Mayor Arnott was re-elected with 84% of the
vote, and faces only three new members on her council. Two of them
appear to be probable pussycats, joining an already domesticated
litter. Indeed, arguably her principal “agitator” — Robin Gwynn — has been retired.
Mayor Yule was re-elected with 55% of the vote, nearly thirty points
less, and faces five new councillors. None of these — based on their
campaign pronouncements — will be “sure bets” backing the Mayor’s
Virtually a thirty point difference in mandate, if that’s what you
can call the backing of one-in-three of the eligible voters in your
community in Arnott’s case, and a paltry one-in-five in Yule’s case.
It will be fascinating to see how each mayor plays the hand they have been dealt.
For Arnott, the main political challenge will be remaining awake at Council meetings.
She has referred vaguely to “a comprehensive environmental policy”
… details of which we’ll be keen to hear. She has also indicated
she’s aware that Napier citizens are not as well off — about $5,000
below the national average in income — as the grand image
marketed to tourists would suggest. Some will be waiting to see who
gets higher priority during another three year term … cruise ship
passengers strolling down the gangplank, or permanent residents struggling
on the lowest rungs of Napier’s economic ladder.
Mayor Yule, on the other hand, begins his new term bruised. In my
humble opinion, he was saved by the bell in this bout, in which Simon Nixon spent about one-fourth the amount a fully-funded candidate might have. If more voters
had been exposed to candidate Nixon, especially the up-to-speed version I
saw late in the campaign, Yule might have gone down for the
count. At the very least, his direction has been sharply questioned …
and his vulnerability to political body punching exposed.
So how does he step forward? Maybe he’ll champion something other
than big project economic development. In the latter stages of his
campaign, for example, he consistently professed — in public and
private — his concern about unrestrained development on the Heretaunga
Plains. Or maybe he’ll spearhead another high profile fundraising
campaign … this time for funds to take land off the development table
at Ocean Beach.
Any agenda he wants to pursue will require navigating a substantial
new set of interests and values represented by newly-elected
councillors. And some of these — Wayne Bradshaw is the first who comes
to mind — will assuredly not be pussycats. Openness and inclusiveness will be required. Floating alliances will be
the order of the day, depending upon the issue, as opposed to a
clearly-defined “us/them” line-up. Even hanging on to pet projects,
like the $50 million sports complex, might prove a chore.
The bottom line: Arnott’s job just got easier. Yule’s job got
harder. Who do you think will have more fun over the next three years?!