1989 / 3月
Jackie Chen /photos courtesy of Wei-chang Wang /tr. by Phil Newell
Wu Po-hsiung, the much watched mayor of Taipei City, has already been at this post for half a year now. What kinds of changes have there been in his way of thinking and work style over the past half year? Have a listen to what he himself has to say.
Since taking office, my number one job has always been getting traffic in order. This is the issue about which reporters ask me most frequently. My answer is always to reveal the statistics, and let everyone assign their own grades.
Since last year, the number of cars in Taipei has increased by 100,000. If last September nothing had been done, everybody can imagine the degree of traffic headaches now. Last December the Bureau of Traffic did an investigation of major routes. The results show that although the number of vehicles has increased, the time taken to finish a route has been reduced. And deaths and injuries have been reduced. Most satisfying is that the city government has not needed to add one extra policeman. Everything has relied on the private taxi drivers' Green Cross organization and volunteer police.
Of course many people still complain, but this is unfair to those volunteers who brave the weather. I guarantee everyone, the putting in order of traffic will be carried out permanently, and the more that is done, the better it will get.
The problems now are hardware; construction is not fast enough. In the future the traffic signal system will be completely computerized, which will take three years. We are also encouraging construction of new parking lots, and temporary high-rise lots in the meantime.
Of course the fundamental solution is to allow people to drive less. The mass transit system must be finished quickly. Before this, the bus system must be strengthened, and routes rationalized. I often feel that Taipei people are spoiled; you want them to walk a few steps and they aren't willing. They just park anywhere and create traffic jams.
I want to stress one point about the traffic situation--the mayor and the city residents are all on the same side. I get caught in traffic jams, too. It makes me extremely anxious, not because I am wasting time, but because I don't know how many people are in their cars cursing me!
Aside from the traffic problem, I think that many people are concerned about air quality in Taipei City. According to statistics of the Environmental Protection Department, more than ninety percent of the air pollution in Taipei City is created by vehicles. Only the remainder is by factories or construction sites. At present, the most urgent thing is how to make the exhaust fumes from cars and motorcycles be controlled within a certain standard.
Recently, we started up a large motorcycle manufacturing factory, which will test motor cycles at no cost. Those that are unqualified will be immediately adjusted. As for cars, now you can say that the relevant law has already been set. I hope that everyone will strictly respect it. But this is just coping with the symptoms. The cure of the root of the problem is for the mass transit system to be finished quickly, then this will allow people not to drive.
Another reason for air pollution is that there are too few green areas. Currently, many parks are being opened. In several small places, we have adopted the method that planting one more tree still counts as one more tree. And for every school campus and playground, we encourage trees and grass to be planted wherever it is possible. And we encourage people to greenify their balconies, rooftop gardens, and to "adopt a sidewalk tree"; guidance activities such as these have never been interrupted.
In handling the city government, I often have a feeling that many matters really have a simple rationality to them; it's only that "incorrect assumptions" make problems become more complicated.
Like the traffic problem. Currently we are clearing up the aroades and sidewalks. I have often said, the government absolutely does not only stand in opposition and bans everything, but hopes to use reason to explain things clearly. And so it is that taking up the arcades is something that should not be done; it will create inconvenience for others. I hope everyone will cooperate and participate and make things convenient for others.
A great many people desire to live in Taipei City, because of education for their children, because life and buying things are convenient, because there are numerous job opportunities . . . these are its advantages. On the other hand, because everyone pours into Taipei, they pay the price of a lower quality of life, of dirt and pollution. How to decrease these weaknesses and develop strengths is the direction in which we are striving.
In addition, I feel that there is a disconnection between the spiritual and material life in Taipei City. This is the matter about which we must be especially awakened. Sometimes I laugh at my friends. They wear watches that are more and more expensive, but their outlook on punctuality is worse and worse. I often think that we should be able to develop deeper culture using the consuming power of Taipei residents. But the problem is how to do it. Taipei cannot just go "nouveau riche." This point deserves thought.
Many people are concerned that I announced I will not participate in the elections for Taipei City mayor at the end of this year. People still say to me, Mayor, why have you stressed that you will not run for so long. I want to clarify this point; I have not "stressed," but it has been for "a long time." Some people ask me this question, I naturally respond truthfully. Because my answer has always been the same, it gives the impression that I am deliberately stressing it.
In fact, it's just that I feel that Taipei City has many problems. I work every day for more than ten hours. There is not enough time to distribute for my official duties. So I have no time to lay the groundwork to run in the election. Not to mention the fact that, as far as the candidates for mayor are concerned, I feel that there are many whose subjec tive and objective conditions are more appropriate than mine.
But regardless of whether or not I run, I guarantee the people of Taipei that I will tackle each day I have the job, and hope to quicken the work of city government. Whether or not I continue as mayor is not important, because for Taipei, the mayor may change, but the direction of city government will not.
Since becoming mayor I sleep six or seven hours a night. The work is high pressure, but I don't bring my troubles home. Even if documents come home, I wait until before work in the morning when I'm thinking most clearly to see them. I have never stopped exercising, playing ping-pong and bad-minton with my wife. I eat at home two or three times a week. I leave half of Sunday to myself, and mostly go back to Chungli to visit my father. He is over ninety years old and has given me constant support in many ways. Although he is healthy, the time I spend with him is still too little, and I feel ashamed.
I never developed towards academics, perhaps I haven't the right stuff for studying. But the more one gets involved in working in society, the more one needs to study. I encourage those who have the time to study a little more. But to come back, accumulated experience from ordinary work is also knowledge. Because there is little extra time in my job, I can only absorb the part that is related to the scope of my work.
In my career I have had many roles--provincial assemblyman, county magistrate, head of the Taiwan Alcohol and Tobacco Monopoly Bureau, chairman of the board of a bank, chief of the Secretariat of the Kuomintang Central Committee, and Minister of the Interior. I should say I am very lucky, because I have had the chance to get involved in impor tant work, such as the lifting of martial law and overseeing national and local elections in my four years and two months as Minister of the Interior. I hope that I will be able to leave behind some marks.
As for the post of mayor of Taipei, it is certainly an action job. Problems that come to me are all real headaches. There are many things you can't see from the outside. Even normal func tions require blood and sweat. For example, at Chinese New Year, maintaining stable prices, smoothing out transportation, or cleaning up are all things people don't think about. But "maintaining normalcy" requires a lot of effort behind the scenes.
I have great expectations for the people of Taipei. Simply put, the main hope is that everyone will work together in many things. If you complain about traffic, think to yourself, do I respect the traffic laws? If you complain there is no greenery, then ask, has my balcony been "greenified"?
A mayor is not omnipotent. If every one will do his or her part, then when we public officials promote things, things will be a little easier.
Resolving the traffic problem requires everyone's cooperation; the photo is of a volunteer member of the Green Cross directing traffic.
"In my leg of the relay, Taipei will not run too slowly," guarantees Wu Po-hsiung.
Let's make Taipei green--after putting traffic in better order, Wu Po-hsiung is once more on the offensive. (photo by Arthur Cheng)
Taipei, get going! Wu Po-hsiung speaks at the award ceremony at the Taipei International Marathon. (photo by Vincent Chang)
The tours of historical relics sponsored by the city government met with an excellent reception from the citizens. The picture is of the observation route on Tihwa Street.