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Some of the most fierce debates during this election period have happened behind the scenes, away from the public gaze, in the secret world of the Otago Daily Times’ candidate profiles.
Now we can give you some insight into what happens in this odd place.
In its commitment to providing all the salient details of those aspiring to public office for the consideration of our sober and thoughtful readers, candidates were asked for a number of details for the election lift-out published this week.
That included whether they were running for mayor, council, or both, what ward or constituency they were in, their name, their occupation and ... their age.
None of these things seemed terrifically controversial, but it appears age may be the new issue that touches a nerve in the ageing south.It certainly proved to be an issue with 10 of the 123 candidates contacted.
Four of those, despite coaxing, absolutely refused to tell.
This column can now reveal some of the arguments used by candidates as to why their age should not be in the newspaper, where they would help voters eager for details as they weigh up the pros and cons of those wanting public office, and eager for a level of control over what their rates are spent on.
Each candidate was told the newspaper felt it was important from a voter’s perspective to list candidates’ ages.
Because they were seeking public office, voters had the right to know who they were voting for, and the level of experience they could expect.
That was why ages were important.
To expand on that, it may be people would weigh up the sum of a candidate’s life’s achievements differently if they were 22 as opposed to 72.
Given such reasons, one candidate merely replied: "I’d rather not, thanks," and would respond no further to emailed requests.
Another said age was immaterial, and there were far greater issues facing both the city and the province rather than a candidate’s age.
A third candidate said readers should be able to make their mind up about a candidate’s age from a photograph; company annual reports didn’t have them; age was no indication of experience; and being asked one’s age was ageist and therefore discriminatory.
Voters will have to make up their own minds on this matter, no matter what their age (as long as they are old enough to vote).
● Mayoral candidate Abe Gray is on to a winner with a popular little joke he is making at mayoral forums.
Mr Gray is committed to the reform of marijuana laws, so it is no surprise it involves cannabis.
However, this column did wonder at its obvious appeal in the staid little suburb of Maori Hill, and was even more surprised (almost shocked for a few seconds) when it went down well at an Otago Chamber of Commerce meeting.
We didn’t write it all down, but it cropped up during talk of economic development, when Mr Gray talked about the international attention he said his cannabis museum in Caversham had attracted.
He said while some suggest freedom campers (who apparently flock to the city to see the museum) didn’t like to spend money, when they visited the museum they were keen to spend hundreds.
"I have to tell them it’s not legal," is the punchline.
That little story prompted some almost raucous laughter from those one would expect to be sober, upstanding citizens, particularly the city’s business community.
We just don’t know what to think.
● Sometimes, one really likes a particular candidate.
That hasn’t happened to us, but we understand it is a "thing".
At other times, one particularly dislikes a candidate.
Perhaps one has seen them at two or three meetings calling out their inane slogan, or heard them bang on about being a great leader or a fabulous listener but providing nothing to back that up.
Surely in a democracy there should be a way to use this negative energy to change the council, preferably through the electoral process itself.
Our suggestion is a way to be able to vote against a candidate, perhaps using the single transferable voting system, where one is able to rank candidates from one to 20 or whatnot.
Perhaps if there was a candidate whose only quality was a shiny suit and overblown feeling of self-worth, one could tick a box that gave them a negative rank.
That would count against such a candidate in the final tally.
Surely a fairer system is one that uses the whole gamut of human emotions, both negative and positive, to choose the sort of local government we really want.