On 21 September, Hawke’s Bay Today published the following letter to the editor from Mark von Dadelszen, husband of Regional Councillor and candidate Eileen von Dadelszen. The next day, HBT graciously published my response to Team von Dadelszen, reproduced below. Since many BayBuzz readers decline to read HBT, here is the exchange.
From Mark von Dadelszen:
I’m uniquely placed, as the current spouse of a regional councillor and current candidate, to observe the current regional council election campaign and the effect of the abuse that is an unpleasant feature of it.
I know the long-standing contributions my wife has made to our region. I know her passion for the work of the regional council.
The invective designed to bring candidates into hatred, ridicule and contempt is unpleasant, ill-informed and ultimately destructive.
Why self-proclaimed ‘environmentalists’ believe they have the right to attack the personal integrity and ability of some candidates puzzles and saddens me. It is akin to the vandalism of election signs – it is negative and immature.
The fact is that regional council resource management plans and decisions must ultimately be able to withstand scrutiny by the Environment Court. Current critics of regional council decisions and decision-makers fail to take or win their arguments in the Environment Court – why? They avoid logical discussion of the issues, and instead attack the community’s elected representatives personally – why? They fail to recognize positive improvements in environmental care – why?
Given this negativity, why would anyone seek election when they are selectively subject to contemptible personal attacks?
I believe that candidates with integrity have confidence in the electorate to elect qualified people who have a track record of making positive contributions to the community.
Personally, I do not believe our community appreciates candidates or their fellow-travellers who attack the players rather than the ball.”
Response from Tom Belford:
[My wife Brooks would have preferred to speak out in my defense. But whereas there might be some chivalry perceived in husband Mark attacking on behalf of his damsel in distress, I feared that asking my spouse to do the heavy lifting would cast me as an unmanly wuss.]
“In response to Mark von Dadelszen’s campaign lament yesterday on behalf of his wife, candidate Eileen, titled Attacking the player not the ball.
Sorry Mark, until such time as we have local parties or tickets, local body elections are about individual candidates and their capabilities. And in the case of incumbents like Eileen, their performance on the job. In other words, playing the (wo)man. There is no other basis on which voters can or should make their judgments. Bloodlines, mere longevity and devotion to duty might be grounds enough for queens, but not for those seeking elective office.
Candidates who can’t bear the heat of public scrutiny should get out of the democratic kitchen. Challenging the judgment, performance and vision of one’s competitors for office is a far cry from any “negativity” and “contemptible personal attacks” about which you mightily complain, but fail to enlighten us as to specifics or even to identify a culprit …other than by innuendo.
As for me, it’s simple. I’m not standing for office because of some vague sense of ideological mission, duty to the RMA, or entitlement. If I didn’t think I could contribute more — and better represent the values I believe the voters hold dearest — than the specific individuals I hope to defeat, I wouldn’t trouble them or myself by entering the race.
So yes indeed, despite being called by your crowd a ‘recent American immigrant’ … ‘the Belford aberration’ … ‘draft dodger’ … ‘environmental fundamentalist’ … and my personal favourite, an ‘idealistic Johnny Come Lately’, I welcome the heat and plead guilty to playing ‘the man’, with enthusiasm.”
P.S. Have you read the BayBuzz Digest Election Special Edition? You can download PDF version here.