AN OUTLINE OF FUKUOKA CITY COUNCIL
JAPAN’S LOCAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM
In Japan’s local government system, prefectures and municipalities administer local affairs in accordance with a provision of the Japanese Constitution. For example, municipalities are focused on the operation of public services such as education, social welfare, water and sewage services, while prefectural responsibilities may cover multiple municipalities over a wider area. Fukuoka City, on the other hand, is authorized to perform some of the prefectural responsibilities. This is because a city with a population of over 500,000 is entitled to greater authority than other municipalities and is designated as such by a government ordinance. Local public entities are comprised of a decision-making assembly and a leader of an executive body. The assembly has the supreme authority to make decisions on agenda submitted to the assembly for discussion. The leader’s role is to instruct and supervise government employees to execute what has been decided by the assembly. Assembly members and the leader are both elected, and better governance is ensured through separation of powers, checks and balances, and cooperation.
CITIZENS AND THE CITY COUNCIL
Citizens aged 18 years and older have a right to vote in City Council elections. Citizens aged 25 years and older are eligible to run for council.
The Fukuoka City Council consists of 62 members elected from seven electoral constituencies coinciding with the City,s administrative wards, each of which has a set quota of Councilors to elect.
Petitions and Lobbying
Citizens can make their requests about public administration to the City Council. If they go through a City Councilor, such an act is called a petition. Otherwise they are allowed to directly lobby the City Council. The contents of petitions are reviewed by a council committee before the Council itself chooses to adopt the petition or not. Petitioners are notified of the outcome, and adopted petitions are passed to the relevant department, such as the Mayor, through which they will be implemented. Lobbyists can send their proposals directly to a committee, which will distribute the contents to each member, but a decision on whether or not to adopt a proposal will not be issued.
Observing a City Council Session
Council sessions are open to the public, and anyone can come to observe. The public can also sit in on committee meetings.
Citizens, after having obtained a specific number of voters’ signatures, may petition for a dissolution of the City Council, or a dismissal of a council member.
POWERS OF THE CITY COUNCIL
In order to ensure that the City Council has sufficient authority to perform its duties as representatives of the people, it is vested with various powers, the most important of which are as follows:
The most fundamental duty of the City Council is to make decisions on important matters such as ordinances and the budget.
The Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, and members of the Election Management Committee are elected by the City Council.
The City Council decides whether to approve of Deputy Mayors and City auditors appointed by the Mayor.
Inspection and Auditing
The City Council has the power to inspect official documents and request auditing.
The City Council can make investigations into City administration, and it may summon related persons with investigative matters for testimony or request a submission of records when it deems necessary.
Submission of Opinions in Writing
The City Council may submit a written opinion concerning the public interest to relevant administrative organs of the national and prefectural governments, such as the Diet.
STRUCTURE OF THE CITY COUNCIL
The Fukuoka City Council is comprised of 62 members. The tenure is four years.
Chairperson and Vice Chairperson
The Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the City Council are elected from among the members of the council. The Chairperson of the City Council represents the City Council and presides over its meetings. The Vice Chairperson of the City Council takes over the duties of the Chairperson in his/her absence.
In the Fukuoka City Council there are several political groups formed by Councilors who share similar opinions and ways of thinking.
ACTIVITIES OF THE CITY COUNCIL DURING AN ORDINARY SESSION
CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
There are two types of meetings the Mayor convenes: ordinary sessions, which take place at regular intervals, and extraordinary sessions for when the necessity arises. Both sessions have to be ended within the predetermined period, during which plenary as well as committee meetings are held for the examination and adoption of proposed agenda. Ordinary meetings are held four times annually, in either February or March, and in June, September and December. In principle, the City Council has to reach its conclusion on items on the agenda by the due date. However, if they are unable to do so, they are allowed to convene committee meetings and continue their work.
The plenary sessions involve all Councilors, and make the final decisions on all items on the agenda. A session cannot be convened without at least half of all Councilors present. A majority of votes is required to pass bills.
Committees of a small number of people are established for the technical review of proposed legislation. There are three types of committees: Standing Committees, Special Committees and City Council Management Committees.
These are five standing committees in the City Council. Each City Councilor belongs to one of five committees.
When an issue which requires special examination or investigation arises, a special committee is set up. A special committee is also set up for review of initial budgets and financial closing.
City Council Management Committee
This committee is convened to discuss matters relating to the order of the agenda and procedure of meetings to ensure smooth management of the City Council. The committee consists of 13 Councilors.