Local body election time again. Cruel pundits claim it's the equivalent of a triennial zombie jamboree – like the boy and girl Scouts have from time to time, but less lively – where coteries of the living dead simultaneously rise from twilight zones to stalk the hustings in some sort of ancient spawning ritual. Bring out the bodies, the town criers cry, and let's see who passes the sniff test.
Branding is everything these days, so of course we have the accompanying ritual of the erecting-of-the-hoardings. An essential part of the selection process, it subjects candidates early on in the piece to a basic literacy and numeracy competency test. Some spectacularly fall at this very first hurdle by demonstrating inability to comprehend simple instructions as to hoarding size, wording and placement, as laid out by their venerable forbears.
Consequently, the now self-identified miscreants have to amend their hoardings, assuming that the incumbent authorities can be bothered enforcing their own regulations - something by no means guaranteed. But this is an essential part of the process if voters are to be forewarned of lack or otherwise of relevant competencies of wannabe councillors. If they can't get it right on erecting a simple sign, how the heck can they be trusted to tackle complex issues like sewage schemes and such!
Then there's the question of the message itself. It's evident the final slogans reflect much cerebral machination. Council candidate Brent Crossan, for example, having obviously thought long and hard, has come up with "Vote for tomorrow". Who could argue with that? On the surface, a great going-forward call to arms, betokening innovative long-term strategy and future prosperity.
But wait. There may be a catch. As we know, tomorrow never actually arrives – by the time we reach tomorrow, another tomorrow is already lurking in the wings. So, assuming Bruce is elected, and further down the track you ask: "Councillor Crossan, why haven't all those footpaths you promised to repair not been fixed?", Cr Crossan can legitimately reply: "Manana, manana – it'll all be done tomorrow, just like you voted for!" Who can ever gainsay him! Sometimes you have to read between the tram lines.
However, even though Brent is a self-declared tomorrow's man, he prefers yesterday's spelling when it comes to Whanganui, and gives the "h" the cold shoulder in declaring his River City address.
Candidate Dan Shand, on the other hand, obviously likes keeping things simple. "Vote Dan – If you feel like it", says Dan. Only if you feel like it! How straightforward, and how considerate. But hang on, come to think of it, who in their right mind would actually vote for Dan – or anyone else for that matter – if they DIDN'T feel like it? Hmmm... Maybe Dan is trying to monopolise the vote of the guys and gals who only went to school to eat their lunches and paint their fingernails.
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Councillor Alan Taylor's message is commendably to the point: "Re-elect Alan Taylor to council", it invites. But his visual message is more ambiguous. Alan is pictured in what appears to be a smart paisley pyjama jacket, but with a casual coat slung over his shoulder as though ready for a stroll. Perhaps Alan's indicating he's a practising sleep-walker, and thus a versatile multitasker.
Interestingly, Alan's billboard states that it is "approved", whereas other billboards have to be "authorised". Perhaps this singularity indicates Alan's elevated status as a sitting councillor.
But councillor Rob Vinsen gets plenty of bang for his billboard. By far the smallest, it's also the wordiest. For those passing motorists who take the time to pull over in order to absorb its full message, it betokens admirable thrift and compactness. For passing motorists who try to read it all without pulling over, it will probably betoken their addition to the road crash statistics.
But in the local body Twilight Zone, any signs of life have got to be a plus.