Fresh Faces. Fresh Thinking. Fresh Start.
Over the two-month lifespan of this edition, we will learn who will be candidates for our 2013 local elections. The official window for declaring is 26 July to 23 August. Who will emerge? And what qualities in candidates might one seek?
One certainty is that virtually all incumbent officeholders will re-stand. Out of Hawke’s Bay’s 49 councillors, perhaps a half-dozen or so (Eileen von Dadelszen, Liz Remmerswaal, Neil Kirton, Kathie Furlong, Tania Wright, Margaret Twigg) will not stand.
Granted, a few incumbents have just recently begun public service and arguably voters will benefit if these individuals bring increasing experience to bear.
But too many incumbent councillors are well past the gold watch stage … many like Alan Dick, Christine Scott, Kevin Watkins, Tony Jeffery and Faye White would be standing for a fifth term; some like Kevin Rose, Mark Herbert and Dave Pipe running for a sixth term; Cynthia Bowers for a pace-setting seventh term. Nice people one and all.
But how much of them is enough, when sheer longevity and name recognition confers advantages that squeeze out fresh faces and fresh thinking?
Of course, if you are wildly enthusiastic about the present direction of Hawke’s Bay, then you need look no further than the ‘stay the course’ hands of the established veterans. And no doubt ‘steady hands’ will be the claimed virtue of these perennials.
On the other hand, if you’re a voter who’s not thrilled with the state of Hawke’s Bay today, or where it seems to be pointed (horizontal at best, not up), then you might want to be taking note of who is standing, urging fresh faces to stand … maybe even thinking about getting off the sidelines and standing yourself (remember, August 23rd is your filing deadline).
It will come as no surprise to BayBuzz readers that I believe Hawke’s Bay is reclining, if not declining, under the ‘steady hands’ of our political veterans.
But I surely don’t believe that sleep-walking or muddling along need be our region’s fate. Just as I don’t believe we need to clamber aboard growth paths that bleed our environment and natural resources and defy sustainability.
Elected officials without baggage, not needing to defend past policies, and able to provide fresh perspective and wider experiences, can identify better outcomes and pursue them more vigorously.
With that belief in mind, I support term limits for elected officials – three terms or almost ten years in the same office is plenty of time to make a public service contribution, without becoming addicted to the ratepayers’ teat. I’d like to see new candidates pledge to limit their terms of elected service, and then find other ways to contribute further to the community.
Likewise, I support full amalgamation of the region’s five councils, as proposed by A Better Hawke’s Bay. Not as a solution in itself, but as a means to an end.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours monitoring council meetings (I refrain from using the word ‘deliberations’). And could write a book about the duplication of effort and expenditure, patch protection, back-biting and conflict over priorities I’ve seen that hold back our region from its better aspirations. If the stakes weren’t so high going forward, it would be a comic book.
We simply must re-boot Hawke’s Bay governance – reorganise our public sector to better plan for the future and more wisely use our limited financial and natural resources. I’m optimistic that the needed reorganisation will occur next year.
But both ingredients are needed for change to occur.
A new structure overrun by old faces will be infected by the habits of the past.
And conversely, fresh faces thwarted by existing counter-productive structures and processes will soon become dulled, disillusioned … and co-opted by council staffs quite content with the status quo.
Change is scary. But it’s what Hawke’s Bay needs this election year. Not a warm bath of reassurance from the old hands.