I sat in the audience for the swearing in ceremony of the new Council last week. It’s a group of people who have the potential to be a really good team. I say “potential” because there were a few warning signals for me which I think need to be carefully managed.
Elected reps need to be careful about establishing voting “blocks” at the Council. This can lead to unnecessary tensions at the table when they are on the Council to operate as the Board of the City.
I stood as a Councillor on the Labour ticket. From the time I walked in the door it annoyed me when people operated under central government politics at local government. The whole concept of caucusing always annoyed me. Elected reps should caucus around an issue, not because of a central government structure. Of course, elected reps can apply their personal, and political, philosophy to issues. They also have to implement what they promised to do when they were campaigning. But block voting instructed by caucus annoys the hell out of me.
I remember what caused me to completely walk away from “group think”. A proposal was made by the Citizen’s caucus to install turning signals at the Heaton/Innes/Papanui Road intersection. The engineers report said that this would “reduce the level of service” on this corner. The leader of the Labour caucus said “of course we must support the engineers”. I asked why. He said that is what we should do. We had friends living in Papanui that we visited regularly. The only way we could turn into Papanui Road from Innes Road was by turning after the lights went red, because of the flow of traffic on the other side of the road. I asked where was this caucus decision in our manifesto. It wasn’t. So, I voted with the Cits, which supplied the numbers they needed to pass the proposal, and the traffic signals were installed. These lights changed the lighting system in this City and they work well. I survived the wrath of the leader of our caucus.
I tell this story because it shows how stupid it can be to implement central government tactics of caucusing, at Local Government. I’m not saying don’t have a philosophy. I’m not saying leave your values at the door. I’m just saying work for the betterment of the City, not individual political parties’ glory. That doesn’t stop me being left of centre. It just means that at the Council people of all political persuasion need to work together to make this a wonderful City to live in.
I know after an election campaign it takes a bit of time for people to move out of campaign mode. My challenge to all our elected reps, at Council and at Community Boards and Ecan, is to work together wherever possible.
Here’s another brilliant article from the Press which all the Councillors need to read https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/116782765/christchurch-and-its-search-for-a-postrecovery-sense-of-purpose.