Efeso Collins, who wants to be the next mayor of Auckland, reportedly thinks an "urgent" decision needs to be made on whether to move the port. Then, he thinks, an unhurried, thoughtful process should follow to decide when and where the port should go.
This doesn't make sense. How can you decide to do something without knowing how, or even whether, it can practically be done? What is the point of making a decision without facing its obvious difficulties?
The only point of course is virtue signalling. The Labour Party, which is sponsoring Collins, has turned this into an art form. The current Government is constantly legislating, or announcing large sums of money, for things it doesn't know how to do and worse, doesn't think it needs to know.
The latest example to come to light is medical marijuana. Labour legislated for this years ago without resolving the regulatory issues it presented, leaving those to health officials. Now that officials have done their best, potential manufacturers are finding the requirements commercially impractical.
At least in central government, competent elected people have the power to make practical decisions if they choose to. The tragedy of local government today is that elected people do not have that power. Their role is limited by law to the kind of "in principle" decisions Labour people like to make.
Collins, the only current Auckland Council member standing for mayor, knows the limited role of elected members very well. Among his rivals, Viv Beck and Wayne Brown will know it too.
Beck, the voice of Queen St business, has dealt with the council long enough to know the decisions that matter are made by senior staff. Brown, an abrasive character who has chaired public bodies before, is probably the candidate powerful officials fear most.
But a small business owner like publican Leo Malloy, accustomed to making no-nonsense decisions, looked like a lamb going to the slaughter had he stayed in the race.
Upon looking for his new office on the Monday after the election, he would have been gently directed to an "induction" for new members. In the course of this it would be emphasised to them that the role of elected bodies is "governance", which must not be confused with "operational" matters.
Governance, it will be stressed, is setting broad principles of "policy", not deciding when, where and how far to apply these principles, nor deciding what to do when worthy goals are in conflict. These are "operational" matters strictly for officers to decide.
It is a corporate model that works well enough in companies where boards of directors and executive managers face the same financial accountability. But it is not suited to public administration where the ultimate accountability is to voters and non-elected officers do not face it.
The impotence of elected bodies might not be apparent to newcomers until something goes wrong as a result of a decision made - or not made - at an operational level. A public outcry will erupt over something done by the council that elected representatives knew nothing about. It happens.
It is undoubtedly one of the reasons voter turnout at local body elections is steadily declining and fewer people are willing to serve on their local council. As the deadline for nominations for this year's elections drew near this week, numbers were down on last time and it looked likely some councils would not get enough candidates to fill all their seats.
You have only to pick up a council meeting agenda these days to see why so few are willing to give up their time. It will be hefty in volume but extremely light in matters of real moment.
Most people can agree "in principle" to address climate change, promote cultural diversity, encourage cycling and recycling, maintain clean air and beaches and so on, but don't want to spend all day talking about them, which is what they are supposed to do, several days of every week, on the Auckland Council.
It's only when these "policies" are applied in decisions that will affect people's daily lives that the rubber meets the road. The lengthy papers that officers write for elected members to read all night and discuss all day, seldom invite them to decide anything contentious.
Little wonder the role attracts mainly left-leaning liberals who are content with virtue signalling. A majority of them have been returned at every election since the Auckland Council was set up in 2010. Realistic decision-makers will do due diligence if they are thinking of standing, and think again.
The mayoral race is unusual because it attracts publicity but a mayor alone cannot change much. I can only vote and hope.