Wed, Mar 23, 2016 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Ko’s pet projects brook no opposition

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) announcement that the standoff between the city and Farglory Group over the construction of the Taipei Dome complex might have to be resolved by using the city’s “i-Voting” system has brought two problems to the fore: The lack of regulations overseeing the use of the online polling system and the independence of the Taipei Clean Government Committee — which Ko said gave this preposterous proposal the “green light.”

The issues that the city has asked the public to vote on using the online platform have all been related to the city government’s policy implementation.

There was the vote to gauge the public’s satisfaction with policies introduced by Taipei City Government agencies, the vote participated in by Shezidao (社子島) residents to produce a roadmap for the peninsula’s development, and the polls to determine which of the city’s 12 districts created the best lanterns for the Taipei Lantern Festival last month.

However, the fate of the Taipei Dome, a build-operate-transfer project, is not like these projects — over which the city has full jurisdiction. Therefore, the city does not have the mandate to put the issue to an “i-Vote.”

As Farglory Group has a contract with the city to build the Dome, leaving its fate in the public’s hands would not even be legal.

With most Taipei residents seeing Farglory as the villain in the Dome debacle, Ko is merely playing to the gallery by tapping into this antipathy, when he should be producing evidence of the alleged malpractices of his predecessors as he has pledged to do.

While the outcome of an online poll would likely favor the city government, it would not be legally binding, meaning that Farglory could just ignore it and the standoff would drag on.

This type of attempt to trump Farglory only calls into question Ko’s competence and costs him political capital.

Ko’s remark that the proposed poll was passed by a Clean Government Committee review was surprising, considering all the potential pitfalls it would present.

It is ironic that the committee — which the public had hoped would investigate the wrongdoing of former city government officials — has become a vehicle for Ko to manipulate public sentiment.

The committee is not the only city government agency that has apparently overstepped the bounds of its original remit: The Urban Planning Commission and the Cultural Assets Review Committee have got into hot water over the proposed relocation of the Mitsui Warehouse — built during the Japanese colonial era — which civic groups are fighting to protect.

Without a consensus having been reached among commission members, Taipei Deputy Mayor Charles Lin (林欽榮), who heads the planning commission, last month announced that the warehouse would be moved unless the Cultural Assets Review Committee comes up with a conclusion convincing enough to make the commission reconsider its decision.

This flawed decisionmaking process and clear violation of procedure has imposed an arbitrary framework on the cultural committee, which should have led the discussions.

This type of confusion demonstrates that the city’s administrative bodies lack expertise and have not developed standard operating procedures — which Ko has always emphasized — and should be overhauled.

In fact, the Mitsui Warehouse’s fate would be a much better subject for “i-Voting” than the Dome’s if city government officials would take sufficient time to explain the pros and cons of all the options available and the associated traffic improvement plans being considered.

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