Nothing improves government more than two ingredients — sunlight and competition.

The maxim “sunlight is the best disinfectant” surely holds true of government and politics.

The worst of politics and public decision-making occurs behind closed doors and when outside scrutiny is stifled. There’s simply no accountability in the dark. Hence regulations about open meetings, free access to information, disclosure of financial interests by officeholders, and disclosure of campaign contributions.

And, if we may say so, independent lenses like BayBuzz have a critical role to play in helping to magnify the light.

But today we’re writing to applaud the other pillar of good government … competition.

At least in the high profile mayor’s race in Hastings, the incumbent will face a challenger. Trish Giddens and Helen Walker will go toe-to-toe in the CHB mayor’s race. But Barbara Arnott has yet to find an opponent in Napier with barely two weeks to go.

In Hastings, the incumbent mayor will present his record as evidence of how he will provide leadership in the future, the values he represents, and the direction he will take in the coming three years.

His challenger will seek to offer a different direction, presumably with some critique of recent Mayoral and Council performance, mixed with some presentation of his own values, aspirations and priorities.

The mere appearance of a challenger on the scene will necessarily raise the bar for this campaign.

Mayor Yule faced no opponent in the last election. Assuming he stands for re-election, now he will need to contend with a feisty Simon Nixon. Whatever the outcome, the public will benefit from a healthy exchange. Records and experience will be more closely examined. Positions will be clarified and sharpened.  And if we’re really lucky, candidates’ values will be forced to the surface.

So while we’re not ready yet to cheer for one over the other, BayBuzz does want to shout three cheers for competition.

Hip hip hooray!

Hip hip hooray!

Hip hip hooray!

And while we’re at it, not a single candidate standing for any elected position in Hawke’s Bay should get away with slipping into office without some serious electoral competitors. To avoid that miscarriage of democracy, a lot more candidates will need to enter the ring before August 24! We hope they do.

Tom

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