Critics have accused the central government of poor governance and an arrogance that has fostered widespread public apathy. However, such criticism is perhaps closer to the mark when directed at the Taipei City Government and the failure of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to achieve anything of note over the past five years.
The latest example of this ineptitude was revealed during recent personnel reshuffles of Hau’s team. Former commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Hsieh Hsiao-yun (謝小韞), and head of the Education Department, Kang Tzong-hu (康宗虎), resigned as a result of alleged corruption in the management of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the problematic tri-school entrance exam policy respectively.
Hau’s original pick for the one of the three deputy mayor positions, former Taipei City Secretariat Office director Yang Hsi-an (楊錫安), declined the offer two weeks ago amid his alleged involvement in a construction scandal.
These three individuals are among 16 out of 37 top-level city officials to have left Hau’s team since he was re-elected last year. Frequent reshuffles demonstrate not only the mayor’s lack of wisdom, but also the ill-conceived decision-making process used to find qualified candidates to run the capital.
The lack of well-known figures in Hau’s team reveals the limited talent pool in which he is fishing. Indeed, most top city officials served under Hau during his term as head of the Environmental Protection Administration. In other words, he has been unable or unwilling to seek out a more diverse range of opinions in the policy-making process. The public are left with the impression that Hau leads an arrogant team that continually fails to address the needs of Taipei residents.
For example, his insistence on implementing the tri-city high school entrance exam policy sparked opposition from many parents and students who said the new policy would only add to the burden on students. Kang resigned over the policy this month, but the mayor blamed the controversy on the miscalculation of admission scores and refused to cancel next year’s exam.
Hau’s arrogance and indifference to public sentiment also showed in the planned relocation of scores of food stalls at the Shihlin Night Market to a renovated building in November.
The relocation, in which about 100 food venders will move into a basement, attracted complaints from both vendors and residents who warned that an air-conditioned underground food court would undermine the appeal of the popular night market. Several thousand netizens expressed their opposition to the plan on Hau’s Facebook page.
The mayor once again chose to ignore public frustration and declared his determination to relocate the food stalls according to the original schedule.
Although Hau has bragged about the increase in the number of Chinese tourists, the city’s level of internationalization has plummeted while the mayor focuses on city-to-city diplomacy with Shanghai and other cities in China.
Compared to his predecessors — former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — Hau has done little to raise Taipei’s international profile, and his lack of charisma make it unlikely that he will win any higher elected office. His easy victory in last year’s Taipei mayoral election proved only that that Taipei remains a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) stronghold.