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Three vie for mayor’s desk in Uruma City election

Date Posted: 2009-04-16

Voters in Okinawa’s third largest city go to the polls Sunday to choose a new mayor for Uruma City.

All three candidates—one a former Yonashiro Town mayor, one a former Prefecture civil engineer construction director and another the former Uruma City Assembly chairman--are running as independents. This is the first mayoral election since the 2005 merger of four municipalities to form Uruma City. Prior to the budget-mandated merger four years ago, Ishikawa, Gushikawa, Katsuren and Yonashiro were separate municipalities.

The former Yonashiro Town mayor, Junsuke Gushiken, is building his campaign on financial stability. The 67-year-old politician is stressing his role in uniting the four municipalities to form Uruma City, and is promoting business on Henza Island. Yuuji Shuri, a former Okinawa Prefecture civil engineering leader, is going the opposite way, questioning the effectiveness of merging the four cities and towns. The 61-year-old Shuri says he doesn’t think citizens are happy, and he’s asking for current opinions.

The third candidate, 56-year-old Toshio Shimabukuro, is also campaigning as an independent, but has the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party. Shimabukuro has a whole list of things he’s promising if elected, including bringing tourists to Uruma City, fixing children’s programs, providing jobs for young people, repairing decrepit school facilities, resurrecting construction of an IT support center, and pressing forward with Nakagusuku Harbor maintenance.

Shuri and Gushiken both agree on the Nakagusuku Harbor issues, saying there is a need to invite more businesses to the harbor. They disagree sharply, though, on how to reform the government’s financial situation. Gushiken says staffing cutbacks should be considered on a gender-equal basis, while Shuri is calling for 10% cuts in the mayor and vice mayor’s salaries. He also wants to cut out leaders’ car drivers, and wants whoever is elected mayor to account for all spending by the mayor’s office.
Shimabukuro is calling for consolidation of Uruma City offices. He says offices and other facilities should be co-located, and public facilities reduced to cut the budget.

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