Mon, Nov 27, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Taipei candidates face residents' questions

TELEVISED DEBATE In their final face-off before the Dec. 9 elections, the top three candidates plugged their proposals for making the city a better place to live and work

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei mayoral candidates James Soong, Hau Lung-bin and Frank Hsieh, center left to right, participate in televised debate yesterday where they in which they were challenged by 19 city residents over six issues, including traffic congestion, public safety and tourism.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Nineteen Taipei residents yesterday challenged three mayoral candidates in a televised debate on six issues including traffic, welfare of the elderly, public safety, tourism and financial policy.

The debate -- the last one before the Dec. 9 election -- was sponsored by the Public TV station, four Chinese-language newspapers and the Central News Agency.

The top three candidates -- according to opinion polls -- were invited to take part in the debate: Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) of the Democratic Progressive Party and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), who is running as an independent.

TOURISM

When asked how he would promote the city's culture industry and transform Taipei into a more attractive city to foreign visitors, Soong offered to set up at least 10 tourist spots like the Taipei 101 Mall within three to five years, while proposing to cut the entertainment tax.

Hau said he would encourage Taipei's culture industry by building a "culture and art corridor" around the city with performing spots for artists to do regular performances and attract both residents and visitors.

Condemning Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) administration for failing to revive traditional markets, including the Chiengcheng Circle and Shihlin Market, Hsieh vowed to promote traditional culture and tourist spots from the tea houses in Maokong to hot springs in Beitou.

"Localization is the only way to internationalization ? Only by being the only one can the city become No. 1," Hsieh said.

In addition to the now popular beef noodle festival, Hsieh proposed promoting other traditional dishes through such festivals, such as meatball festival or oyster omelet festival.

When asked what they would do to improve the traffic situation, all three said they would expand the mass rapid transit (MRT) system and encourage people to take advantage of public transportation.

Soong said he would establish more parking lots around MRT stations and offer discounted prices to increase interest in taking the MRT, while Hau and Hsieh pledged to redesign bus routes to accommodate the MRT lines.

All three candidates said that they would introduce low-floor buses to give the disabled and the elderly better access to public transportation.

The candidates expressed similar views on how to improve the lives of the elderly and boost public safety.

They said nursing centers should be set up inside communities where the elderly live and that police should put the same effort into combating minor offenses as they do serious crimes.

FINANCES

When asked how they would improve the city's finances, Hau said converting Songshan Airport into an international airport and exclusive terminal for cross-strait direct flights would create more business opportunities and increase the city's revenue.

"With the launch of direct flights across the Taiwan Strait, Taiwanese businesses would stay in Taiwan and our tax revenue would thereby increase," he said.

Soong said the city would not have debts if there had not been so many failed policies and he promised to fight the central government to get more money for the city.

Hsieh also criticized Ma's policy failures, such as the renovation of traditional markets, for burdening the city with debt.

The former premier also promoted his proposal that the city make a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games, which he said would bolster Taipei's reputation and create business opportunities.

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