I would have loved to run for Napier City Council this election, but I just can’t afford to.
There is a limit put on how much you can spend on a local body election campaign. As an “at large” candidate (what I would have gone for), I would have been able to spend up to $30,000. I don’t have that sort of cash to spare. EVER. That’s a crazy amount of expenditure to me – it’s around ¾ of my annual household income. Heck, with rent, bills and all the rest, I couldn’t even afford the $200 nomination fee!
If I REALLY wanted it, I was told, I would have hustled, borrowed and begged to get the money. But that’s not my style. As I’ve said before, I’m not keen on owing money, especially when it can lead to potential influences on matters further down the road. Politics is riddled with such cases. Idealist, I know, but I’d like to do be in council for the many, not the money.
It’s a shame, really. Not only does the council miss out on my wisdom, ideas and youth (three concepts completely foreign to the current mob), but it also leaves the door open to these silently sycophantic incumbents. A council should be an accurate reflection of its constituents – old and young, white and brown, rich and poor. It’s a shame that just the old, rich and white options have held power over Napier for so long. I think this lack of representation has taken its toll on our city.
Contemplating running for council has given me some good ideas for blog topics and did spark some great debates on Twitter.
One of my very smart and politically astute Twitter friends kept asking me for my vision for Napier, so here you go Ryan:
If elected would have aimed to:
• At 35 I would have brought a younger viewpoint to Napier City Council, with fresh ideas and solutions to issues facing our city based on a life born and bred in Napier.
• Bring more council focus onto Napier’s youth. Each year hundreds of young, talented people leave Napier for education or work, often never to return. We need to not only retain these youth, but make Napier a more attractive option to other younger generations for living, learning and working in.
• Move the promotion of Napier beyond the Art Deco obsession of the past. Our city has so many wonderful, diverse aspects. Why focus on just one?
• Focus less on tourism and more on Napier residents. Cruise ship passengers visit our city for only a day in summer months, while Napier’s residents are here all year round. Let’s celebrate them and create events and activities for their benefit!
• Make Napier a more attractive location for high value, well-paying businesses to set up operations in. The current agricultural and tourism / hospitality-based employment focus has not helped our economy with its low wages and will not help the region’s moral through the flow-on effects of low incomes. Hawke’s Bay needs to work smarter, not harder.
• Work to ensure a greater transparency in council operations and decision making. Currently too many meetings are held behind closed doors and feature the words “Public Excluded”, keeping those who ultimately pay for the results out of the process.
• Make council decision making and processes more available and open to the general public by web-streaming council and committee meetings, so those who can’t attend can still keep an eye on matters that interest them.
• You can’t have transparency without accountability. Currently, elected councillors are not allowed to publicly criticise, or interact too much with council-employed staff. You can vote out an underperforming, long-standing councillor, but you can’t vote out a similarly entrenched manager. All sections of Napier’s City Council need to be held accountable for their actions (or inactions as the case may be).
For now, all I can do is hope that some fresh blood gets elected into NCC in October and they can institute at least some of the ideas I expressed above.
In related election news, I was disappointed to read that two more too-long-standing councillors are once again seeking re-election:
Hastings Deputy Mayor, Cynthia Bowers is seeking a 7th term, yes, you read correctly, SEVEN TERMS! If successful, she will have been a HDC councillor for 21 years! That’s longer than your average university student has been alive!
In Napier, Councillor Faye White is seeking a fifth term, not quite as bad as councillor Bowers , but can anyone tell me what Faye has achieved in her 12 years on NCC? Because I don’t know! I’m not sure if any of the general voting public does. Four terms in power is a heck of a long time to gift to someone for no major or obvious results.
The downside of such nominations, is once you are nominated you can’t withdraw, except for serious medical reasons. Knowing the poor track-record of local body election voting in Napier (less than 50% of registered voters actually voted in the last three elections!) It’s highly likely these councillors will retain their seats.
It’s enough to make me wish I had the money again…