Sun, Aug 24, 2014 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Tainan mayor relies on record

POLL POSITION:Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai leads in public opinion surveys in the run-up to November elections, but he said nothing is settled until the votes are counted

By Hung Jui-chin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

There should be no special emphasis on which term a mayor is serving in office, as they must nevertheless identify the path of the city’s development and solidify its infrastructure, Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) said in a recent interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper).

Lai, a member of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) running for re-election in the Nov. 29 elections, said the only difference between a first and second term is that, in the second term, a mayor can build on policies enacted in the first.

Lai said that over the past four years of his tenure, he has boosted the flood-prevention rates of many districts in the city and improved public transport by cooperating with the Taiwan Railways Administration to place trains on a MRT-like schedule across all 37 districts of Greater Tainan.

Greater Tainan’s road construction, safety ratings, environmental protection, sanitation and disease prevention rankings among cities and municipalities nationwide have all seen record increases, he said, adding that the city has won 679 competitions orchestrated by the central government, including 372 in which the city received “A” or “A+” grades.

“Greater Tainan must focus on improving the quality of life of its residents; it is one of the core values of the city government,” Lai said.

To that end, the city has 862 large-scale investment projects amounting to NT$806 billion (US$26 billion) in value, he added.

“The municipality is also trying to revitalize the industrial sector and create more than 80,000 local jobs,” the mayor added.

Lai said he did not need to think about how to beat his own record at this stage, adding that he needed only to concentrate on ensuring the municipal government keeps working and focus on the upcoming elections.

However, Lai is not without his detractors, who refer to the controversial underground rerouting of railway tracks, forcing land seizures and the relocation of households, as an example of contentious items in the mayor’s record.

Houses on the east side of the current tracks in downtown Greater Tainan are to be demolished to make way for underground tracks. When the project is completed, the original surface tracks are to be removed to make way for a park and a commercial district, according to city government plans.

Protesters oppose the land seizures and forced relocations, favoring an alternative proposal that would “borrow” the land from residents during construction, a plan the mayor rejected.

In response, Lai said that the Control Yuan report on the issue has made clear that the proposed route had not veered to the east and that no corporations were involved.

The project has not violated environmental protection laws nor circumvented administrative procedures, Lai said.

“No one has a chance to profit from a single inch of [seized] land,” Lai said.

Lai said he has a duty to comply with central government projects as the administrative head in the region, adding however, that he would do his best to solve the problem and protect the rights of the people involved.

Lai said the city need not fear what he described as slander from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), because Greater Tainan residents know best what has been done in the past four years, adding that the November elections would be the best time for residents to decide whether the municipal government had done its duty over the past years.

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