The New Taipei City Government’s decision on Tuesday to stray from common practice regarding typhoon work and school cancelations triggered a spat among local government heads, with Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) calling the decision politically motivated.
Due to the effects of Typhoon Maria, which passed through northern Taiwan from late Tuesday to early yesterday, classes and work were canceled yesterday in New Taipei City, Taoyuan and Hsinchu, as well as in Matsu, Hsinchu, Miaoli and Yilan counties.
The New Taipei City Government was among the first to make a cancelation announcement at about 9pm on Tuesday, while the Taipei and Keelung city governments an hour later decided that work and classes would operate as usual, citing Central Weather Bureau data indicating that the expected amount of rainfall and wind speed did not meet the criteria for school and work cancelation.
It was the first time in six years that Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung have failed to make an uniform decision on whether to cancel work and school on a typhoon day, a practice that has been observed since 2012 out of consideration of the large number of people who commute among the three administrative regions.
Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) of the Democratic Progressive Party on Facebook accused New Taipei City of letting the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections get in the way of the nation’s operations.
Considering the bureau’s statistics, the three municipalities were initially leaning toward not canceling work and school, Lin said.
“However, New Taipei City sent us a message after 8pm on Tuesday saying that it was going to cancel work and school at 9pm regardless of what we decided,” Lin said, adding that the decision left him and Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) dumbfounded and put them in a difficult position.
Lin said he and Ko believed that New Taipei City’s insistence on canceling work and school regardless of the data was an attempt to prevent New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from coming under attack for being abroad when a typhoon swept through his city.
Chu returned from Singapore yesterday evening.
Lin said that one of his aides advised him to follow in New Taipei City’s footsteps, as he is seeking re-election this year, but he chose not to, because he wanted to stand by his principles.
New Taipei City Deputy Mayor Lee Shu-chuan (李四川) said neither he nor Chu is running for office and that what mattered to them the most was resident safety.
“Only God can accurately predict the weather,” Lee said, adding that it is never easy for a local government to decide whether to cancel work and school, because public reactions tend to be mixed.
Meanwhile, Ko defended his decision not to declare a typhoon day, saying that his principle has always been “respecting the [opinions of] experts” and following standard practices.
“Experts already told us that the typhoon did not meet the criteria for school and work cancelation. If we spend a lot of time cultivating this team of experts, but choose not to listen to their opinions, then what is the point of having them?” Ko said.
As many companies have employees from Taipei and New Taipei City, several firms, including Pegatron Corp (和碩), KKBOX Inc and CoolBitX (庫幣科技), decided to call a holiday for all employees.
Additional reporting by Lai Hsiao-tung, Huang Chien-hao and Ann Maxon
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