On Sunday, we had the first formal meeting of the Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents. The program was simple, but all of it was important, and all of it got done.
First, we all received our formal notices of appointment from the deputy mayor of Kawasaki. This was when we officially became representatives, with a term of office lasting until the end of March 2012. The deputy mayor then made a short speech welcoming us to the assembly and encouraging us to contribute to the city. He said that, when Kawasaki was founded in 1924, it had only 50,000 residents. It now has 1.41 million, is the eighth largest city in Japan, and is the fastest growing. Considering that the name means nothing more than motorbikes to most people outside the country, that’s pretty impressive. He also said that direct flights between Haneda and London will start this summer, which will be helpful for us; Haneda is right next to Kawasaki, unlike Narita, which is on the far side of Tokyo.
Second, we had to choose a chair and deputy chair. Ms Elok was elected as the chair, the first female chair that the Assembly has had in its fourteen-year history. (It’s had seven male chairs.) She’s from Indonesia, and was the deputy chair of the last assembly. Mr Opango was elected as the deputy chair; he’s from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and was the deputy chair a few assemblies ago.
The election went smoothly, although the election for chair was fiercely contested, in the sense that the two candidates were neck-and-neck with twenty two of twenty six votes counted.
Finally, we confirmed the schedule for this year.
We finished an hour early. Apparently the elections have taken a lot longer in the past, with people arguing about the voting methods, so I think time was allowed for that. However, the secretariat seem to have learned from those experiences, because the voting system they proposed was simple but reasonable. People could nominate themselves or others; those nominated by others could then withdraw. If there was only one candidate, which didn’t happen, there would be a show of hands to confirm it, and if that didn’t reach half of the representatives nominations would be reopened. With multiple candidates, there was a secret ballot; if the candidate with most votes did not have a majority, the top two candidates would enter a run-off election. However, while there were ballots for both posts, there was no need for a run-off, so it took less than an hour.
The next meeting, in May, is for deciding what we are going to investigate over the next couple of years. Obviously, the details will develop over time, but we have to set the broad topics first. I suspect that the next meeting will not finish early.
I’m looking forward to it.