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New city consolidates services in Miyako

Date Posted: 2005-10-06

It’s a big city now, ready to serve the constituents of Miyako Islands.

Miyakojima City was created October 1st, merging Hirara City, Gusukube, Irabu, Ueno and Shimoji. The coming three months will see administration of the five separate cities and a town in Okinawa’s southernmost region into a homogeneous city operating more efficiently and inexpensively.

That’s the plan, at least, and the government says it will take Y10,000,000,000 to make it happen for the new combined city of 56,000 inhabitants. The merger triggered by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Trinity Plan to slash government makes Miyakojima City the Okinawa Prefecture’s eighth largest city. It has been months in the making, with workers from each of the old cities pulling together to battle an increasingly tight financial situation.

The next big step is on the November 13th calendar, when voters across the reconstituted area go to the polls to elect a new mayor and City Assembly. Former Hirara City mayor Akira Ishimine, 72, and Gusukube Town’s former deputy mayor, Toshihiko Shimoji, 59, will vie for the top spot. More than 40 candidates have filed to run for posts in the new Assembly.

The winners’ first responsibility will be establishing the coming year’s budget.

Ceremonies marking the new city’s formation were staged at Miyako Airport, where Miss Miyako girls stood at the arrival gates welcoming tourists inbound from Tokyo for vacations.

Each of the former city offices is now a shadow of its former self, with boxes being packed and readied to move to new locations under consolidation. At least 138 employees will receive written appointments to new positions in the reorganized local government.

Irabu residents are particularly pleased with the merger, saying it’s “going to be great for the tourism business.” One official noted that Irabu area will benefit now from the Miyako Triathlon, and will promote its regional interests within the new city.

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