Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sad Eyed Lady

Councillor Sue Wells of Christchurch City Council is calling for the Council to be sacked and replaced by commissioners, because it is dysfunctional.
Is the council dysfunctional?  I don't have sufficient evidence to make an informed comment and in this case I don't wish to speculate, so I'll run with "maybe".  It would hardly be a surprise, though.  Many councils have been very dysfunctional, the number that have been sacked and replaced by commissioners in the last 20 years can be counted on thumbs (if you have two thumbs).   CCC is in a situation unlike any other faced by any council in NZ in living memory, so dysfunction is almost to be expected.
Should council be sacked and replaced by commissioners?  In short, no.  Thankfully the Minister for Local Government, Nick Smith, agrees.  I'm fascinated by the suggestion from the mayor that councillors should "put the city first".  For starters, I'm sure they believe that's exactly what they are doing.  Second, it' a pretty meaningless phrase.  Third, if it's code for "shut up and agree with me", that's a poor message and the sign of someone out of their depth.
The comments on the Press article (in the first link) are full of suggestions that Sue Wells should live up to her values and resign.  Perhaps.  If things are really that bad, then I would prefer to see an out-of-cycle council election for all new councillors and a new mayor.  There are already commissioners in ECan, and little enough local democracy in Canterbury.
UPDATE - Puddleglum at The Political Scientist discusses the issues in depth and identifies a possible split in the council, with left and right factions uniting to oppose the mayor and CEO.  These are interesting times in Christchurch.

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