Regional Councillor Ewan McGregor has taken me to the woodshed for a paddling.
He says BayBuzz is being too unkind to Mayor Yule, by “attacking” the Mayor for being politically motivated and ambitious, criticising — even poking fun at — certain of his ideas, declaring the 2010 campaign already launched, “playing the man not the ball” and other offences.
Because we do indeed have a year of pre-election posing — especially by incumbent officeholders — ahead of us, and because Mayor Yule has in fact declared he is running for the office again (which is classically how a campaign begins), yes, I’ll admit, BayBuzz is heading into election mode.
But I’d like to do a decent job of it, so I’m open to criticisms and suggestions … starting with Councillor McGregor. Below I’ve published his comments in full. Let me know what you think. I’d prefer you post public comments using the comment feature at the end of this article, so we can all have the benefit of your views. But otherwise, you can email me at email@example.com. I’ll reflect upon your comments and respond next week.
Meanwhile, here’s Ewan:
“Tom, In a short time you have through your resources, talent and experience developed BayBuzz into a very professional publication which adds considerably to the debate on local issues. Accordingly, you’ve established much influence in the last couple of years and there’s no law against that; this is a free democracy.
You actively comment on local issues and the performance and policies of councils, and those that hold office. Much of your comment is well informed and I think fair, and, unsurprisingly, some I disagree with. Increasingly though, your criticisms are personalised, often laced with threads of condescension, sarcasm and ridicule.
A week or so ago Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule announced he would be standing again and would be advocating amalgamation in some form of local bodies in Hawke’s Bay (but that any decision would be made by the public). You responded with a piece on your blog that was an attack on Yule from start to finish. I have no brief to defend Lawrence Yule – he can look after himself – but I found the spirit of it totally offensive. (At time of writing it is still on line and readers can read or re-read it and draw their own conclusions.)
You challenged his mandate to so much as promote the idea, as his opponents in the last election polled 45% of the vote. Well, many mayors in this country have been elected with less, and sometimes quite a bit less than 50% but they must nevertheless be the highest polling candidate. This secures them in office under our rules. (This doesn’t apply, incidentally, to the election of the U S President, as Al Gore found out. Bush with just 47.5% of the vote can unleash an illegal war to secure oil, but you come out here and lecture us that a mayor elected with 55% of the vote hasn’t the mandate to unleash an idea.)
You cynically see this is as a ploy to get elected as the first mayor of HB. So what if that is his ambition? If I was in his position it would be mine. And what’s wrong with ambition anyway? It’s the driver of human progress. If he is to achieve it he has to cross three bridges to get there, and it’s a democratic process all the way:
1. Get re-elected as Mayor of Hastings
2. Have the people of Hawke’s Bay vote for amalgamation
3. Get elected Mayor of Hawke’s Bay.
Have you ever considered that he just might sincerely believe in local government amalgamation? He’s nailed his colours to the mast on an issue that I suspect he believes in. It’s a pity more politicians don’t have the courage and the purpose to do the same.
Soon after you followed this with a (presumably meant to be) humorous piece entitled ‘Yule to buy Napier’. Such is likely to massage the fear that many in Napier have that this is all about a Hastings takeover of Napier, which of course is nonsense. I don’t think that this dignifies a debate that may lead to the most important decision on local government that the people of Hawke’s Bay will democratically make. (The 1876 and 1989 reorganisations were driven nationally.) But then some of the mockery of a cause might rub off onto its promoter.
If we’ve got 12 months of you attacking Lawrence Yule ahead of us, it’s not going to be pretty. To me it has become tiresome; worse, it’s starting to show the hallmarks of a vendetta. Play the ball Tom, not the man.
If candidates and office-holders you don’t approve of are going to be subjected to these personal attacks where ideas are belittled and motives cynically suspected for the year ahead, then I think the electoral process will be done a disservice.
Lawrence didn’t announce the opening of his election campaign, you did. (“Let the election begin!”) He merely said he was standing again and in doing so he would pursue amalgamation. Office holders have a year’s hard work ahead of us doing what we were elected to do last time and don’t need to have to look over our shoulders for you stirring things up (and no, this is not to say that we be immune from robust and fair criticism). Well okay, the politicians may have to accept this, but what has the public done to deserve a year of electioneering inflicted upon them?
But what are your motives? Are you intending to put a candidate up against Yule, yourself perhaps? If so then I think you should declare your interest sooner rather than later, otherwise such a purpose remains ulterior.
Still, with BayBuzz you’re giving people like me a platform to have a say, and good on you for that.