April 30, 2008


Government Collaborating with Citizens on City Planning: The Case of Mitaka City, Tokyo

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.68 (April 2008)
"Initiatives and Achievements of Local Governments in Japan" Article Series No.20

With a trend of decentralizing reforms underway, municipalities are expected to function more based on resident self-governance, in which citizens voluntarily participate in settling local issues, in order to realize a unique, autonomous community. Deciding on how to protect the local environment and pass it on to the next generation is an issue that requires democratic consensus building and decision-making through proper information disclosure and the participation of citizens -- not something that local governments can unilaterally decide on their own.

Since the Devolution of Power Law came into force in Japan in 2000, an increasing number of local governments have adopted innovative sets of ordinances on environmental conservation and community development, and citizens have been participating in their formulation. Even though the participation of citizens is taken more or less for granted, in this issue of the JFS Newsletter, we would like to introduce you to the somewhat extraordinary efforts of the people of Mitaka City in metropolitan Tokyo. Mitaka is relatively advanced in terms of community administration, as it has been engaged in community development based on citizen-government partnerships for more than 30 years.

History of Community Administration

The city of Mitaka, a typical residential municipality with a population of 175,000, is located roughly in the middle of metropolitan Tokyo, about 18 kilometers west of its core. The city's slogan of "park city of greenery and water" is a good way to describe it. In the northeast part of Mitaka, for instance, there is a prefectural park called Inokashira Onshi Koen, known as a prime cherry blossom viewing spot, and in the center of the park is Inokashira Pond, the source of the Kanda River that flows southeastward. The Ghibli Museum, also in the park, features the Japanese animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, a prominent director as well as co-founder of Studio Ghibli, which opened in the fall of 2001, and many tourists visit from all over the world.

The history of community participation in the administration of Mitaka City began in the 1970s. At that time, Mitaka was experiencing rapid population growth, along with high economic growth, and people were exploring how they wanted their local community to be. The city decided to build community centers equipped with gymnasiums and libraries in seven community residential districts. Then it entrusted the management of the facilities to a residential council, which was an autonomous organization of residents in the community, in order to promote community development.

The residents, at first puzzled with the city's proposal, began to see community morale growing as they took part in designing, managing, and then operating their own facilities. In the 1980s, the residential council started to create a "community record," which includes the inspection results of the residential community as well as any requests from residents. Then it began to formulate a community development plan. In the 1990s, the council used a workshop approach and invited participants from all levels of the community, ranging from children to adults in addition to the members of the residential council, to participate in the planning and building of parks and the rebuilding of elementary schools.

From the Launch of the Citizens' Plan 21 Conference to the Establishment of Mitaka City's Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy

After these experiences and activities, Mitaka decided to formulate a plan from scratch with citizens to produce a basic concept and the city's Third Basic Plan in 1999. Thus, the Citizens' Plan 21 Conference was launched. The city and conference participants reached a partnership agreement that defined each other's roles and responsibilities, and then began activities based on the promise of equal footing and mutual cooperation.

The Citizens' Plan 21 Conference had 375 voluntary citizens split up into ten working groups, and 400 meetings were held. One of the unique characteristics of the working groups was that their discussions were not framed from a vertically segmented administrative standpoint, such as the environment and welfare. Instead, they discussed broader issues from a more comprehensive perspective, including the types of citizens' participation and local community development. In October 2000, the conference's final proposal was submitted to the mayor. This 138-page document was based on four main pillars -- the Earth, cooperation, circulation, and coexistence -- and suggested establishing the Mitaka City Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy as a rule to assure citizen participation.

Based on the proposal, the city set a new goal in its Third Generation Basic Plan, formulated in 2001, to establish the Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy, which was to detail the basic concept of establishing the autonomy of citizens and the basic principles of city government management, as well as the responsibilities and roles of the citizens, the city council, and the city government. As it precedes the basic concept, Basic Plan, and other ordinances that the city established, it can be said that it's the municipal constitution. Effective citizen participation and proper information disclosure, promoted by each local government, are sure to be more stable systems when they are based on the ordinance.

Mitaka City set up a study group consisting of professors and citizens in 2002 to formulate and work on drafting the Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy. The study group was held with open doors twelve times up to October 2003, and the city also held a forum to let other citizens know what had been discussed. The ordinance was drafted in a highly transparent manner, and through revisions to incorporate comments from the public, the Mitaka City Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy was established after the three-year study ended in April 2006.

Toward the Establishment of the Mitaka City Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy (in Japanese only)

Mitaka City Basic Environmental Plan (Revised)

In March 2007, the city revised its Basic Environmental Plan with the participation of the citizens. The city guarantees citizens' participation in the process of formulating administrative plans under its Fundamental Ordinance of Autonomy. The revision was therefore discussed in collaboration with the Citizens' Conference Mitaka City Basic Environmental Plan (or Citizens' Conference, for short), consisting of voluntary citizens and businesses, and it was finalized through deliberations at the Mitaka Environmental Preservation Council and after receiving subsequent public comments.

At the Citizens' Conference, the members had lively discussions at its nine separate meetings, one more than originally planned. The Revised Plan, comprised of 83 pages in a total of seven chapters, lists three main projects to be carried out, in collaboration with citizens, businesses, and the city, as the priority issues to tackle in the new four-year targeted period, from fiscal 2007 to 2010, as well as the assessment of the past five years of efforts, from fiscal 2002 to 2006.

The first project is to promote and enhance the environmental awareness of citizens, with the aim of encouraging their participation and increasing each participant's motivation to learn. The second one is to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in order to cope with global warming. The third is to create favorable green spaces, to secure the cultural environment, and to coexist with the surrounding natural environment.

Because these projects are aimed at reviewing the lifestyles of citizens and the activities of businesses, these people's active participation in planning will increase the feasibility of projects succeeding for the benefit of all. Moreover, the collaboration with people from business organizations and agricultural cooperatives at the Citizens' Conference has made it possible for children to go on factory tours and gain farming experience as part of their environmental studies.

Outline of Mitaka City's Basic Environmental Plan (in Japanese only)

Energy Saving Measures

Of course, there are some measures that the city needs to proactively take on its own, such as the project to reduce GHG emissions by implementing energy saving measures at public facilities, which makes use of the Energy Service Company (ESCO) project.

The ESCO project provides comprehensive energy saving services to factories and buildings. The expense of the project is partly covered by the financial benefits stemming from the energy saved by the ESCO service, such as lower electric bills. Therefore, the city can implement energy saving measures without adding any financial cost. Moreover, as ESCO guarantees the energy saving effect of its services, the city can count on steadily reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Mitaka City introduced the ESCO project to the city hall's main building in fiscal 1998. In fiscal 2004, they introduced the system to three additional facilities: the Arts Center, East Water Treatment Facility, and Environment Center (waste incinerator). From April 2005, when ESCO started to provide service, to December 2007, the total accumulated electricity reduction at the three facilities was 5,144,680 kilowatt-hours of electricity, while 49,749 cubic meters of gas and 3,990 cubic meters of water were saved at the Arts Center alone. When the amount saved is converted to the equivalent of CO2 emissions, the total reduction over the period was 2,042 tons.

Mitaka City's ESCO Project (in Japanese only)

In addition, in August 2007, the city set up the Mitaka City Environmental Activity Promotion Council, consisting of citizens, businesses, and the city, to promote projects based on the Basic Environmental Plan. To steadily implement the plan, it is important to create a system to monitor and review the progress of achieving the environmental plan jointly formulated with citizens.

The priority for a local government is to promote environmental projects according to their local characteristics and the lifestyle of citizens that reflect the opinions of citizens and their vision of an ideal town. As Mitaka's example shows, under the citizens' participation scheme, it is important to decide on the ideal environmental goals in a democratic manner after honest discussions are held with a variety of participants. At the same time, each citizen has a responsibility to play their role in steadily achieving the environmental goals decided by local consensus.

(Written by Ichie Tsunoda)