A bit of a Mayor
Well, it's all over already, so we may as well not bother voting this year. That is, if you believe the Dominion Post's article yesterday, which stated that Kerry Prendergast's decision to run for re-election is "likely to torpedo the city's mayoralty race even before it begins". Wouldn't it be nice if our major dailies actually tried to promote public engagement in local body democracy, rather than making it seem like a waste of time?
On the other hand, when you look at the alternatives, they do have a point. So far, the only other confirmed contenders seem to be Bryan Pepperell and Rob Goulden, who came a distant second and third respectively in the 2004 mayoral race. While I'm completely opposed to many of Prendergast's policies (particularly this one), and Pepperell is closer to me on transport policy, I have to say that the thought of either of those two in power fills me with dread. It's likely that Alick Shaw won't stand now that Kerry is, and it appears that he has as much trouble with anger management as Goulden does.
It's easy to get the impression in some quarters that Prendergast is deeply unpopular. But her powerbase is up in the northern suburbs, where building motorways and picking on the homeless are seen as good things. And until the centre-left puts forward a strong, credible candidate, Kerry's going to be pretty hard to move. Some people are keen to help find such a candidate (when is the Wellington Mayoral Idol blog going to get going?), but it seems from recent experience that to run for mayor you need at least one of three things: a pre-existing public profile, wealthy backers or a borderline mental illness.
There is one potential candidate that I can see as a contender: Georgina Beyer. She's yet to announce whether she'll run, but as some people are suggesting, if she does then she'll be real competition for the incumbent. As a Labour MP, as well as for her biography, she'll attract the "Grey Lynn" vote that's so prevalent in Wellington. She also seems to have the charisma, the well-known name and the willingness to take part in publicity stunts.
But as a local body politician, her policies on urban issues are still a bit unknown. Where does she stand on public transport, for instance? On waterfront development? From what she's told her local paper, I get the feeling that she may not have the experience and passion for urbanism that I'd like to see ("The job as mayor of Wellington is no different to the mayoralty of Carterton except there is a far greater population to reach" - I'd like to think that Wellington is qualitatively different from Carterton). Nevertheless, here's hoping that she runs and makes October's election a real race.
Update: Ray Ahipene-Mercer has now announced that he's running. This could be interesting, since he's somewhat left of centre yet not completely averse to the waterfront developments. I'll have to check out his voting record on various issues.