Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet clears the way for `special municipality' bids

COVETED RESOURCES Under the proposed system, Taichung County and Taichung City could merge as early as December 2009 to obtain an upgrade in status

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet approved an amendment yesterday providing the legal basis for counties and cities to merge so they could meet the requirements for an upgrade to special municipality status.

At present, the only prerequisite in the Local Government Act (地方制度法) for a county or city to apply for special municipality status -- which grants it added resources, budgets and personnel -- is the size of the population.

Special municipalities are at the top of three levels of local self-governing organizations, followed by counties and provincial municipalities and then townships and county municipalities.

"We could see the merger of Taichung County and Taichung City and a promotion of Taichung to special municipality status on Dec. 20, 2009, at the earliest," Vice Minister of the Ministry of Interior Lin Mei-chu (林美珠) told a press conference after the meeting.

She said the provision was contingent on the passage of amendments to the Act and to the Law Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法) as well as the establishment of a long-stalled draft bill on an administrative zoning law.

The Cabinet also called for the reduction in the frequency of elections by extending the four-year tenure of the county magistrates and city mayors to be elected in 2009 by an additional year.

As a result of the change, the elections for the next two county magistrates and city mayors will be held in tandem with the 2014 elections for Taipei City mayor and Kaohsiung City mayor.

Also included in the amendment was the abolition of regular elections for the 319 township chiefs and the 3,771 seats in the township representative councils.

If the elections are abolished, township chiefs would be appointed by local commissioners.

Despite charges that the abolition would undermine democracy, there has been consensus since the National Development Conference in 1996, where parties drew a blueprint for the future, on the adoption of a two-level system of local government, Lin said.

To mitigate the impact of the removal of the township chief position -- a majority of which are held by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members -- the amendment said local government commissioners could retain township chiefs who have performed well, Lin said.

Asked for comment, KMT caucus whip Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said he had reservations about the proposed amendment to the Local Government Act.

Allowing people to elect township chiefs is democratic. Giving mayors and commissioners the authority to appoint township chiefs would be a "setback" for democracy, Tseng said.

Additional reporting by Flora Wang

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