Friday, February 17, 2006

Taiwaner of the Week

Jason Hu (scanned by Big Ell)

I picked up the latest issue of the Compass the other day while enjoying lunch at Uncle Jimmy’s Christian Kitchen. I was happy to see Taichung Mayor Jason Hu on the cover again. If I remember correctly he was on the cover four years ago. Mr.Hu won a landslide re-election and I was interested to read his plans for Taichung for the next four years.

The Compass article reminded me of the classic Simpson’s episode from year two "Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish."In this episode Monty Burns runs for governor. He is losing the election and his campaign manager tells Mr. Burns that he has lost touch with the common man. Burns decides to visit the Simpson house for a photo-op. The Burns campaign writes hard hitting questions for the family to ask:
Homer: Um, you know, Mr. Burns, my family and I, um feel that taxes are too high. Where do you stand on this highly controversial issue?
Lisa: Mr. Burns, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?
Now I know that the Compass is not a political magazine. It is primarily a magazine used to promote local restaurants and nightclubs and many of their ‘articles,’ are merely promotional pieces for the same restaurants and nightclubs. The Compass also has a huge section from the Taichung Municipal government. Needless to say I wasn’t really expecting any hard hitting questions for the head of the Taichung Municipal government. Here is a clip from Ni Howdy where Sandy meets the mayor; you can see the two guys responsible for Compass on stage with Mr. Hu.

To be fair to the Compass it is not much different than the Taichung Voice The only difference is that the Compass uses more of their own writers than the Voice. I have read an article written about a hospital in the Voice written by the project manager of the same hospital. The only thing that the Voice has going for it are the columns by Karl from Chewin in the Chung. It also has less restaurant reviews. I really wish he would post his Voice articles on his blog again. I have also learned that the Compass' writers get paid while the Voice's writers do it for free.

Here are my highlights or lowlights of the issue depending on your viewpoint.
Compass: If you look back at the last four years, what would you consider frustrating or disappointing?
Hu: Most frustrating is in regard to law and order because Taichung has been perhaps the last in crime statistics for almost 10 years. With the insufficiency of police manpower, we have the highest crime rate in three cities—Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung.
I am not sure about his reasoning but always thought Taichung led Taiwan in crime because of all of the gangsters that reside here. I also believe that the Taichung police would be much more effective if they actually did some policing. Actually that night be a bad thing because then I would have to drive the speed limit and stop a red lights.

(Is this a model of the failed Taichung Guggenheim building or one of Big Ell's Star Wars Collectable collection? You decide.)
Hu: Also, I must be honest, the possibility of Guggenheim coming to Taichung helped tremendously with expectations for real estate, plus the fact that the new city government building, new city council, new opera house, and open-air theater will be built. Most will be finished, more or less, in the next four years. All these construction plans, plus Guggenheim, stirred up speculation on the real estate market. So, land prices, quiet for about 10 years, started to shoot up and real estate has become an engine of growth in Taichung.
I almost forget about the Guggenheim Taichung; Hu’s attempt to bring world class culture to Taichung. Hu fails to really explain the whole Guggenheim debacle. I guess he blames the DPP for canceling his $400 million USD pet project. The government may have cancelled it for some other reasons but he doesn't elaborate. I am just curious about how much this failed attempt cost.

He does add one interesting tidbit about the Guggenheim: “(it) stirred up speculation on the real estate market.” Was the whole Guggenheim pipe dream just an excuse to increase real estate speculation in Taichung? A skeptic may wonder if this whole idea was in reality a way of ramping up dead real estate prices in an area of town designated to be the new heart of Taichung. I am not sure who owns most of the land in this part of town. I guess it was a win-win for private landowners and for the Taichung City Government. After all Hu thinks that being in Taichung evokes the same feelings as being in California.

Hu: I need to seek central government in building a beltway system around Taichung—the inner, center and outer rings. I need to also urge the central government to improve air and sea international linking abilities of Taichung, namely the internationalization of CCK Airport and Taichung Harbor.
I think these are both great ideas and have been for the eight years that I have been here. A fully functioning or even partially functioning International airport would be nice. It’s just too bad that it is so far away from the city center and that the infrastructure connecting it to Taichung City stinks. A beltway system is also a good idea. How about connections to the Taichung High Speed Rail while were dreaming? Why is it in Wu’er where not many people live? At least some kind of connection to the downtown would be nice. Red A once said “I imagine there will be apartments and stores built around it, someday.”
Hu: I was seriously sick, or not so seriously sick, once close to four years ago.
Were you seriously sick or weren’t you? I'm a taxpayer and I want some answers.
Compass: As all this is happening, Taichung is obviously becoming a more international city. What measures are you continuing, or new measures are you taking, to make this city even more international?
I have lived here for eight years and haven’t seen much internationalization going on. Unless you count two new free English magazines, more foriegn owned bars/restaurants and even more English teachers from continental Europe. I guess that the new science park will bring more foreigners to town but is this really internationalization? How does one measure being international? Are failed museums, Pavarotti concerts and higher real estate prices true internationalization? I guess this is why he has enlisted Michael Turton to find the answer to this problem. I would settle for sidewalks and baby changing stations in restaurants.


Update: I made a mistake that I've corrected. The Taichung Voice is no longer affiliated with AMCHAM.


Sean Reilly said...

I kept waiting for you to mention the Run, Throw, and Catch Like a Girl Olypics from SNL.

Karl said...

I don't post my Voice articles on the blog any more because I'm not real happy with what I've been writing recently. In the beginning I had a lot of fun with the content, and wrote some stuff that I laughed at even if nobody else did. Now I am straining to be funny, and the result is pretty hit and miss.

But if you like, I can E-mail the articles to you.

BigEll said...

I haven't read that many of that but did like the worst of list in this past month's Voice. It still doesn't match your on-line Sim City article. Send me them via e-mail if you get a chance.

Anonymous said...

Aah, as far as I know, The Taichung Voice is owned by AmCham, which affects the amount of four letter words (at the very least) that can be used...but I only write for them so what do I know.