John Tamihere has a certain appeal.
He's like Brexit or Trump or betting your last $10 at the casino. It's risky. Everyone says it'll be a disaster. But there's that niggling feeling that it might just be brilliant. Britain might prosper, Trump might solve the North Korea problem, that last $10 might just win back everything you've already lost.
JT's appeal is not about what he can offer Auckland. His ideas are too outlandish to believe. A super-sized double-decker Harbour Bridge. Setting up a homelessness helpline with the number 0800 JACINDA. Sacking all of Auckland Transport's board. Cancelling the regional fuel tax and forcing central government instead to pay for all of Auckland's roads.
Do we really believe that any - or all - of that will happen?
It doesn't really matter. His appeal is not what he promises, but what he opposes. Just like Brexit opposes the EU and Trump opposes the social rules of America's liberal elites, JT opposes central government.
Central government, who promised light rail by 2021 but now have fessed up that they won't deliver until 2025. Central government, which imposed an 11.5 cent fuel tax but can't find projects to spend it on. Central government, which cancelled roads that the previous government had lined up for Auckland.
And JT is painting himself as the guy who will take central government to task for this. He'll fly down to Wellington and tell them what's what. He'll thump the table, wave a rates bill in their faces and stamp his foot.
And they'll listen.
Or will they?
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This is the gamble. Do you believe a fighting mayor gets more than a friendly mayor?
The friendly mayors haven't done too badly out of this government. They're all Labour mayors in the big cities. Phil Goff in Auckland. Justin Lester in Wellington, Lianne Dalziel in Christchurch. They've all scored big packages from the Labour-led government. $28 billion for Auckland's transport. $6.4 billion for Let's Get Wellington Moving. $300 million to cover failed repairs to Cantabrians' quake-struck homes.
Labour in central government has looked after Labour in local government. A win for a Labour mayor is a good thing for a Labour government. It's a helluva lot better than headlines declaring locals voting against the Labour brand.
But, at least a couple of those mayors could've done better. Goff has to wait for the tram he's been promised. He's watched National-planned roads get the chop. Lester got a D-minus version of what he could've got. He's lost the most important parts of his package: a second Mt Vic tunnel, a second Terrace tunnel, a proper fix for the Basin Reserve. Central government initially said yes to all three, then took them away.
Ratepayers can see this. They know this is happening. Do they also notice their mayors are simply sucking it up? Is that where the frustration comes in? That they want their civic leader to stick up for them? Does it look like their civic leader is pulling the punches to protect their mates in government?
But, will a fighting mayor get more? A fighting mayor can throw his weight around and front for the media and express that frustration and embarrass central government ministers into a concession. But will that be a better deal than the friendly mayor got? Because, why would Labour in central government want to help Tamihere look good? Labour wouldn't even let him renew his party membership this year.
There's the gamble. You've only got $10 left. Do you put it on JT?