Interview with Kazumi Matsui, newly-elected mayor of Hiroshima

Interviewed by Takashi Takamoto, News Editor

On April 11, the day after the mayoral election, the Chugoku Shimbun asked Kazumi Matsui, 58, the newly-elected mayor of Hiroshima, about his positions with regard to pending issues, including how the site of the former Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium will be utilized and the administration of the city. With Liberal Democratic and New Komei party members that supported Mr. Matsui in the election comprising the majority of seats in the city assembly, he stressed that he would ensure decision making processes are open to the public so that decisions are not the result of collusion.

You won the election by a sizable margin of 165,000 votes. What are your thoughts on this?
Although my visibility among the public was low, I received the full backing of the supporters of lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komei Party, Hiroshima prefectural assembly members, and city assembly members.

Your supporters among members of the city assembly make up the majority of the assembly. Are you concerned about the possibility of backstage deal making with these supporters?
If the public believes decisions are being made in collusion, it's because the decision making processes have not been clearly demonstrated to them. With reasonable explanation, this will not occur. I intend to fulfill my accountability to the public.

During the election campaign, you said you would reconsider the proposed plan for utilizing the site of the former Municipal Baseball Stadium. That plan includes a green public space and other facilities.
My idea for the site involves creating a lively place where people, and especially young people, can gather. I hope the discussion will unfold in line with this idea.

Mayors for Peace has been seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons by the year 2020. What are your thoughts in this regard?
The national government holds authority over military forces, while the municipal government must protect residents' lives. In this respect, they play different roles. The City of Hiroshima will appeal for nuclear abolition with all its might, but it is not in a position to materialize this goal. We may aim at abolition, but in reality, we can only call for its fulfillment. We will continue to appeal to those who have the power to realize this aim.

Hiroshima West Airport in Nishi Ward is now operated by the prefecture. Will you work to shift its jurisdiction to the city?
Why was Hiroshima Airport relocated to its current site? What is the planning behind our prefecture-wide transportation systems? I would like to discuss these matters candidly with the prefectural government.

How will you tackle administration and finance reforms?
The City of Hiroshima is burdened by a heavy volume of city bonds, far more than the city's finances can support. To address this situation, I would like to ask the citizens for their cooperation. I myself want to demonstrate my determination by cutting personnel expenses for the mayor, city staff, and city assembly members.

You made a campaign promise that the current bidding system, which has encouraged competition, be reconsidered. Why?
From the point of view of encouraging competition, the bidding system has been a success, but I think it has gone to an extreme. When the bidding is open to such a degree, particular businesses which have the capacity to carry out projects at low cost can monopolize the market. The city should be permitted to protect local businesses that are vital for the community. The bidding system should not end up having a negative impact on local residents by harming their workplaces and livelihoods.

(Originally published on April 12, 2011)