A few days ago, I made an announcement that I would not attend any of the Greater Tainan Council meetings until corruption cases against newly elected Tainan Council Speaker Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are settled. I did so to safeguard Tainan’s dignity and to increase society’s engagement with local politics.
With the intention of transforming local politics, I propose using information transparency to promote an open government, which will make up for the shortcomings of the current system of representative politics in the municipality.
By stressing transparency in information disclosure, the decisionmaking process and service provision, the public can directly oversee and become involved in government. With the prevalence of the Internet, disclosure of government information not only makes civil oversight a possibility, but also, and perhaps more importantly, facilitates actual civic engagement.
An open government will not only be able to foster oversight through transparency, but also further civic participation and collaboration between the private and the public sectors. The civil movements that have taken place in recent years, including the Sunflower movement, validate the necessity of a transparent government.
Unlike in the past, information disclosure alone is not sufficient, for incomplete or static information can no longer meet the needs for civic engagement. The information has to be fully disclosed, as well as be easily and readily accessible and applicable. Only then can civic engagement be a reality.
When bribery is involved in local politics, the basis of a representative democracy is compromised, city councils will fail to represent the public will and public welfare is left by the wayside. This is what is happening in Tainan, and that is why I have proposed an open government that can deepen civic oversight and engagement to make Tainan’s government one that is truly governed by the people, and a democratic system that is shared by city residents.
This is brand-new thinking for a democracy, utilizing technology as the interface for civic engagement, and this form of democratic government will be transparent, engaging and collaborative. Based on these concepts, we have made public on the city government’s official Web site hundreds of compilations of information for the past year, and we will publish more policy information in the future for the public to oversee and review.
We will also invite the public to take part in the city government’s plan for transparent information. Over time, we will systematically realize the goal of an open government. Ultimately, we want all government information to be fully disclosed.
Furthermore, the city government will set up channels to directly communicate with citizens, such as complete, live broadcasts of city council meetings and mayoral conferences, and the continuation of the annual district meetings in which district councilors have face-to-face conversations with borough officers and residents.
Councilors will no longer be able to shirk their responsibility as supervisors, and will themselves be subject to public scrutiny.
William Lai is the mayor of Greater Tainan.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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