Officials from Naval Air Facility Atsugi may attend a new “citizens congress” designed to give Yamato city residents a forum to air concerns about the city, prefecture and base.

The city is holding the event in November to allow residents to ask relevant agencies directly about issues such as city and prefecture administration, construction, safety and base issues, said Takashi Yawaka, Yamato city’s Military Affairs Office chief.

“It is an opportunity for agencies to listen to residents’ concerns directly and it is also good for the residents since it may change the way [the agencies] handle issues,” he said.

Residents — or anyone who works or studies in the city — can submit written questions before the event. The city will address 30 questions during the meeting.

If any of the queries received concern base issues, the city will ask Naval Air Facility Atsugi commander Capt. Justin Cooper to attend, Yawaka said.

“We welcome the opportunity to participate in such a forum,” said base spokesman Brian Naranjo. “Such open dialogue is important in maintaining our strong, positive relationship with the leadership of the cities surrounding NAF Atsugi.”

In a written statement, Cooper added: “I’d love for the base to have representation in the meeting. In everything we do here, we always keep the welfare of the local community close at heart.”

The congress is planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 5 at the city office. To submit a question, contact the city before Sept. 29. The details are on the city’s Web site at (in Japanese only). City officials have said they plan to post a video feed of the conference on the Web site.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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