Off the Record

City editor Daniel Adams explores what is going on behind the scenes at Hamilton City Council.

Ultimate test of councillors' performance

05:00am 03 Jul 2012 5 comments

DANIEL ADAMS

Hamiltonians should watch city councillors closely this week as they discuss the way they will require the public to cast their votes at next October's triennial elections.

On the table at Thursday's council meeting - live-streamed on the council website - is a report which outlines an extraordinary number of options, including citywide voting.

The feedback sought earlier by council indicates a significant amount of public support for citywide voting - electing city councillors as the mayor is, by the city as a whole.

But don't be surprised if councillors appear conveniently hard of hearing talk that the public wants to do away with our current two-ward system. The usual arguments against reform were recited yesterday by electoral spending miser Dave Macpherson.

Candidates with deep pockets could buy the elections, he argued, creating a "River Road'' council comprised of members whose biggest qualification was their wallet.

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Councillors a captive audience

05:00am 08 Jun 2012 2 comments

DANIEL ADAMS

10-year budget hearings recently were the usual chance for malcontents, petitioners and influencers to have at least the appearance of councillors' undivided attention.

Councillors were today putting the finishing touches to the city's long term plan.

Their long-term 'austerity' budget provoked more than 700 submissions, mainly on asset sales, civic debt, and how the rating pie should best be carved up and spent.

Amid the procession of nervous submitters, diligently working their way through submissions which everybody else in the room was reading for themselves far faster than the speaker, were occasional flashpoints of insight, humour and irritation.

Among the best submitters was one from a new neighbourhood in the city's northeast with a dearth of playgrounds and a plea for one, preferably before their kids grow up.

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Great to see some loyal city council staff

05:00am 06 Jun 2012 0 comments

DANIEL ADAMS

It was great to see some loyal city council staff returning fire at the Waikato Times online recently when it reported a disturbing trend of high quality staff losses.

The story recounted the ''almost certain'' risk of the council losing its best people, and struggling to recruit others, for reasons which include the city's tattered public image.

It's the sort of attitude that will strengthen chief executive Barry Harris' arm as he sets about righting the wrongs of the past and substantially reshaping the organisation.

The scale of his task was to become clearer today with the latest yearly staff 'climate survey' likely to show the council faces deepening morale and leadership lows.

The media is an easy target when politicans are under fire, and it's privately regarded in the job as a sign that there's little else worthwhile they can say in their own defense.

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Nothing more than a kangaroo court

05:00am 01 Jun 2012 1 comment

DANIEL ADAMS

It's difficult to see last week's dumping of maverick city councillor Ewan Wilson as anything other than a kangaroo court.

Yes, Wilson gave his council enemies all the ammunition they needed with his ill-advised email to city bar owner Laurie Weake.

But it's important to see it in context. While it was pretty dumb, it did not provoke Weake's subsequent appeal of the licensing decision, not even warranting a mention in his submission to Wellington. It was the committee's deliberations which did that.

For those still unaware of what should have been a minor decision by the city's liquor licensing authority, Weake had sought a special license for a Shihad gig that pushed over into Easter. The committee gave him an extra half-hour despite the police saying they didn't have a problem with three hours so long as some conditions were met.

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