursing senior citizens’ allowance again at a cost of NT$800 million. However, the Department of Social Welfare has only allocated a certain budget, therefore no one dares to object when the city council decides to cut someone’s budget. The next question is, where will the money come from? The answer is through debt financing, which is all well and good, but who is going to pay off the debt? He believes that the biggest problem of politics in Taiwan is the legislative term electoral system coupled with politicians with no historical perspective, resulting in the current political turmoil.

Some students suggested that the drinking fountains at MRT stations should be replaced with push-button type water coolers found in government buildings to ensure hygiene and convenience. Mayor Ko replied that the latter requires the public to prepare their own reusable cups, but he believes that both drinking fountains and water coolers are needed at MRT stations, government buildings or any public venue in Taipei City. He has instructed the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to clearly stipulate the types of waste sorting recycling bins, and that they do not have to be placed in every classroom, perhaps one per floor. Consequently, more precise waste sorting is required, and he will also instruct both the DEP and Taipei Water Department to contemplate how drinking fountains and water coolers should be allocated throughout Taipei City. Furthermore, he has instructed that the project should be followed up on in order to keep track of its performance.