US Mayor Article

Japanese, American Mayors Strengthen Relationships in Seventh Annual Conference

By Tom McClimon
May 15, 2000

Gathering in Denver May 1 for the Seventh Japan-United States Mayors Fellowship Exchange Conference, mayors from both countries used this opportunity to renew their bonds of friendship as well as to exchange information and ideas on a wide variety of issues.

The conference was hosted by Conference of Mayors President and Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb who welcomed the eight mayor delegation from the Japan Association of City Mayors by stating, "Today's meeting will help to further bridge the partnership between our two organizations and the peoples in our cities. This meeting is another example of our cities and mayors entering the globalization era.".

Leading the Japanese delegation was the president of the Japan Association of City Mayors JACM) and Kagoshima Mayor Yoshinori Akasaki. The Japanese delegation consisted of the mayors from the following cities, all of whom also serve as vice-presidents of JACM: Noboribetsu, Murayama, Fukui, Sizuoka, Kasai, Takamatsu, and Tsukumi along with the Secretary General of JACM, Toshifumi Akimoto. The Japanese delegation represented the first time in the history of JACM that the presidents and vice-presidents composed an entire delegation. The Japan Association of City Mayors is composed of Mayors from 671 cities in Japan.

The American delegation was led by Mayor Webb and included Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, Fremont Mayor Gus Morrison, Fort Collins Assistant City Manager Frank Bruno and Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran. The meeting is part of a series of international exchanges taking place by the Conference of Mayors as part of its "Cities 2000" initiative.

In his opening remarks, JACM president, Mayor Akasaki stated that the "mayors of both countries shared much in common and the issues that we discuss today will help to lead to better lives for the peoples in the cities of our two counties."

Following Mayor Akasaki's remarks and a presentation on city livability issues in Japan, the conference participants discussed a wide range of issues ranging from the decentralization of the national government in Japan and the ramifications to cities in Japan, to ways cities in the United States and Japan raise revenues, to rail transportation systems in both countries. One transportation issue that dominated a large share of the discussion was airports. The Japanese mayors were very interested in how cities in the United States deal with citizen opposition to airport development. In Japan, due to limited land, vocal opposition usually arises to major land developments. Mayor Webb also talked about his efforts to establish direct flights from Denver to Tokyo.

Internet Link

At the meeting, Conference executive director J. Thomas Cochran and Conference President, Wellington E. Webb announced that the Conference of Mayors had established a website link with the Japan Association of City Mayors. "This link is only the first step in a long-term project by the Conference of Mayors to use today's Internet technology to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between Mayors and cities, across oceans and continents," Mayor Webb said.

Following the conference the Japanese delegation participated in a press conference with Mayor Webb and attended a reception that was hosted by the Denver Japanese American Society. Mayor Webb hosted the Japanese delegation later that evening at a nearby rustic Western-style restaurant. Earlier in the day, the Japanese delegation toured some of Denver's downtown projects, including Coors Field.

Washington, D.C. Visit

Following their visit to Denver and a side-trip to New York City, the Japanese delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. where they were welcomed by District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams. Mayor Williams, in welcoming the delegation to his city, talked about the long and historic relationship between Japan and Washington as exemplified each year by the Cherry Blossom Festival. The Japanese delegation also visited the headquarters of the Conference of Mayors as part of their visit to Washington.

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