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Ginowan mayor blasted; not ‘taking care of business’

Date Posted: 2004-10-07

Ginowan residents are angry with their mayor, charging he’s spending too much time protesting the August helicopter crash while making costly mistakes by not taking care of the city’s business.

Mayor Youichi Iha has been in the media almost daily, leading the protests against Futenma Air Station and the August 13th crash of a helicopter onto Okinawa International University campus. And that’s the problem, citizens say, charging Iha has taken so much time dealing with the military issue that he’s allowed more serious problems to develop.

A key complaint is the city’s failure to set up construction work for underground drains construction, resulting in Ginowan having to pay an additional ¥45,000,000 to vendors. Residents and local Assembly members are demanding Iha be held accountable. “The city mayor’s payroll should be cut!” said one.

Another problem his leadership over the city’s Senior Citizens’ Home, now embroiled in a scandal charging workers stole money from the elderly citizens under their care. Concerned citizens say the employees have been systematically stealing money from the elderly for years, partially because the older people suffer dementia and don’t know how much money they really have in their bank books. The staff typically accompanies its patients to the bank when making withdrawals.

“Those people have no judgment ability,” says a concerned citizen, “with no knowledge of what should be taken care of.”

The Okinawa Prefecture had warned the city to take responsibility for the citizens’ money, and to have auditors check everything. Ginowan City has said ‘no, we cannot check the private bank books. It is a privacy thing.” Staff though, continue to keep the bank books and inkan from residents, and taking money from them. One person charged staff with taking money “just as if it’s their own bank book. How can they say it’s a privacy thing. Nonsense.”

“If there are no auditors checking, then there is money being taken by staff,” says the Prefecture. The prefecture’s own senior citizens’ home has auditors routinely check, and bank books and inkan are kept under lock and key, with frequent monitoring to insure its residents are protected.

There is a rule, officials say, that “those people who are senile and suffering dementia have their property and savings money protected by setting up a lawyers group.” Michiko Horikawa, a women’s group representative, says “bank books and inkan should not be kept at the seniors citizens’ homes. Those lawyer groups should take care of things. Otherwise this scandal will never go away.”

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