Mon, Nov 07, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Mayor upbeat on Kaohsiung's future

TRANSFORMATION Yeh Chu-lan took the helm of Taiwan's second-largest city in the midst of a bruising controversy involving the Kaohsiung City Government, but she has a rosy view of the city's future prospects

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Acting Kaohsiung Mayor Yeh Chu-lan gestures during a recent interview.


The mounting Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp (KRTC) scandal, which came to light in the wake of a riot by Thai laborers building the city's MRT system, has left a cloud over the country and put acting Kaohsiung Mayor Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) in a difficult spot governing distrustful citizens.

A month after taking the position left vacant by former acting mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), Yeh is still burdened by problems related to the scandal.

When interviewed by the Taipei Times on Monday, for example, Yeh had been detained because the city council had to review the general budget.

Yet she remained energetic and defensive, as she shared her plans and vision for the city.

"Whatever the MRT scandal and KRTC controversy may bring to an end, Kaohsiung City's MRT construction must continue, and will definitely bring greater convenience to residents when the project is completed next year," Yeh said.

Listing the MRT program as well as the whole public transportation construction plan as one of the major priorities for her administration, Yeh said she was confident that the MRT lines will be inaugurated by October next year.

"And with the completion of the Light Rail Transit Systems under the High Speed Rail Project, the two public transportation programs will connect the city very soon," she said.

In a city where there are more scooters per person than in any other part of the country (there are 120,000 scooters in Kaohsiung, a city with a population of 150,000), however, it is a daunting task to persuade citizens to leave behind their vehicles and take public transportation, especially in view of public frustration over the city's inefficient bus service over the years.

Yeh Chu-Ian

* Date of Birth: Feb. 13, 1949

* Education: LL.B., Fu Jen Catholic University

* Spouse: Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), a political dissident during the White Terror who immolated himself 16 years ago when security agents tried to arrest him on sedition charges for advocating Taiwan's independence

* Career: Acting Kaohsiung mayor (2005); senior presidential adviser (2005); vice premier (2004-2005); chairwoman of the Council for Hakka Affairs (2002-2004); minister of transportation and communications (2000-2002); legislator (1990-2000)

* Publications: The relationship between media freedom and freedom of speech, Volume 4; Taiwan's media and media control

"The cultivation of citizens' habits of taking public transportation is the key factor to a successful public transportation system. Before the MRT line and Light Rail Transit System are completed, we are currently trying to improve the city's bus industry," Yeh explained.

Due to serious financial difficulties, it is almost impossible for Kaohsiung's bus industry to improve its bus service.

"The transportation bureau is working out a solution with the bus industry. We are encouraging the privatization of the industry, and are willing to provide some rights of the road and subsidies to help them improve their facilities and services," she said.

Yeh used Taipei City's experience to defend her administration's public transportation projects.

"The Taipei City Government spent more than 10 years to establish the MRT lines and create a public transportation network by connecting the system with bus routes. Residents opposed the city government's plan to open up exclusive bus lanes, but in the end, the project turned out to be successful and brought faster and better bus service to Taipei residents," she said.

"So it takes years to complete a public transportation network, and even longer for residents to trust public transportation and be willing to take advantage of it," she added.

Asked whether the MRT scandal has affected citizens' trust of the city government, Yeh paused, then said it was a misconception that the scandal frustrated citizens.

"Let me give you some figures. A recent poll showed that 87 percent of the citizens said they hope the MRT construction continues, and more than 70 percent said they are still confident in the city," Yeh said.

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