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Mayoral candidates at odds on financial issues

Date Posted: 2008-11-14

With only three campaigning days left before Sunday’s mayoral election in Naha City, the three candidates are pushing hard to let voters know what they think, and the answers are mostly diametrically opposites.

Takeshi Onaga, the 58-year-old incumbent seeking his third four-year term, is emphasizing his experience and the many things he’s done for Naha City during his tenure. Chosei Taira, a seasoned politician backed by the Communist and Socialist parties, as well as the Democratic Party of Japan, agrees with Onaga on the problems, but differs on the solutions.

Complicating the race is another challengerm Chosuke Yara, is relatively a political unknown, and he’s been trying to explain himself to the voters.
The city’s financial situation is at the forefront of every campaign rally, and Onaga hammers home his message the city must convert government jobs to private company positions in order to cut payroll costs. He’s calling for large companies to step up, join in privatizing companies and absorbing the employees. The 65-year-old Taira says “I don’t want to decide by myself. The important things have to be asked of citizens, and then decide what is best to do.”

Taira is a staunch advocate of citizens being involved, and says “citizens have to tell me where to go. I want to have a clean government.” A staunch opponent of plans to build a new Naha City Offices building, he says “we don’t need to build new offices yet, because we have financial problems. There’s no need to be in a hurry.”

Mayor Onaga vigorously disagrees, saying “Naha City’s building is too old, and there are cracks in the structure, making it hard on employees and the public.” He points out the building is on a very narrow space, is old and too small, has small elevators that are already problematic with citizens, and adds there’s simply not enough parking space. “Besides,” Onaga reminds voters, “plans for a new City Hall have already been approved by both citizens and Assembly members, and it’s an ongoing process.”

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