Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan.
It was during the heat of the US Democratic Party presidential primaries early this year.
In a private conversation during a local community function, former prime minister and Waikanae resident Jim Bolger advised me to keep an eye on one candidate. Kamala Harris.
Except for Bernie Sanders, I had not paid detailed attention to the American primaries and the name Kamala Harris was only barely familiar.
"I've been impressed with her speeches. I think she is one to watch," noted Bolger. And he was right.
The election of Joe Biden as the new president of the United States has reset our plummeting hopes for global sanity.
That election has also brought into focus the opportunities open to individuals from migrant communities to contribute to the national good.
For all the attacks on black American and coloured American communities over the decades, and especially over the recent four years, the advance of Kamala Harris as the next vice president of the United States will inject new life to that old dictum of America being a land of opportunities.
Kamala Harris is the first women vice president and the first coloured vice president.
Her mother Shymala Gopalan, born in Chennai, Madras, came to the US as a 19-year-old in 1958 to study at Berkeley.
The scientist married an economist, Donald Harris, from Jamaica.
Back in 1958, it was unheard of for Indian families to support the education of the daughters by sending them abroad.
Young Gopalan was not only a pioneer for this but also for marrying outside Indian arranged marriages.
Bolger's advice to keep an eye on Kamala Harris is more pertinent now, as the next four years unfold, than when he noted this advice early this year.
The Donald may have lost but it will serve us well to keep an eye on him and that massive support base he has generated.
It's a support base that reverberates globally and legitimising similar fascist movements. Including, here in New Zealand.
It's useful to remember that, historically, the Republicans have always dog-whistled issues like immigration and race.
The brazen Trumpian politics saw him directly fracking these issues.
Given the broken boundaries the American socio-political landscape now poses a different and more challenging problem to the Biden Administration.
Meanwhile, back here on the Kāpiti Coast, as part of our next 2021-2041 Long Term Plan, councillors are going through a number of workshops to consider what we need to do to rest our existing LTP to respond to our own challenges.
In a parallel move, and before we go though the formal consultation process, council has launched the What Matters Most campaign.
Asking four leading question to get a general insight on the collective 'public mind'.
Over the weeks these questions will be rolled out:
1. What matters most in your community as we navigate our way through this global pandemic?
2. What matters most as we continue to experience growth across the region?
3. What matters most as we plan for Kapiti's future?
4. What matters most in your neighbourhood?
On the question of what is happening to us as a community one thing has been highlighted to me recently when I invited staff from the Salvation Army to brief us on the housing situation.
The staff, at the coal face of an ever unfolding crisis said this: "In Kāpiti the availability of affordable housing and crisis accommodation is at a crisis point. We are deeply concerned, especially as we head towards Christmas, about the lack of crisis accommodation for individuals and families who are facing homelessness."
The Salvation Army is a highly committed social organisation with empathetic staff working in the coalface of community want, deprivation and misery.
The concerns they have flagged over what is impending come Christmas are serious. I have communicated these concerns to MSD Central Regional Commissioner Katie Brosnahan.
The housing problem is the visible face of significant underlying social problems.