For the record, I'm pleased John Tamihere is in the race for Auckland mayor. He's a genuine contender and the city needs a genuine contest.
He's not a grey Pakehā male in a grey suit, like the incumbent, Phil Goff. I know I belong to that demographic, but I'm not a fan. This city needs leaders who reflect its diversity.
It's not just a feel-good thing: it's about experience of the world, a way of looking at issues. An understanding of what real problems really are. Auckland needs leaders who will upset the complacency of the existing order.
We can't have Chloe Swarbrick. So what about John Tamihere?
He's an experienced leader and he sure wants to upset the existing order. He's a zeitgeist politician, channelling the spirit of the times. Not the #MeToo zeitgeist, obviously – he seems entirely uninformed by that. But the anti-establishment zeitgeist.
As a minister under Helen Clark, Tamihere gained direct experience of the workings of government. As the long-time CEO of the Waipareira Trust, based in Henderson, he's rooted among people for whom the council should have a special duty of care. The people who get less, are more ignored and suffer more hardship on every single indicator.
They are also the people whose talents are the least encouraged. Tamihere's job has given him entrepreneurial experience: Waipareira contracts its services far beyond the geographic confines of its west Auckland base.
As far as I'm concerned, JT should be the kind of person we need as mayor.
How revealing is it that the key strategists of his campaign team are Matt McCarten and Michelle Boag? McCarten is a socialist from way back. Boag is a former National Party president whose entire public presence consists of defending her party leader and whatever they have just said.
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A grand coalition offering new hope in difficult times? Or a cynical foray into the dark arts of political opportunism? A campaign promoting the best of both the left and right, or a befuddlement of conflicting ideas?
Tamihere, good old lefty that he is, says he will end homelessness within 18 months. On the other hand, his policies to part-sell Watercare and stop Auckland Transport's Safer Speeds programme come straight from the right-wing edge of the National Party playbook. It's almost like McCarten and Boag are operating a policy trading market.
I like some of Tamihere's policies. In particular, I admire that he wants to sell the port and move it away from the Waitematā. That's an issue Goff has never had the courage to confront.
I like that Tamihere has called out the mayor for not controlling the council apparatus. To be sure, Goff has forced council agencies to spell out their intentions more clearly than they were used to, and he gave Auckland Transport some very explicit policy instructions.
Even so, AT has been allowed to move far too slowly on those instructions, most obviously on the rollout of cycling infrastructure. The development agency Panuku let Goff down so badly in its America's Cup site negotiations, the Government had to step in. Panuku's advice on the need for mooring dolphins at Queens Wharf was badly flawed. Panuku is far too close to Ports of Auckland, and Ports of Auckland is a law unto its own.
I like the way Tamihere criticises Goff for not treating the problems of the city with the urgency they demand. Goff's not an urgency guy, he's a steady hand on the tiller.
Oddly, though, when it comes to actual policies, much of what Tamihere says is quite hard to square with reality.
It's not the hyperbolic language. He's a colourful guy, I get that. On RNZ this week, when he said, "I just won't tax people to death," he probably knew no one is literally doing that.
What's difficult is his presentation of facts. He's been called to account by the Advertising Standards Authority for factually wrong statements about the Safer Speeds plan. He says council "spending and debt levels are out of control", but spending is under budget and the debt level has been held within the defined acceptable limits.
This week Tamihere said he'll clean up the "s*****" beaches "now", but under Goff it will take "50 years". Neither part of that statement is true: his plan will introduce delays and Goff already has the work under way. Fixing our broken wastewater and stormwater infrastructure is one of the few things on which the mayor really has moved with urgency.
To fund this work, Tamihere wants to sell 49 per cent of Watercare. But he'll have to persuade the Government to change the law and, even if they agree, getting it done will take years. He'll have to negotiate a deal with the new part-owner on water prices that ensures we don't all get gouged. Good luck with that.
He told RNZ, "Goff's idea is rates have to keep going up and that just gouges out superannuitants, people under $80,000 and beneficiaries, and you just can't sustain that."
Actually, the first part of that is true. Goff does intend to keep rates going up. His view is pretty common: regular, moderate rates increases are a good thing. As costs rise, they ensure you don't have to cut services or introduce painfully large increases at a later date.
Is Tamihere saying he won't raise rates? If so, let's hear it.
He accepts water will cost us more under his plan. But water is charged as a flat tax: we all pay the same amount per litre. That makes it regressive: any increase will hurt the poor more, because water takes a bigger proportion of their spending. Large families, who inevitably use more water, are hurt most of all. This is different from ordinary rates, which are set as a proportion of property value.
Tamihere's water policy will transfer a financial burden onto the very people he claims to care about most: the poor. He must know this.
Here's a question: why would campaign manager Matt McCarten support a regressive tax hike caused by selling council assets? McCarten is such a staunch opponent of privatisation he once stood for Auckland mayor on that very platform.
Answer: because he knows it's not going to happen.
As with any policy, Tamihere can't make this one work unless he has majority support for it on council. By my count, there are between one and three sitting councillors who would vote for it. Even his own supporters on council tend to be strongly opposed to asset sales. And it's hard to find many challengers, as declared to date, who would support it either.
So why even have the policy? Because asset sales is a mantra for potential financial backers? Because it allows Tamihere to attack Goff on "out of control" rates? It's bad-faith politics.
Tamihere could be a powerful force for good in this city. He doesn't need nutty fringe policies foisted on him by people who are not his political friends. He doesn't need to wrap himself in fanciful inaccuracies. The causes dear to his heart are too important to treat like that. It's his supporters he insults when he sallies forth with such nonsense.
And, in case you didn't pick it, I think Goff could smarten up quite a lot too.