Monday, October 07, 2013

I voted, 2013 edition

I’ve always thought that voting is a serious obligation, something that we must do as the price of living in a free society. With only a couple exceptions, I’ve never missed an election. I voted this year, too (photo above).

Recently, I wrote about the elections in our area, and some of the people I wasn’t voting for. There were, of course, some people I did vote for.

I voted for Len Brown for Mayor of Auckland. I was glad to be voting for him again. He’s been positive about Auckland and moving this city forward. Last time, he campaigned on developing public transport, and he stuck to his guns in the face of opposition from central government and ended up forging a deal.

One of the things that I don’t think he gets enough credit for is standing in the way of central government’s desire to take away our democracy. The National/Act Government was upset with the growth plans for Auckland, and wanted more rural land opened for housing developments. They threatened to legislate to take away Auckland Council’s power to regulate growth. In the end, Mayor Brown won what’s now called “The Housing Accord”, which keeps control of growth in the hands of Auckland Council and helps avoid urban sprawl and the huge costs to ratepayers that would have meant.

I feel strongly that Len Brown has done a good job as mayor and deserves another term.

In our Ward, we get two choices for Auckland Council. My first choice, again, was Ann Hartley. Ann is running for re-election, and I voted for her in 2010, too. I’ve known Ann professionally for many years now, and though we’re not friends, I’ve had the chance to see her work close-up. I volunteered for her winning 1999 and 2002 campaigns for Parliament (in 2003, we moved from Auckland for three years, so I wasn’t here in 2005). Through that, I’ve seen her passion and commitment to this area and to building consensus for a progressive agenda. Ann has done a good job as Auckland Councillor and deserves another term.

For my other choice, I voted for Chris Darby, with whom Ann’s running a cooperative campaign. I also voted for him in 2010, but he wasn’t elected to Council.

For our Local Board, a community board under Auckland Council, there were two particular stand-outs for me. First, Richard Hills. I voted for him in 2010, even though I didn’t know who he was, mostly because he was on the same ticket as other folks I was voting for. It turned out to be a lucky choice.

In the time since that election, I’ve gotten to know Richard personally, and I’ve come to know him as one of the most upbeat and positive people in politics. He’s been a tireless advocate for the Kaipatiki Local Board area, as well as for youth. What’s impressed me in particular is that when opponents have been, um, unhelpful, he’s stayed focused on progress and moving the community—and Auckland in general—forward. I’m sure there are times that he didn’t feel all that positive about what opponents were doing, but he didn’t let that affect his overall positivity.

The other standout for me is Lindsay Waugh, who is currently Chairperson of the board. I’ve gotten to know her through Facebook, and that combined with her positive work on the Kaipatiki Local Board has meant she gets my vote, too.

Richard and Lindsay are part of the Kaipatiki Voice ticket, all of whom I voted for. I don’t know most of them, but people I respect have recommended the ticket to me, and in a campaign in which most of us have no idea who we’re voting for, personal recommendation can mean quite a lot—they certainly do for this.

Finally, there’s the Birkenhead Licensing Trust, which deserves its own post. I voted for Kaipatiki Voice’s Scott Espie, and also Marilyn Nichols, both of whom were recommended to me. None of the others deserved my vote.

These people I’ve highlighted are all positive, trying to move the community forward. As a voter, this matters to me a lot. So many politicians spend so much time wallowing in negativity, attacking their opponents and dismissing their work, that when we see politicians who instead focus on the positive, I think it’s something that deserves to be rewarded with a vote.

At the end of my previous post on this election, I said:
“The good news is that despite it all, there are plenty of good, dedicated and conscientious local government politicians, people who care about and are committed to their communities. And it’s also good to know that we have many such people right here in our area. I’ll talk about some of them in future posts.”
This is that post, and these are the sort of people I was talking about—but only ones I can vote for. There are more from other areas that I wish I could vote for.

It’s not all positive, of course, and not just the people I didn’t—or wouldn’t—vote for: There was also the District Health Board. In the end, I voted for no one—I skipped it entirely. There was no one I could even rank 1, let alone any further. There were 35 candidates for 7 positions, and most of them are people I’ve never heard of. There might be some decent candidates amid that gaggle, but it’s not like I could know either way. And I realise that the extreme partisans will find it easier to elect their own when sensible people like me boycott that election, but there was nothing else I could do.

Local elections must be reformed, which is a topic I’ll return to another day. For now, for this year, I voted—again.

Footnote: Since I mentioned it, the one election I know for sure I missed was a local election here in Auckland when I came down with an inner ear infection that made the room spin; the last thing even I cared about was voting! I think I may have missed another local election back in Illinois when I was at university because I didn’t get the application for an absentee ballot (with no Internet back then, everything was done through the mail).

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