A lot of commentators have suggested that there is a left majority on the newly formed council, of eight. I am not so sure; I see a situation where we may see a couple of Councillors in the position of deciding a vote, and I am not sure they will always vote left, or right.
So I’m going to oversimplify this but, sometimes that makes it easier to understand.
My seven left-leaning Councillors are Pannett, Free, Foon, Matthews, O’Neill, Fitzsimons, and Day. Of those, Pannet, Free, Foon, Matthews, O’Neill, and Fitzsimons are always going to vote in the left direction because of their party allegiances, so that leaves a solid five left councillors with Day an independent, though, as Deputy she has always voted in line with the left and most likely would continue to do so.
So, we have;
Solid Left; five.
Probably Left; one.
My six right-leaning Councillors are Foster, Young, Woolf, Rush, Calvert, and Sparrow. Of those, we can’t rely on pretty much any to consistently vote right, because as you will notice, all of them are independent. So we do not have a solid right-leaning core at all.
So, we have;
Solid Left; five.
Probably Left; one.
Solid Right; none.
Probable Right; six.
Then we have the most interesting of creatures, the thinking Councillors that are likely to analyse things independent of their political affiliation and vote as they sit fit based on their determination of an issue. Often appearing as “flip-floppers” (if that is a thing) they are anything but. These are our wildcards and often will move the left and right block based on how they vote.
Our wildcards are then Condie and Paul. Between them, if we assume that the left and right always vote left and right, they could then roll every vote where they want it.
Let’s talk about these two for a minute, and why I think they don’t settle into the left or right naturally and are far more likely to vote issue by issue. They will tend to straddle the left and the right and cherry-pick issues based on their experience and professional background.
Condie is a definite thinker and a self-labelled “blue-green”, which proves my hypothesis.
Paul is a disruptor. She thinks very differently from the traditional, older, Councillors and is likely to kick stuff all over the place and question why it must follow that path. Which frankly, I am very much looking forward to.
Let’s take that a step further. Let’s say that there are Councillors who vote on ideological and party lines versus those that are thinkers.
The idealists are; Pannett, Foon, Matthews, O’Neill, and Fitzsimons.
You can see where I am going with this. There is a belief that the Council are left dominated and are simply going to vote idealistically every time, leading to a left-led group. But, it’s not that clear cut and voting issues are rarely that simple.
I think that means we are going to see quite a variety of voting patterns over this triennium and most of them are going to come down to a) how the community feels about something swaying their Councillors and b) the information that Council officers provide to the Councillors on an issue.
We know that communities, for a variety of reasons, often get the wrong end of the stick (lack of good information and poor transparency) and can sway the vote in an incorrect direction.
We know that information from officers can be incorrect, bias, or simplistic. Or, they provide so much information in such a short period, that Councillors don’t have time to digest it, the Island Bay Cycleway was a classic example of this. I’m picking on officers a bit; it’s not always true that information falls into those categories though it is true that Councillors think that it might, based on their inherent bias.
Let’s try a test vote.
That other tunnel that has had so much media attention over the last week. On the face of it, it looks like a loser; media says that the Council is stacked left and they won’t vote for it given that it enables more cars.
But, if you say that to get mass transit (in whatever form) to the East, you need another tunnel, and, that the tunnel will cater for other cleaner modes of transport like cycling, walking, ride-share, and cars with four people in them, the picture changes.
The idealists will not vote for it on principle. Because of the town belt and stuff. But there aren’t enough of them to win. We’ve still got a lot of potential swing voters in the rest of the pack, so the thinkers are going to ask, what are the alternatives to get mass transit out East?
We know the answer to that, it’s driving it from the CBD, through the basin, right through Newtown, over the hill, right through Kilbirnie, and then onwards. The tunnel option takes us CBD, tunnel, Wellington Road, Cobham Drive.
The damage to Newtown and Kilbirnie is substantial. It will kill off small business in those areas (because of construction) and effect housing as it passes over the hill, and we know that these are suburbs that are already significantly suffering and struggling. Whereas the alternate route impacts no small business, and housing has already mostly been bought by the NZTA, so the effect is far less.
Then we throw in the “can we afford it” question. That’s an Andy question for the most part, given his experience. I am guessing the answer is no. LGWM is not free for Wellington, we are going to pay through the nose for it, and that will significantly increase both localised taxes and rates.
It’s not that easy, being a Councillor.
So how do you avoid stasis over three years? You look at your Council, which was elected by the residents and as such represents their wishes, and you only take issues to vote where you can be assured of a clear majority.
There are many, many issues of importance that fall into that category, and a smart Mayor and Council will focus on those to make progress.