Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 16 2008

Town meeting

Last week I attended an open meeting concerning future renovation plans for the Bitan area, where I live, at the culture center near the city government building. A few dozen people attended, including a few familiar faces such as the short-shorts guy who runs the restaurant near the bridge and some other residents and vendors, as well as some county and city government representatives.

A hefty, bespectacled engineer with long hair gave a presentation on the plan, which mainly entails repaving the streets and painting a few walls. There were a couple of good ideas mentioned, such as simplifying the intersection of Guangming Street and Beixin Road, and adding more trees to barren areas. On the whole, however, it was generally useless additions to the streets, such as “portable trees” and replacing the old ugly signs with new ugly signs.

Predictably, some of the government officials got up and stumped for votes by appealing to the lowest common denominator. “We can’t ask the illegal chicken abattoir to become a coffee shop!” they said, in effect. “That would be a waste of money!”

When it came time for public opinion, there were various rants and complaints that all the tourists went to Danshui instead of Bitan, and those that did simply walked across the bridge and then came back without visiting anything. One idiot of a woman even took issue with the utterly bewildering “Please don’t linger on the bridge (which is the main attraction and the entire reason anyone would come down to Bitan in the first place)” signs. “Those signs aren’t enough; people are still lingering on the bridge!” she cried, oblivious to the contradiction in her words.

When it was my turn, I took the microphone, walked up on the stage and pointed to a photograph from the presentation on the screen, a shot of the stairs leading to the suspension bridge with some computer-generated bushes. “The composition of this shot is interesting,” I said, “in that just out of frame on the right side is a giant trash dump.”

“More signs, repaving the streets, none of this means anything,” I told them. “The reason people go to Danshui is because the government up there has the guts to tear down illegal decrepit buildings and make it a neat, interesting place people want to go. If you want visitors, you’ve got to do the same thing. If you don’t have the balls to clean up the mess, don’t go around crying that nobody wants to come visit.”

“Why do people stop and turn around on the other side of the bridge? Are you blind?” I asked, hoping that there weren’t any actual blind people in the audience. “On one side, where there should be a beautiful mountainside, is a row of buildings of which only the front three feet are legal, but the government can’t do anything but put up a metal wall inside and call it fixed. On the other, where a park is supposed to be, are a bunch of rundown squatter’s buildings inhabited by people who have twice taken compensation money and simply refuse to leave, dragging down the property values and attractiveness of the entire area. Who, besides the squatters, wants to see that?”

There was a scattering of polite clapping as I took my seat, probably more of the “oh my god it can talk” variety than from people who actually agreed with me. As some of the squatters themselves were in the audience, I was half expecting some kind of outcry, but they probably didn’t take me seriously.

Afterwards was a presentation on the development plans for the Hemei Mountain paths, which was much more promising, as it involves improving the hiking paths on the hill and the inclusion of viewing platforms along the way, LED lights at night, and non-slip wooden stairs.

After the meeting several people came up to me and said they agreed with what I’d said on stage. Surprisingly, some of the vendors were among them. We gathered outside and vented about the situation for a while. “So who’s going to run for office so they can do something about this mess?” I asked them.

They pointed at me. Ha, right, I thought. Things must be even more desperate than I thought. In the end nothing much will happen; the plan will go ahead, money will be spent on stupid things that don’t work, and another stupid plan will follow in order to “fix” all the things that were wrong with the previous plan. Wash, rinse, recycle.

But Bitan still has its charm, despite all of this. At least that shouldn’t change (too much).

posted by Poagao at 2:22 am  


  1. eww…..the short-shorts guy!

    You are very brave, my friend!

    Comment by daniel — October 16, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  2. I told you over two years ago you should run for Xindian City Council.

    Comment by Prince Roy — October 17, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

  3. so why don’t you run? i’m running for town committee as we speak. why not use your intelligence to accomplish things in the real world? you said you had a mean streak in you. you can use that energy in a positive direction. listen, the experience at least would be great material for another book in a couple years!!

    Comment by v — October 19, 2008 @ 8:16 am

  4. […] Poagao attends a town meeting about development plans for Bitan. […]

    Pingback by Links 20 October 2008 - David on Formosa — October 19, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  5. Definitely run! I’d help out in the campaign office!

    Comment by Maoman — October 20, 2008 @ 10:15 am

  6. I’m at a loss… please tell me again why lingering is a bad thing?

    and yes, you should run.

    Comment by Z. — October 27, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  7. I have no idea, Z. I’m sure they have their reasons, and I’m equally as sure that those reasons are stupid.

    Comment by Poagao — October 28, 2008 @ 3:07 am

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