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Naha Military Port move key to Urasoe mayoral election

Date Posted: 2005-02-04

Urasoe voters go to the polls Sunday to pick a new mayor.

They have distinct choices.

The incumbent mayor, Mitsuo Gima, and one challenger think pretty much alike. The other candidate is on the other end of the political scale.

The issues confronting Urasoe are financial. The shifting of Naha Military Port to Urasoe is a hot button that links financial concerns with politics.

Morinobu Nishihira, 54, is making his first venture into politics. He is backed by the Communist Party. The other challenger is Minoru Higa, a 61-year-old businessman who’s twice before been beaten in tries for the mayor’s office.

Nishihira is anti-military, and wants the U.S. Camp Kinser base closed. He opposes moving Naha Military Port, saying the westside coastal development is a waste of money.

The mayor, Mitsuo Gima, asks what Nishihira’s talking about. “Wasting money? No. What do you think about people and their workplaces. People need jobs.” Gima says the reforms being mandated by the federal government will require more creative fiscal management, and says “westside coast development needs definitely to be for all Okinawan people.”

Gima’s second challenger, Minoru Higa, agrees with him. “I agree we need to develop the west side coast, and yes, it’s the place for young people and tourists.” Gima has the backing of many women and ladies group, but has lost twice before.
The present mayor is popular, and most acknowledge he knows every situation going on in Urasoe City. The average citizen is 35, births are averaging 1,600 a year. As a young city, the needs are often different than more established cities, and Gima reacts to that. He is aware of requirements in childcare, healthcare, education needs and the sacrifices parents must make.

Jobs are coming from a variety of sources, and Gima is proficient t getting the subsidy money from the Prefecture and Central Government.

Opposition candidate Nishihira won’t get subsidy money to back his election, but says “we’ll never give up the fight against the military port development. We have to spend that money on health care and kindergartens.” Nishihira also says utility rates are too high, and wants to bring water costs down.

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