Today we had another meeting of the Kawasaki Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents. We are still working on the preliminaries, but we have, at least nearly finished.
Today’s job was to choose the topics we will discuss in detail over the rest of our term. My goal for my subcommittee was to have the whole list and order fixed, so that we could start actual discussions next time (which is not until September). We very, very nearly got there, deciding on the whole list and on the topics we would discuss first. Thus, next time, we will decide on the rest of the order at the beginning of the meeting, and then move on to proper discussions. I am optimistic that we will be able to decide on the order within thirty minutes, which should leave a substantial amount of time for real discussion.
As I proposed, we split the topics into things we could cover quickly, and things that would take longer. We decided on the order for the things we can cover quickly, and on the first of the longer topics, so there are only four longer topics to put in order. This is made a little more difficult by the fact that we almost certainly won’t get to the last of the longer topics, so that putting something down the order is equivalent to abandoning it. However, I think that the subcommittee will be amenable to deciding things within a relatively short space of time.
One thing I realised while we were discussing potential topics was that a lot of important topics are really about the national level. Immigration, pensions, rules on family names, voting rights: these are all important topics to foreign residents, but the amount the city of Kawasaki can do is very limited. I am trying to encourage the subcommittee to concentrate on topics that fall within the city’s competence, because that’s probably where we can achieve the most. If the national government has to deal with it, we can get Kawasaki to push for a particular decision, but that’s all. On the other hand, if it’s within Kawasaki’s competence, we can actually get it fixed.
For example, of the two short themes we are hoping to look at next time, one concerns immigration. Foreign residents of Japan can’t bring their parents over as dependents, and for people from a lot of cultures, that is a problem. I’d also like to be able to offer my mother accommodation in her old age, when she gets there, although whether she’d want to come to Japan is a different question. However, this is a matter for immigration law. All we can ask the city to do is to petition the central government.
On the other hand, the other one concerns the ability to carry out administrative procedures at the weekend. Kawasaki already provides facilities for Japanese residents to do the paperwork for moving in and out of Kawasaki at weekends, but foreign residents cannot. We will discuss what we’d like the city to do about that. And, of course, the city can actually take action on what we recommend, because making administrative services available on weekends is something the city can decide to do all by itself.
Thus, if we decide to make recommendations on both issues, I would expect to see results on the second much more quickly than on the first, and so I think that, as far as possible, it is better to spend our time discussing issues of the second sort.
Even more fundamental than that, however, is that we actually start spending our time discussing. I really hope that we can get the rest of the topics into order quickly next time.