I hear you're thinking about throwing your hat into the Auckland Council ring and thought some observations from the inside might be helpful in making up your mind.
Before getting into policy issues you need to understand that the governance of the council is a complete shambles. It is clumsy, time-wasting and ineffective.
Governance under the Auckland legislation is the sole statutory responsibility of the mayor. In Len's case I suspect he was burdened with a load of paybacks required from back-room deals giving him a straight run at the mayoralty in 2010. While the media report you will likely run as an independent, given the history I wouldn't rate your chances of a fresh canvas.
Conceivably the same deals might be brokered in 2016, enabling a centre-left candidate to run uncontested. I feel this is where the rot set in for Auckland.
The mayor appointed his deputy and chair of finance who became a defacto power base. Their positions enable them to have much of the control and authority for day-to-day organisation and gatekeeping between the chief executive and senior management, and access to information.
Neither his deputy mayor nor chair of finance had much previous experience of senior government roles or management so this meant a big step up given the scale of the Auckland Council. Their preference for holding endless workshops, behind closed doors, has created a mood of extreme frustration for some councillors.
They view a councillor's primary responsibility to be maintaining a quorum in the constant stream of meetings. It is of less importance to them that councillors are available to meet the public or deal with constituent issues.
Democracy feels lacking. The public have little idea on what is happening with the unitary plan, for example, and its possible impact on them personally. The process has been so intense that only those with the deepest pockets and the most determination have engaged for the long haul. They are usually developers. This leaves the rest vulnerable to the whims of the council who will feel - even though it most certainly isn't true - that citizens have been 'heard'.
Take the ruling on pre-1944 blanket heritage. The council inserted this in the absence of undertaking a full consultative assessment of sensitive heritage, meaning all Auckland buildings older than 1944 (villas and bungalows) are protected.
Recent recommendations from a commissioner found no basis for protecting heritage in this way. So the unitary plan will be changed - but how? We don't know. Another example is the now possible removal of volcanic view shafts. The protection of our maunga has been in place since the 1970s. With one swoop of the pen, these protections could be gone forever, leaving our unique volcanoes hidden by new builds. Tragic and irreversible.
And what of the constantly upward moving rates bills that Aucklanders are confronted with under the Long Term Plan? Phil, how would you tackle this? You'll have heard reports of Aucklanders buying in Tauranga and Hamilton? From Wellington they speculate that those purchases are for investment properties. I have news for you. They're for Aucklanders moving out of the city. The rates are so astronomical for our modestly paid population, that some can no longer stay. It's of deep concern.
Is one of the most liveable cities in the world becoming unliveable simply because of local government taxes?
While this crisis continues, the pre-programmed, groundhog-like meeting and workshop calendar continues relentlessly. Councillors are not driving policy. We meander on without philosophy or purpose.
We should be leading the agenda around prioritisation and how to fund our future. We must tackle this just like any other major city or we will face a rates revolt.
The council has failed to correctly calculate the cost of growth for the unitary plan and special housing areas. This funding problem is compounded by some legacy councils that had bad financial management and entered amalgamation with major liabilities.
From being a supporter of amalgamation I now have considerable misgivings. It is a bitter disappointment that the Government has consistently refused to undertake any review of the Auckland legislation. There has been no formal process for knowing what has been delivered for the city and citizens from amalgamation.
We need a review of the role of the 21 local boards, councillor representation, mayoral powers and changes to governance that would allow elected members to be involved in the appointment of the deputy mayor and chairs of committees.
We also need clarification and accountability for the role of the Independent Maori Statutory Board and to understand who they represent.
Phil, if you were serious about the mayoralty, I would have hoped to have heard from you on these vital issues for Auckland before now.
Auckland is a beautiful city and worth fighting for.
We must address the legislation, funding issues and woeful lack of leadership that has allowed a culture of "Yes Minister" to reign. It is time to put to rest the strange fusion of different agendas and get Auckland moving.
Are you up for it?