Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) made his first response on Tuesday by revealing the prices of flowers used and saying that the city’s Department of New Construction paid about two times the market price for the flowers. However, Hau defended the incident as merely “administrative negligence” from civil officials, and slammed the DPP for politicizing the issue.These issues are hurting Hau at the polls. Apple Daily has Su Tseng-chang (DPP) up over Hau (KMT) 45-43, while TVBS has Hau up 51-49. TVBS notoriously underestimates pan-Green votes in its polls -- I'd argue that at this point Su is beating Hau. Hau also took a hit when it was revealed that water pipes for an overpass were purchased at several times the market price. The city government further muddied the waters when it said that the high-priced flowers were purchased for the overpass, not the expo.
The Hau team’s failure to offer a clear explanation of the matter and thoroughly review the purchase plan presented the DPP with opportunities to issue more attacks, digging out more information to accuse the city government of paying up to 30 times the market price for flowers and turning the incident into a threat to Hau’s re-election bid in November’s special municipality elections.
“The civil servants who oversaw the purchase plans were either blind, or took kickbacks to have paid such ridiculously high prices for flowers. However, I think what’s more ridiculous is the city government’s slow and sloppy responses to the issue,” People First Party Taipei City Councilor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said.
The Flower Expo, which is slated to open on Nov 6 just ahead of the Nov 27 election, has a US$300 million budget. The Hau Administration had hoped to use the exhibition to gain leverage in the election, but it appears that just the opposite has happened. As the Taipei Times noted in an editorial:
Something smells in Taipei — and it’s not the 25 million flowers and plants purchased to decorate the city for the upcoming flora expo. Rather, it is Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) scrambling to explain why the city paid 30 times market price for the greenery to a contractor with ties to his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration. In recent days, investigators have also uncovered what appears to be the overpricing of building materials. It is ironic that Hau initiated the multi-billion-dollar project to boost his re-election bid in November.The Flower Expo is the latest in very long string of failures that have occurred in Taipei under the Hau Administration. The Hau Adminstration, and Hau himself, are so lackluster that in rabidly Blue Taipei Hau is vulnerable. This public fail is on top of the very public failures like the Neihu metro line and the gondola project, and takes place amid long-term public frustration over rising housing prices in Taipei, now out of reach for most middle class Taiwanese. It is no wonder that, as a taxi driver put it the other day, there may be a change in the weather in Taipei come november.
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