Fri, Jan 08, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Appointees to take over from elected chiefs after upgrade

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) affirmed yesterday that, after the upgrading and merging of several cities and counties to the status of municipalities later this year, the townships within them would be upgraded to become districts, with township chiefs to be replaced by district heads appointed by the government.

Jiang made the remarks after a meeting with representatives of local governments that will be affected by the upgrade.

“Everyone who attended the meeting agreed that the administrative upgrades would not be retracted in response to protests by township council members, because a policy decision at this scale is not child’s play,” Jiang said after the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

He was referring to recent complaints by elected township representatives, who face losing their jobs after the upgrades.

Township mayors would be replaced by appointed district chiefs, while township councilors would be replaced by district policy advisers, Jiang said.

“We would not consider holding elections for district chiefs or create district councils, because that’s not what the law calls for,” he said.

However, Jiang said he understood the worries that some people may have, and added that the central and local governments would hold further discussions to iron out the details, although the principles agreed upon yesterday would not be changed.

Aside from the future of township heads and township councilors, money is also among the top concerns of local government heads from cities and counties that will be upgraded.

At the end of the year, Taipei County will become a directly administered city called Sinbei City (新北市), while Taichung City and County, Tainan City and County and Kaohsiung City and County will be merged into directly administered cities, in accordance with a decision the Executive Yuan made last year at the request of the cities and counties.

After the administrative status upgrades, the new directly controlled cities will be granted bigger budgets and more power. However, bigger burdens could accompany the administrative upgrades. For example, worried that they may be out of jobs once townships become districts in new cities, many township mayors and councilors have asked whether the applications for administrative upgrades could be withdrawn, or if district councils could be elected.

Under the current system, city districts do not have district councils, and district chiefs are appointed by the mayor rather than being elected.

Local government heads, such as Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智), have expressed concern that the new cities might end up with huge debts.

“For example, the central government currently helps to pay elderly farmers’ pensions in Tainan County, but once we become the enlarged Tainan City, we will have to take care of most of the pension ourselves,” Su said. “Since we’re a more agricultural county, that would not be fair to us.”

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