Sat, Sep 10, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Taipei mayor paying for ‘crying wolf,’ critics say

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je exercises his fingers in an activity organized for elderly people by the city’s Department of Social Welfare yesterday in Taipei.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) has “cried wolf” and consequently destroyed his credibility by retaining the build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract for the Taipei Dome complex, residents opposed to the project said yesterday.

A dozen residents staged a protest in front of the Taipei City Hall to decry Ko’s decision.

Songshan Tobacco Factory Tree Protection Union convener Arthur Yo (游藝) said Ko had made an “absurd” decision, which Yo said was based solely on a “hollow” letter of consent drafted by Farglory that stopped short of any substantial commitments to fix problems it has caused the project.

Farglory on Thursday afternoon — just hours after Ko announced the decision — “slapped the Taipei City Government in the face” by saying that it would only comply with existing city construction bylaws and raising doubts over the legitimacy of safety standards, Yo said.

“Had the lawyers hired by the city government not able to see through Farglory’s wordplay?” he asked.

Ko had delivered an ultimatum to Farglory in the form of an official document, saying that the contract would be dissolved if it did not pass a license change in three months, Yo said.

“However, he treated the document like trash after seeing that Farglory had failed to meet the requirement,” Yo said, adding that by making a “seriously wrong” decision, Ko had trampled on the city’s dignity and acquiesced to the corporation’s extortion.

Yo said that questions abound over the administrative procedures that granted the project its construction license.

He said that he had initiated lawsuits against former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), whose dealings during their mayoral tenures are being investigated by the Taipei District Court.

He said that Ko has refrained from becoming entangled in a lawsuit with Farglory apparently out of concern over a potential settlement, estimated in the billions, that the city would have to pay the conglomerate if the contract is dissolved.

He said that Ko should not be so worried, as the sum could be offset by the city completing the construction of a half-finished hotel and an office building in the complex and leasing out their superficies.

Wild At Heart Legal Defense Association lawyer Tsai Ya-ying (蔡雅瀅) said that the city should not just focus on the complex’s public safety issues and neglect alleged corruption in connection with the project, giving as an example the bidding process, which she said was rigged in Farglory’s favor.

Tsai said that the environmental impact assessment and urban design review processes for the project, as well as the issuance of its construction license, are being investigated by the Taipei High Administrative Court.

She urged legislators and Taipei city councilors of the Democratic Progressive Party — which in a campaign commercial released in January criticized the Dome complex as a corruption-ridden project — to proactively investigate the project instead of treating it with indifference.

Xinren Borough (新仁) Warden Wu Chien-te (吳建德) said that stagnant water in the Taipei Dome had caused borough residents sanitation issues.

Saying that Ko’s decision had likely caused Farglory to despise him, Wu called on Ko to “toughen up” and dissolve the contract.

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