In a way I have no one to blame but myself.
I, much to my surprise, have found myself increasingly agitated about the running of this great city. Increasingly I feel it is being run by idiots. Idiots and financial illiterates.
I have had little, if any, interest in local body politics before. I didn't vote last time. I don't think I voted the time before. In fact if I were putting it all on the record it's entirely possible I have never voted.
So you have every right to bag me now for complaining.
Actually I am not complaining, more raising the alarm. More asking the question: Am I the only one who thinks things around Auckland Council are getting hopelessly out of control? By way of some defence, I didn't vote in my local area because there was only one person standing.
And when it came to Mayor there was the incumbent and the New York restaurateur. Who seemed like a decent bloke but had no profile, and as much as I might have liked to vote for someone other than Len, I would never vote against someone. Voting against someone is a recipe for trouble. You might not like what's in office, but that doesn't mean just anything else is the answer.
Anyway, having got my excuses out of the way, I am bordering on ropable over what's unfolding around the council table. First of all shall we deal with the broken promises?
Len Brown promised a rate rise of no more than 2.5 per cent yet voted for a 3.5 per cent increase.
Len Brown promised rate rises within the range of inflation.
The council promised a maximum rates cap of 10 per cent. They then rejected that.
Hundreds of thousands of households will be getting bills with increases of in excess of 10 per cent, some as high as 40 per cent. How in God's name is this allowed to happen?
What other business could possibly get away with a 40 per cent increase in a bill - any bill - without a revolt or the customer leaving to do business elsewhere?
There is more to be alarmed about. This city pays $1 million a day on its debt. That million doesn't pay off the debt, it merely services the interest on the loan. We pay a million bucks a day to tread financial water. The council then decides to add to that debt by voting to borrow $850 million to buy their trains.
I am not finished.
The mayor announces plans for tolls for roads, taxes for petrol, congestion charges. He announces those as though they are real or are going to happen. They are not. The roads the mayor wants to toll he doesn't even own. He doesn't tax the petrol. The mayor has no more power to put a toll on a highway than I do.
The mayor needs the support of the Government to do any and all of this and I don't think he has it.
I think what has happened here, and once again I am prepared to take my share of the blame, is that most of us stopped caring. Most of us didn't vote. Most of us yawned any time the words "local body politics" got mentioned. The turnout, at about 33 per cent, is all you need to know to understand how things got so hopelessly out of control.
While we nodded off, the mad people walked in and took control.
What this city needs is a leader. It needs a shining light. It needs an articulate performer. It needs a person who understands how to live within your means.
A leader that knows the danger of debt and how to say no to the never-ending series of do-gooders with their mad ideas and endless series of requests for money to pay for things councils shouldn't be involved with.
It seems spectacularly incongruous that on one hand Len can bang on about making this the most liveable city in the world and at the same time send it broke.
When you can't afford to park, and the bus hasn't started running in your area, and there is no train service, that's not liveable. When the council sends you a 40 per cent increase in your rates bill, and you're on a fixed income, and you can't pay it, what's liveable about that? I raise all this because there is time. The next vote is 2016.
What Len needs is a competitor.
I don't mind if a good competitor is found and there is a decent contest of ideas and Len wins. If what Len is doing to Auckland, Auckland wants more of, then I will be wrong, the democratic process right. The democratic process is always right.
But the democratic process is at its best when it's fiercely contested and the process is competitive.
And my great fear is we have become so comatosed to local politics that no one of any substance will ever stand up, and a whole army of Lens will invade the place and lead us to oblivion.
This isn't just Len's fault, he is but one vote. There are other fools who love debt and spending other people's money and breaking promises. But Len is the figurehead. Len is the bloke who represents us all to the rest of the country, and given that I am embarrassed.
There must be someone somewhere with a brain, a head for numbers, some community spirit, a profile and an entrepreneurial flair that sees Auckland as worth more than it's currently got.
Someone I believe is a suburban lawyer who is a mile out of his depth.
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