What Does a Prefectural Assembly Member Do?
Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly
What does a prefectural assembly member do?
I currently serve as a member of the Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly. Upon hearing the title of prefectural assembly member, some people imagine a job that consists of giving speeches at festivals and other local events. Actually, that’s correct. One of my jobs is to participate in local activities as a guest. However, in addition to supporting local events, I am also involved in a wide range of various activities. Unfortunately, it is difficult for normal citizens to imagine my other duties.
So, what exactly does a prefectural assembly member do on a daily basis? Based on my own activities, I would like to give a report divided into local activities and assembly activities.
Daily work of a prefectural assembly member: Local activities
As I discussed in the introduction, I often attend festivals and other events. Although I am usually invited as a guest, I also actively participate in open events even if I am not invited. Attending such events is important for me to interact directly with local residents and listen to their opinions. While buying yakisoba noodles, I can engage in frank conversation with the person cooking the yakisoba noodles. These types of interactions are enjoyable for me.
I also give speeches on the streets of Kanagawa Prefecture. On the way to work or school, I am sure that many readers have seen politicians clutching a microphone and giving speeches in front of train stations. I do this activity. When delivering my speech, I change the length and content of my speech depending on where I am speaking and the time of day. During the morning rush hour, people move quickly through the station. Therefore, I focus on emphasizing keywords and speak my ideas within about one to three minutes. Conversely, when speaking in front of bus terminals in the afternoon, I know that bus riders will have time to listen for about five to ten minutes. This allows me to speak slower and go more in-depth with my ideas. Moreover, when speaking early in the morning, I will lower the microphone volume in order to minimize noise. In some cases, I will even turn off the microphone and hand out pamphlets. Every situation requires a different response.
I am always open to listening to people discuss their problems. The majority of complaints that I hear are related to civil engineering; for example, paving of roads or handling of trash along riverbeds. However, I also receive consultations on problems such as bullying and nursing care for the elderly. Each time, I work to resolve the problem through discussion and cooperation with related organizations. I always concentrate on listening fairly to the opinions of all parties involved, after which I summarize and confirm the true situation.
Daily work of a prefectural assembly member: Assembly activities
At assembly meetings, prefectural assembly members stand on the rostrum and give speeches. I am sure that many people are very familiar with the sight of responsible persons answering questions from representatives of certain factions and from individual members. This is an excellent opportunity for assembly members to state their own policies and ideas aimed at administrative leadership. These speeches are the ultimate opportunity for assembly members to display their proficiency. Therefore, assembly members are highly motivated to give such speeches—although we also feel a strong sense of nervousness (in a good sense), and at the same time, these speeches require extremely careful preparation.
I once again focus on themes in which I am interested on a daily basis; specifically, I gather further information and summarize problems in order to devise solutions. As part of this process, I engage in confirmation and discussion with administrative authorities regarding current conditions and policies. Sometimes, these discussions grow heated and create a surly atmosphere. However, frank discussions result in deeper insight and can lead to unexpected new developments. Such results are best described as the fusion of assembly members’ perspective and government officials’ perspective.
After the preparation described above, I stand on the rostrum and give speeches at meetings of the prefectural assembly. Very rarely, some assembly members may give speeches without a manuscript. However, the vast majority of members will read from a manuscript. Even so, members standing on the rostrum must give their full concentration to matters such as proper intonation and appropriate use of time. Although my heart beats furiously in my chest, I seem to appear calm and collected—thanks in no small part to the arduous training which I underwent in Zitatsugakkai (debating club) while enrolled at Chuo University. I have even been complimented delivering my speeches with aplomb.
The administrative leadership responds to questions (proposals) from assembly members. In some cases, leadership may attempt to dodge the issues raised by members. In other cases, there is positive response in support of implementing proposals. At assembly meetings, members strive to display their talents and elicit as positive a response as possible. In my opinion, the most important element in this give-and-take is empathy. For example, even if a certain proposal is raised by just a single member, the administration will take action if they empathize—“That’s a good point!” “Action should be taken!” This is the greatest appeal of working in regional government.
For example, I once raised the theme of support for ostomates during representative questioning. An ostomate is a person who, due to illness, accident, etc., has undergone a surgical procedure to create an opening in the body that is used to discharge fecal matter and urine. The bag used to hold the discharge waste is a stoma bag. Stoma bags are in direct contact with the skin of the user, so the bags come in a wide range of materials and shapes. Ostomates use stoma bags which best fit their individual needs. This variety makes it difficult for the government to store bags in preparation for large-scale disasters. Currently, very little preparation has been made. However, ostomates will be a person requiring support the moment bags are not available. Therefore, even if preparation by government is difficult, ostomates themselves should prepare their preferred bags and be able to periodically store those bags at facilities such as designated emergency shelters. In other words, I proposed that government should provide storage space. In response to my proposal, the prefectural governor stated that “we will contact municipalities that have yet to secure storage space, inform them of the issue, and work to allocate the necessary storage space.” Ultimately, the necessary storage space was actually provided. I am proud of how I created empathy for my proposal.
In addition to assembly meetings, members also belong to various committees. Discussions at these committees often become the basis of activities by prefectural assembly members. Currently, I belong to the Industry and Labor Standing Committee. This committee holds discussions on issues related to the economy, energy, and employment in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Prefectural assembly members also conduct inspection activities. Members learn about goods and systems which are beneficial in other regions and then conduct local inspections aimed at implementing those goods/systems in their own community. As the proverb says, “seeing is believing.” Instead of hearsay or imagination, going to view actual conditions will lead to significantly deeper discussions.
Learning at the CBS
I studied in the master’s program in the Chuo Graduate School of Strategic Management (hereinafter, “CBS”). The CBS is a business school which draws upon the ideas of Professor Ikujiro Nonaka, who is famous for his book Essence of Failure and his development of the SECI model. The organizational theory and knowledge creation theory that I learned at the CBS are very useful in my current work. The topic of support for ostomates is a theme which arose when I happened to have a conversation with an ostomate. The process through which this chance conversation was implemented as a prefectural policy is a manifestation of the SECI model.
In addition to outstanding academics, I will always treasure the teaching that I received from passionate instructors and the diverse classmates who I befriended at the CBS.
This article has been a report of my personal activities as a regional assembly member. I truly hope that my writing will be of assistance in understanding the work of assembly members.
My term as a member of the Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly is nearing its end. Although I find my work interesting and enjoyable, I also feel a strong sense of difficulty and my own inadequacy. Every day, I question if I am doing enough meaningful work through my position as an assembly member. I will continue to press forward based on gratitude for the trust and kindness received from my countless supporters.
- Teruki Koga
Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly
- Teruki Koga was born in Fukuoka Prefecture in 1969.
He graduated from Kurume University Senior High School.
He graduated from the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Law, Chuo University.
He completed the Master’s Program in the Chuo Graduate School of Strategic Management (MBA).
Before assuming his current position, he served as Chief Public Secretary to Kenji Eda, Member of the House of Representatives.
He has served as a member of numerous standing committees on prefectural residents, sports, general affairs/policy, and industry/labor.
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