Sat, Dec 30, 2006 - Page 8 News List

A great city needs the vision of a great mayor

By Chang Ruay-shiung 張瑞雄

On Monday, Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and Chen Chu (陳菊) were sworn in as the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung.

They must act with vision, rise above partisan motivations and strive to improve their cities' competitiveness and quality of life. As the new high speed rail system will bring Taipei and Kaohsiung closer together, the cities should learn to cooperate and craft common goals.

As national boundaries become blurred and free trade zones bridge political divides, competition between cities is becoming more significant than competition between countries. For instance, India may still be seen as a less developed country but Bangalore, dubbed the Silicon Valley of India, is a better-known city than Taipei or Kaohsiung and has attracted more investment.

Hau and Chen thus have a responsibility to build Taipei and Kaohsiung into internationally recognized cities.

They should invest resources in an appropriate mix of short and long-term changes. The following measures are crucial to this.

Taipei has an MRT network worthy of a metropolis but still lacks a link to the international airport.

Although an MRT is under construction in Kaohsiung, the network is limited. The city should plan an expansion phase now. And since the Internet has become indispensable for businesspeople and travelers alike, both cities can enhance their competitiveness by providing comprehensive wireless Internet service and broadband service in every hotel.

The cities should also improve their living and cultural environments by increasing green areas, and offering more cultural and recreational activity. For example, virtually all buses in Taipei and Kaohsiung are unsightly. Why not use buses with unique and aesthetically pleasing features?

Bangalore has done outstanding work with tree-lined boulevards and parks, and with more than 40 percent of its area green, it has earned a reputation as a garden city. In Taipei and Kaohsiung, there is much room for improvement in this regard.

It is also important to have good educational institutions and effective administrators. Taipei and Kaohsiung have Taiwan's highest density of institutions of higher learning. The governments should make greater use of their academic, cultural, technological and human resources.

The cities should seek to streamline and place online procedures for corporate investment and tourism -- with laws and other documents in both Chinese and English -- and offer standard procedures for those who want to offer feedback.

Hau and Chen must present and sell their vision by communicating with citizens at all times and all levels. A great mayor must ask city residents what kind of future they want for their city and specify feasible steps to achieve these goals.

When former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani took office, he improved order by moving car window washers at stoplights and beggars off the streets. This was a way of saying he was determined to bring change. These steps offered hope, making everyone willing to make sacrifices. This is the only way to build a great city.

Chang Ruay-shiung is vice president of National Dong Hwa University. Translated by Daniel Cheng

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