Monday, September 20, 2010

Discerning democracy

There’s a saying about politics in New Zealand: Local government is for the politicians who aren’t smart enough for Parliament. Personally, I think MPs came up with that because some of them are demonstrably dumber than some local politicians, and local politics often attracts failed/defeated national politicians. Not much difference, in other words.

Personally, I think another description of local politicians is more apt: Mad, sad and unemployed. There are, of course, many who are none of those things, but then there are, well, those who are all three. No, I won’t say who are which.

But I was reminded of this today when our voting papers arrived for the Auckland Council (aka “Supercity”) elections. I read through the booklet containing candidate information and there were quite a few who qualified for one or more of the trio.

How is an ordinary person to decide among the contenders? The last time I counted, when the deadline closed, we had “102 people to choose among for 24 positions” (a few may have dropped out, and some are running for more than one position). How to choose among them?

Party isn’t a big help. Many conservative candidates are running under the National Party’s local affiliate, Citizens & Ratepayers (C&R), while some left-leaning candidates are running as City Vision (CV, and including the Labour Party, the Alliance and the Green Party). But CV isn’t on the North Shore, C&R is barely here and in disarray everywhere.

Instead, the Shore—which is arguably more conservative than the other side of the bridge—has a conservative grouping known as “North Now” that includes folks from the Act Party, an outspoken opponent of MMP and a former high-profile public servant who ran a failed parliamentary campaign on a Christian party ticket, among others. Centre and (barely) centre-left candidates are mainly in Shore Voice. Many more candidates—on both sides of the bridge, and all over the political spectrum—are running as independents. This is true of both Auckland Council and Local Board candidates, while the credible mayoral candidates are all running as some sort of independent.

So, the next step is to seek out the websites of the candidates or parties to find out what their positions are. Quite frankly, most of those sites are pretty bland and not very informative—and the rest are truly bad. Still, those sites, and the official information booklets will be all that most voters ever see.

Personally, I still hope to go to a candidates meeting, but there hasn’t yet been one held at a time I could attend. We’ll see. In the meantime, and maybe exclusively, I’ll use the meagre resources I have to try and make the most informed decision I can.

Worst-case scenario, we’re only stuck with them for three years.

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