Taipei's surgeon-mayor Ko Wen-je cuts to chase in first month
Taipei's new chief is speaking his mind, taking on tycoons and bringing down barriers[/b]
Some call him a loose cannon because of his frequent slips of the tongue, but to others he is a godsend who can finally revive Taipei.
One month into office, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je remains as controversial as the time when he was running for the city's top job. And no one can say for sure what the city will become under his administration.
Ko, a high-flying surgeon who defeated Sean Lien Sheng-wen, son of former Kuomintang chairman Lien Chan, in the November 29 mayoral race, was sworn in to office on December 25.
"A change in Taipei should start with a change in the culture of the city government," Ko vowed shortly after he was inaugurated.
Ko's first order of business to city departments was to reassess the need for so many subscriptions to newspapers and magazines that he found in his office but had no time to read.
The new mayor then ordered all department heads and key officials to act swiftly in dealing with both office work and public affairs - a requirement one of his secretaries found so stressful that she resigned on Ko's second day in office.
Two weeks ago, he questioned the spending of NT$20 billion (HK$5 billion) to date to host the World University Games in 2017, saying he would never have backed the proposal had he been mayor at the time.
Ko has also made his fair share of gaffes. His latest faux pas - when he said that a fob watch given to him by visiting British Transport Minister Baroness Susan Kramer should be sold as scrap - was widely reported at home and overseas.
Some critics said Ko, a trauma surgeon, operated on the logic of the emergency ward where there was no time for indecision and other niceties. This might explain why he cannot accept slow responses and is prone to speaking his mind.
But this efficiency was also the reason why nearly 70 per cent of Taipei citizens gave him a positive approval rating in a recent opinion poll by the TVBS cable news network.
One of Ko's first decisions on taking office was to respond to public appeals and demolish a concrete bus lane divider put in place a decade ago during Ma Ying-jeou's time as mayor.
The demolition was applauded as a smart move because the divider caused serious traffic jams during rush hours and had stayed in place despite public protestations to Ko's predecessor, Hau Lung-pin.
Ko's recent quarrels with local tycoons, including Chao Teng-hsiung of Farglory group and Terry Gou of Hon Hai Group, over building expenses for huge construction projects contracted by the city government, also won him praise for conserving the city's coffers.