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Tainan Citizens Select Preferred Location of New Municipal Center

In Taiwan’s first example of an open decision-making forum, nearly 200 citizens took part in discussions to decide the best location for Tainan’s new municipal center. The discussion and dialogue, which went on for a marathon day and a half on November 26-27, yielded the selection of three top candidate locations. In order of preference, the three chosen sites were: the north side of Backloan Boulevard in Shanhua; the ABC periphery of the Southern Taiwan Science Park; and an area adjacent to Kan-see Farm in Sinshih. 
The forum also generated suggestions and ideas about the new municipal center itself, and about open decision-making. The city government said that the conclusions and suggestions from the citizens’ enthusiastic discussions would be taken into consideration in future policy-making.
Private citizens’ eagerness to join in the discussion was not dampened by the weather turning chilly and wet. The oldest participant was an 83-year-old, who arrived at the venue early and joined energetically in the exchange of views and debate on Tainan’s future development.
The meeting was led by Mr. Shie Guo-ching, the chairperson of the National Association for the Promotion of Community Universities (NAPCU). After delivering a summary of the background to the meeting, Mr. Shie opened discussions among each group of citizens seated around tables. The group at each table wrote their ideas on a poster, and then one representative from each table took turns to stand up and share these ideas with the whole gathering. 
The thoughts and ideas expressed by attending citizens were widely varied, and demonstrated how deeply people thought and cared about the city’s future development. They included suggestions for basing decisions on the city’s long-term development over the next half century, for meeting the need to improve mass transportation, for making the municipal center multi-functional, for protecting farmland, for repurposing the old municipal center and keeping it in active use, for strengthening the functions of district offices, for emphasizing low-density development and the utilization of renewable energy, for increasing tertiary industry, for enacting legislation to give binding force to the decisions of citizen forums, and much more.    
After this, Mr. Shie announced the three locations that had been selected as most suitable for the siting of the new municipal center, explaining how the selection and order of preference was decided according to the answers to a questionnaire.
The meeting was rounded off with a general discussion, and with concluding summaries delivered by the Director-General of the Urban Development Bureau, Wu Hsin-hsiu, and the Chairperson of the Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission, Chao Ching-hui. 
Director-General Wu mentioned that, if it is decided to construct the new municipal center, the city government will conduct an assessment of the land and available budget with a view to finding a financial balance for the land development.
Chairperson Chao said that the views and suggestions made by citizens at the forum would as quickly as possible be compiled together with responses from the relevant city government departments, and would be posted on the website of the open government forum. She added that working out how to incorporate citizen forums into the government’s decision-making process, and making these into a necessary mechanism, was something that could not be achieved just overnight. She hoped that citizens’ enthusiastic engagement would help government officials to achieve this in the most appropriate form, and to establish it free from deficiency as a cornerstone of representative democracy.
Tainan City Government believes that this open decision-making forum on the new municipal center serves as an excellent demonstration of civil power. It actualizes the democratic value of citizens’ participation in open decision-making, and its points of consensus and suggestions will be included in the written report on the outcome of the decisions concerned.