“The declining birthrate is a problem. The population of Akashi City has been increasing for nine consecutive years and it has exceeded 300,000. Akashi City is ranked first in Japan in the rate of population growth among core cities. Akashi City has been working hard for a long time on measures for child-rearing. Thanks to this, the population of the child-rearing generation has been increasing rapidly, which has led to an increase in tax revenues, and the city has become more vibrant and it has also created a comfortable living environment for the elderly, so it’s really a virtuous cycle.”
Such dreamlike stories keep popping up one after another. It has been 12 years since he became mayor. He has had his share of troubles. There was even an incident in which he took responsibility and resigned. But supported by the citizens, Akashi City has become a successful example for the rest of the country to follow.
The Origin of Friendly to Everyone
“My roots, or rather, my starting point, is resistance against discrimination. I want to create a city that is kind to everyone. My younger brother, who is four years younger than me, has a disability, and when he started school, I felt a lot of unreasonableness.”
The frustration he must have felt when he was going to school was not half as bad as he thought. Yet, Mayor Izumi’s face is always cheerful.
He said, “The city provides a comfortable environment for children and the elderly, whether they suffer from dementia or financial hardship, by supporting them. That is the role of the city.”
“To this end, the city responds flexibly in such areas as budget allocations and the assignment of city staff. The accumulation of these efforts has made Akashi City what it is today. There were people who opposed us, and there were misunderstandings. There was a time when the media gave us wrong information.”
“But now, more and more people appreciate Akashi City’s efforts. This effort has attracted attention, and I was even given an opportunity to speak to the Diet about the Children’s Agency.”
“A local measure is spreading to the national government. It was worth gritting my teeth for.”
In Akashi City, medical expenses are free until the third year of high school. Childcare for the second and subsequent children is also free. School lunches for junior high school students are free, and babies up to one year old receive free diapers.
“Some people ask, ‘Wouldn’t that put the city in financial ruin?’ But it’s not a problem. By supporting children, the population will increase, and tax revenues will increase by 8 in 8 years. 32 At the same time, by reviewing the use of public works and other expenditures, we have been able to make the public finances sound. At the same time, we have been able to manage our finances soundly by reviewing how we use public works and other expenditures.”
Moving to “Leave No One Behind”
In its economic policy announced on May 31, the Kishida administration touted “leaving no one behind.” However, the “how” was yet to be determined. On the other hand, Akashi City’s “leave no one behind” is concrete and has already been steadily realized. The idea of “leaving no one behind” is also directed toward those who have committed crimes.
“What if the person who committed the crime has no place to stay when he or she gets out of jail? They might do the same thing again. That is why we aim to create a town where people can be welcomed back when they finish their sentences. I want to create a town where any person can have a place to stay and feel safe. Of course, it is also important to support crime victims. It goes both ways. In other words, the best way to prevent the creation of victims is to prevent the creation of perpetrators.”
Mayor Izumi’s words are clear.
From the local to the national level. I want to expand it to the whole country.
“But, there have been many misunderstandings. I was criticized unilaterally. Now, through Twitter, I can convey my thoughts and facts. It has become a tool for me to protect myself.”
Every day, he posts about the city government, citizens, and politics. It has become a bit louder than a murmur. Currently, he has about 170,000 followers.
“Sometimes I receive opinions that hurt my ears,” he says. “I try to be as polite as possible and try to make them understand. Or sometimes I change my mind.”
Mayor Izumi laughs, “The City Council is an all-out opposition party. Recently, he was “pursued” for his contribution on the taxation of a certain corporation. He posted a photo of a document showing the amount of corporate taxation for Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. In response to the “corporate tax rate of zero for the fifth year in a row,” he muttered, “I wonder what zero means.”
“The post has been deleted. We wanted to inform the public about the details of our discussions with the corporation, for the sake of the public’s right to know.”
“We have been meeting with the companies and the city regarding this ‘zero tax rate’ for five consecutive years. He said it is necessary for the transparency of the government to disclose that process to the public. It was not ‘appropriate,’ but considering the public interest, I don’t think it is illegal.”
Mayor Izumi, who also has a background as a lawyer, looked a little downcast as he said this. But
“There are many things that need to be done. I would like to expand the successful efforts in Akashi to neighboring municipalities, the prefecture, and the nation. Thanks to your efforts, I have been asked by many local governments to serve as a reference, and I have had many opportunities to speak out at the Diet and other national political forums. Even so, I still have a lot to say. That is why I use Twitter.”
“Also, I enjoy using Twitter. I also look back on my past.”
Sometimes, he posts photos of his walks with his dog, Shelly. He says it’s “fun for me as a person.”
“City planning should be based on the needs of the local government, not on instructions from the national government. I want to be flexible and not be bound by the precedent of what has been done in the past.”
“We should not be limited by the government’s instructions, but be flexible and follow the precedent set by the government. Youtube I would be happy if Akashi’s efforts spread throughout the country.”
“Because, you know, no one loses anything by creating a town that is friendly to everyone. I want to convey that fact. Akashi is a nice place, and I will treat you to Akashiyaki. Please come.”
“The view from the city hall is said to be the best in Akashi, and I would definitely like to visit the city.”