As the electoral season opens, and while, as a matter of fairness, there can be no endorsement of any particular candidate, yet assessments of the assets and liabilities of aspirants is perfectly in order. We're making an investment in each of them, for at least three years, hoping for their bettering our future beyond that term.
There are good things for Whanganui District Council to consider and some serious issues from the past still pressing. Exciting is the future prospects for council and the city, as the settlement of the Iwi claims progresses, an opportunity for closer work relations between Council and the Whanganui Iwi and a need for confident, capable negotiations.
Our housing problem remains a complex issue that will require good ideas and management skills.
Climate change will have an effect on this city as well as every other. Preparation will demand a wise use of assets and clear communication. Every citizen will be affected and council will be obliged to lead. Realists and dreamers will both be needed if we're to find useful solutions.
We'll need a council with long-range views but a careful eye on the public purse.
We are spared a competitive mayoralty contest this time round. Mayor Hamish McDouall, having studied for his role under good tutelage, has grown into it well and performed more than creditably. Under his stewardship council has become less fractious, more functional. One theory of management was that of Professor Abraham Zaleznik, my mentor at Harvard Business School. He taught that an organization shapes itself in accord with the personality of its leader. Even-handed, steady and smart is how the council reflects Hamish's style. Without a need for disruption, others could calm their ambitions, for now.
The mayor's relaxed style is certainly an asset but in some circumstances it may be a liability. For example, I maintain my disagreement with the Mayor's casual acceptance of Minister Lees-Galloway's vague assurances about the prospective refugee re-settlement without the hard realities even contemplated, much less discussed.
Some other councilors running have disappointed. Kate Joblin did a good job as DHB chair, pointing to disparate mortality statistics for Maori. I supported her first run. Since then, while her role at council is undistinguished, she convened a meeting on the End Of Life Choice Bill under the banner of its being "informational" when in fact it was, in my opinion, distinctly partisan, anti-choice and fear-mongering.
With neither apology nor redemptive action, not even serious explanation, I am left with "fool me once, shame on me..."
Jay Kuten: Trust and deception in the end of life debate
Jay Kuten: If it walks like a racist, talks like a racist ...
Jay Kuten: An open letter to David Bennett
While there is some need for continuity at council, we should question the added value where some have served many terms.
Rob Vinsen has been councilor since Michael Laws. I believe he still seems to favor a $25 million treatment plant when the independent Domm report on the plant's failure pointed to the choice of a cheap untried solution. More importantly, Vinsen was one of three councilors to leave council without a quorum thereby keeping petitioners from being heard on their opposition to the TPP.
Along with Vinsen on that anti-petitioner walkabout was Phillipa Baker-Hogan, a holdover from Laws' Vision Party days. She's been an advocate for sports at council but does advocacy widen or narrow her perspective? She's decidedly more calm at council these days (playing better with others). Her wagon is hitched to roofing the Velodrome whose costs to ratepayers don't seem to be much discussed as rates rise. Can we afford it? Should we? What's needed is an independent report like the one by Robert Domm, this time before the potential financial disaster, not after
Meanwhile several young people have put up their hands. I'm looking forward to a new council with new and younger faces around the table. It's the young people that will live in that future. The future of Whanganui belongs to them.