WHAT’S ON IN COUNCIL - THE Creative Communities committee meets Thursday to consider applications for available funding for arts projects . . . but the big news, I suppose, is the Electoral Commission being in town on Thursday and Friday to decide the shape of our local democracy for the elections next year.
I understand that on the Thursday they’ll be pottering around the district to get a feel for the distances involved, the communities of interest, that sort of stuff, and the next day they’ll take over the council chamber to hear submissions on local representation.
If you’re one of the objectors to the status quo then I expect you have been allotted a time to state your case. If you’re just interested, I presume it’s an open session with the public welcome. I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be but I’ve never been involved in one of these so I’m not 100 percent sure.
Interestingly, the Mayor and one supporting councillor (in this case Bill Burdett) will be invited to present the council view, which was for the status quo. The vote on that was 8-6 but one of those eight was teetering a bit so it might well have been 7-7, though it ended up being carried on casting vote for the status quo, which is the convention.
Even if that had been the case, apparently the result of the vote is taken by the commission to be the “will of the council”, and they are not interested in hearing the views of the dissenting six.
This leaves me a bit hornswoggled. It is true that in a democracy there are some decisions that go down to the wire, and get decided one way or the other by a close vote. If you’re a councillor on the wrong side of that vote, tough, you’re bound by it and responsible for it and grumbling that you were right and the majority were wrong and therefore it’s all their fault, not yours, is not just pointless, it’s kind of pathetic. If you were so clearly right then you should have been able to persuade the majority to your view.
But there are no “right” answers in this sort of issue — it is a complex question — so I thought the commission would be eager to hear all views, and I’m quite stunned that they apparently aren’t.
I’m not particularly bothered about the final outcome because I have mixed feelings anyway, so I’m sure I’ll be able to live with whatever decision is made. They’re competent and sensible people, I’m sure they will do a good job. But if I were one of the six (especially if I had really strong beliefs) then I’d be feeling pretty damned disenfranchised right now.
The final outcome — I expect the commission will reserve its decision and tell us the result in a month or two — carries a little added piquancy because of the current problems we have with unexpected rating issues on some lands outside the city proper. The two are not really connected, but the council’s rural/urban divide makes for good drama, even if it is not much of a factor in reality.
I’d be horrified if any of our councillors made rating decisions on the basis of what is good for them, or their mates, or their ward. The job is to do it on what is as fair as possible for the whole district.
That doesn’t mean you don’t keep a special eye out to make sure your ward doesn’t get disadvantaged . . . of course you do, and you have to because you know your ward better than anyone else.
Whatever the result, I’m confident the next election will deliver an interesting and diverse set of councillors.