BayBuzz’s roving reporter Elizabeth Sisson catches up with new Napier city councillors Bill Dalton and Keith “Spongie”” Price.
Bill Dalton’s family has been in Napier for four generations. He has had a successful career in finance, is partner in an investment firm and has been involved in many organisations and activities, with an emphasis on music, theatre and administration of sporting groups. He proposes to apply his business skills and experience to council work “to be able to look back and say that I improved the standard of governance of the Napier City Council.”
What does he mean by governance? “All I am saying is that I want to help improve the decision-making process so that we, the humble ratepayers, end up with better outcomes. That means better consultation, more robust debate, greater community input and, at the end of that process, outcomes that, as much as possible, satisfy the community. It certainly will not be a perfect process – there is no such thing. But good governance, a process I believe I can contribute to, should result in decisions being made that simply make good sense.”
Dalton ran for office as an at-large candidate and did not enjoy the campaign process, finding it uncomfortable to sell himself. He admires all those who stood as candidates, win or lose. “It takes a lot of guts to get up there and do it.”
Now a councillor at-large, Dalton does not support the ward system for Napier. He points out that council is required to focus on the city as a whole and ward councillors will have to yield ward interests in favour of the city’s overall interest. “What you want is the best outcome for the city as a whole, for the city’s wellbeing, which includes facilities for tourists.” He will apply this approach to all the issues that continually come before the council, such as the art gallery building, the sewage treatment system and land use. He thinks that Napier “is absolutely blessed in its chief executive, Neil Taylor. He’s one of the most competent chief executives in any sphere I’ve come across. ”
“I believe I’m a very good advocate, too. I want to bring the ratepayers’ concerns to the council table.” While he thinks council needs to present a united front once a decision has been made, he promises to be “absolutely honest and open in council chambers. I will call it as I see it.”
A police officer for 27 years, Keith “Spongie”” Price thinks he probably spent 20 years patrolling the streets of Napier. After leaving the police, he owned a bar on Hastings Street for four years, which enhanced his views on law and order, and now owns and manages The Thirsty Whale bar and restaurant in the strip along Ahuriri’s waterfront. He still seems to like people, but has no tolerance for what he describes as “problems,” such as people drinking out of the backs of cars. And he has “a good liaison” with the police.
A former rugby player and coach, he is “an enthusiastic supporter” of club and regional rugby. He works with the Napier Safety Trust and supports the Napier Community Patrol.
Price represents the Onekawa-Tamatea ward. He has been appointed deputy chair of the council’s Safer Napier Committee. “The ideal is: Napier is a place with no crime,” he says. “It’s impossible, but we have to strive for that.”
He has a number of goals for his service on council. His top priority is to keep Napier a safe place to be. He also wants to seriously discourage graffiti, support Napier’s “outstanding” sporting facilities and sports of all kinds and develop more special events to bring people into Napier, e.g., maybe some extensions of Art Deco week.
Price realizes he’s starting out on council “as a junior boy,” but believes he can bring an informed perspective on law and order and certainly information about what goes on in Napier’s streets at night. He describes himself as experienced in talking to people of all kinds and has already found that people are approaching him with problems they would like to see addressed. “I’m not hard to talk to.”
However, like Dalton he found campaigning difficult. He felt “vulnerable” because he couldn’t answer all the questions people asked him, but now, as a councillor, knows he can find the information and get back to them. “I don’t say for a minute that I’ve got all the answers to what goes on.”
So why is he called “Spongie?” Some 30 years ago there was a TV ad for self-saucing pudding called ‘Spongie Puds.’ Those who knew him thought he looked like the kid in the ads and he has been known as Spongie ever since. “A lot of people wouldn’t know me as Keith.”
– Elizabeth Sisson