「大阪都」構想 自治再生への将来像を示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 19, 2012)
Present a vision for renewal of local administration
「大阪都」構想 自治再生への将来像を示せ(1月18日付・読売社説)

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is preparing concrete steps to realize his plan to transform Osaka into a metropolitan administrative unit like Tokyo. If his proposal is realized, how will the people's daily lives and the local administration of Osaka change?

His proposal calls for institutional reform to reorganize the Osaka prefectural government and the Osaka and Sakai municipal governments into a metropolitan administrative unit that would provide administrative services across the entire area and 10 to 12 "special administrative wards" that would provide services close to the daily lives of the local people, such as welfare services.

We can understand Hashimoto's intention of eliminating the prefectural and municipal governments' overlapping administrative services and integrating strategies on urban systems, by reviewing the antagonistic relations that have often existed between the prefectural government and the Osaka municipal government over the years.

Hashimoto has established a headquarters to integrate the prefectural and municipal governments, as a control tower of the scheme, and has come up with one reform policy after another.

Carrying out, first of all, those reforms that can be realized under the present system will offer a favorable wind for the envisaged scheme. Included in such presently doable reforms are integrated management of water services, public hospitals and universities, and elections for more administratively powerful ward mayors with candidates invited from the public from all over the country.

Will these institutional changes lead to, as Hashimoto asserts, the rejuvenation of Osaka, whose local economy is seen faltering?


Costs not entirely clear

Having ward mayors and ward assembly members elected by popular vote may end up raising overall costs. There is also some concern that the review of overlapping administrative services by the prefectural and municipal governments may lead to some services being monopolized by certain entities, eliminating competition and thus making overall public administration inefficient.

Hashimoto should scrupulously answer these questions and draw up a clear future vision of a new local administration.

To realize this metropolis scheme, it is essential to revise related laws, including the Local Government Law.  都構想の実現のためには、地方自治法など関連法の改正も欠かせない。

Both the ruling and opposition parties have begun concerted action based on Hashimoto's scheme.

As the head of local party Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group), Hashimoto won a strategic victory in the double elections for both Osaka governor (his preelection post, now held by another member of his party) and Osaka mayor.

Looking toward the next House of Representatives election, Hashimoto said his party will field its own candidates to run against those political parties that do not support his vision.

These strategies can be said to have prodded major national parties into action on his issue.


Govt council to examine issue

Meanwhile, the Local Government System Research Council, a governmental advisory panel, on Tuesday began discussions on what form the administrative systems of mega cities should take.

The central government had seldom squarely tackled the issue of large cities before.

The Osaka metropolis scheme will be a central theme of the council's discussions.

Hashimoto intends to compile a concrete plan by this autumn, with an eye toward shifting to an Osaka metropolis in the spring of 2015.

His moves and the council's discussions will certainly affect each other.

Also to be discussed is the idea of letting ordinance-designated cities become completely independent from prefectural governments as special self-governing units.

There are also other ideas to be taken up for discussion, such as one to integrate Aichi Prefecture and the city of Nagoya to establish a "Chukyo-to" administrative unit, and one to realign Niigata Prefecture and Niigata City into Niigata-shu (Niigata State).

The times require discussions about systems of large-city governance.

The council will also discuss issues related to local municipalities, be they cities, towns or villages, that are dealing with marked population decline and a rapidly aging citizenry.

It is no easy task to consider the problems of large cities and those of smaller municipalities in the context of the ongoing trend of transferring administrative powers to local governments.

Toward the aim of rejuvenating local administrations, a broad-based discussion is called for.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 18, 2012)
(2012年1月18日01時18分 読売新聞)

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