And don’t forget to vote

There is precisely one week to go until the last day of voting in Dunedin’s local government elections. David Loughrey looks back on the election period so far  and considers what attitude one should adopt while filling in  postal voting forms.

David Loughrey
David Loughrey.

As the clock winds down ever so slowly on the local government election period, it is time to sit and ponder some questions.

What defined the three-yearly battle of ideas and personalities that is the glorious testament to our democratic ways?

What were the major pressing issues that fired up the imagination of the people?

Who inspired and impressed the voters with their vision and their verve, their populist bonhomie and their vast success after humble beginnings?

Not much, nothing much and nobody really, may be the answers.

There were ongoing debates that bubbled under the surface, of course.

There was the matter of the supposed "green agenda" at the council.

Cr Hilary Calvert, standing down after one term on the job, got in early when she came out firing in July with talk of covert meetings and councillors "carrying out activities for the benefit of the planet" instead of managing city issues.

That was picked up by another candidate who described himself as "fractionally right", Cr Andrew Whiley.

There was, he said "a green agenda" at the council that meant he could not get support for his proposals.

Then we in the Otago Daily Times newsroom heard about what we came to describe as the "great right hope" whom Cr Whiley said he would step aside to support.

In the end that could have been Dunedin lawyer Susie Staley, but she decided against standing.

When it came to issues the city had to deal with, South Dunedin was an early pick, and certainly candidates were happy to come up with their own ideas about what to do about the suburb that suffered badly from last year’s floods.

But in that suburb, a mere 100 or so people turned out to the Mayfair Theatre over two nights to hear from those who might hold the power to decide their future.

People power requires people, and they were just not in evidence when the Greater South Dunedin Community Group held their election forums.

Instead, and to their credit, it was the National Council of Women’s forum and another in Mosgiel that attracted the biggest crowds of the election when 200 turned out to hear the thoughts of female candidates and another 200 to hear candidates’ views on the Taieri respectively.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Our understanding of this whole democracy issue is politicians care a lot when lots of people care a lot.

When it comes to populist politicians, we have a funny feeling those don’t go down well in Dunedin.

As a city we rightly distrust anything but sober and reasoned arguments, and look askance at those who deal in big talk and swaggering ways.

That is because we are thoughtful, intelligent and well-educated, what with being a university city and all.

Some certainly have, from time to time, talked big, mostly to indulge in attacks on the past transgressions of the council, and those were all men and they all looked like people who focus on the negative aspects of life.

Maybe they have a point.

But there are other ways to approach politics, and other ways to approach life.

The redoubtable but always terrifically pleasant, helpful and ultimately successful council heritage planner Glen Hazelton showed the way in that respect at a nothing-to-do-with-the-election meeting at St Paul’s Cathedral this week.

When he wasn’t amazing the audience with pictures of incredible buildings that had been saved from the machines of the demolishers, he was delivering a message of positivity and hope.

It may have sounded at times like chapter headings in a self-help book, but gee it resonated strongly.

He told the audience he had learned to focus on common ground, not differences.

He told them he had learned to say "yes" more than "no".

He told them it was all about relationships, that people were the key, that it was important to do what you said you would do, that you needed to be pragmatic and practical, and there were cumulative effects from small changes.

And Dr Hazelton told the audience it was important to love Dunedin.

"This is a really special place," he said.

And he was so very, very right.

Dunedin deserves people in charge who know that important thing.

There is only a week to go, and voting returns as of Thursday evening stood at 19.85% compared to 17.02% at the same time in 2013.

But that is still so very, very low, and again heading for less than 50%.

So vote for the people  who are positive, vote for those who see common ground, vote for those who know people are the key and look for the cumulative effects of small changes.

Vote for people who love Dunedin.

Because there you will find the defining aspect of this election.

And don’t forget to vote.

Comments

There is NO Right Wing. There is only a Green Left Bloc, which is spelt 'b.l.o.c', bloc, just so we understand the Soviet connotations. The not Left look fearlessly to neither the Left, nor the Right. Oh, alright, a little bit. They look Right a little bit.

A very thoughtful piece by David Loughrey. As a candidate for that other election. The one that has no candidate meetings (ORC) I have something that I wish to share regarding the voting system and that is that many people are ranking ORC candidates when voting for them. These votes are apparently counted but only if people number six or less. With that in mind, have fun voting people!