Committee proposes non-elected local bosses

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Committee proposes non-elected local bosses

A presidential committee tasked with reforming grass-roots politics unveiled a proposal to eliminate local councils and replace elections for district and county chiefs with an appointment system, a drastic plan that will certainly draw heavy flak from sitting local politicians.

The presidential local autonomy development committee headed by veteran administrator Sim Dae-pyung held a press conference at the Blue House Monday to announce a package of proposals to overhaul regional politics, long plagued by allegations of corruption and inefficiency.

The committee proposed dismantling district and county councils in six metropolitan cities, including Seoul. The committee also recommended district chiefs be appointed by mayors instead of being elected. The committee, however, singled out Seoul to keep its election system for district office chiefs.

The committee led by Sim, a former South Chungcheong governor for 16 years, will submit its proposals to a parliamentary special committee on local autonomy development, which would take steps to write legislation. But the committee said some of its proposals, such as dissolving local councils, should first be discussed with the public to reach a social consensus.

In case the proposal for dissolving local councils was not adopted, the committee said the next best thing would be to end party nominations for grass-roots positions such as district office chiefs and local council members.

On the constant controversy surrounding elected education office chiefs, the committee proposed one of two changes to the current system: either replacing elected education chiefs with appointments, or having candidates for city mayors and education chiefs run in elections as running-mates. This would end conflict between mayors and education chiefs with totally different policies.

The committee’s proposals would upend the current political landscape at the grass-roots level, which has been criticized for wasting taxpayers’ money while doing little to address the needs of localities. Whether they will be adopted remains to be seen considering objections from sitting councilmen and other elected officials.

The ruling and opposition parties both broke promises to eliminate party nominations for low-level elected positions ahead of last June’s local elections. They both feared losing local political strength to the other.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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