Although many heavyweights within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have shied away from running against independent Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi (傅崑萁), Tsai Chi-ta (蔡啟塔) undertook the mission, saying he strongly believes that the county’s voters would appreciate his love for the county and stand by him.
Tsai, who was diagnosed with oral cancer in 1999, but has since recovered, said he had one foot in the grave before being brought back and that he intends to devote every moment he has to the county.
Having acted as residents’ representative, chair of the representative’s council, county commissioner and county councilor, Tsai said he has tried to be with the people from the day he started in politics.
“I visited Hualien residents the day I decided to accept the party’s nomination,” Tsai said in a recent interview with the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), adding that he hoped every vote he received came from people he had met face-to-face.
Tsai said that meeting with people in person helps him understand the needs of the county’s residents.
Quoting Chinese sage Lao Tzu (老子), Tsai said: “To run the state is akin to cooking small fish (治大國如烹小鮮),” citing an example of how he came up with ideas to secure more funding from the central government as well as using a limited budget to connect small streets in the county to main roads.
The quote from Lao Tzu means that a leader should rule as if frying small fish in a pan, not worrying about whether they will be burned and only flipping the pan when the time is right. The quote embodies the central ideal of the Taoist approach on government, which is the concept of “To rule without taking unnecessary action.”
Tsai said he placed great importance on maintaining good relationships with the public while implementing government policies, adding that if he were elected commissioner, he would seek to improve the city council’s ties to the central government.
Tsai said he would continue Fu’s policy for free school lunches and admission waivers, but added that he would allocate a specific budget to fund the program in accordance with regulations.
That would allow for better meals while ensuring that education budgets are not affected, Tsai said.
As to whether students from wealthier families would be excluded from the free-lunch policy, Tsai said he would defer to the students’ parents, adding that he would also include a budget for breakfast to improve the health and well-being of children from poorer areas.
Tsai also suggested the central government combine Hualien County and Taitung County into a “Huadong prefecture” to preserve the last vestiges of Taiwan’s traditional, slow-paced lifestyle.
Tsai added that the prefecture should also prioritize social welfare policies.
Together, the two counties have more than NT$30 billion (US$1 billion) in funding, which could be doubled if the two were merged, Tsai said.
Tsai also suggested that a district could be established especially for Aborigines, allowing the prefecture to become a case study for the rest of Taiwan and balancing the nation’s regional development.