Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Undermining my local democracy

One of the things people hate about DHB elections is that the decision-space is too large. You have seven positions, elected at-large, across a wide area, so typically between 15 and 20 candidates to assess. Throw in STV (which means you have to rank them), and its no wonder people throw up their hands in despair.

So naturally, my local city council wants to introduce exactly this system for council elections:

Palmerston North is on the cusp of abolishing wards, forcing candidates for council to seek votes from throughout the city.

City councillors voted 11-4 to adopt city-wide voting at the planning and policy committee meeting yesterday.

The attack on wards was led by Mayor Jono Naylor, who said they were "a bit of a nonsense" in a city the size of Palmerston North.

"People want to be able to vote for people who will act in the best interests of the city, rather than someone who lives in some generalised vicinity."

Of course, what that "best interests of the city" rhetoric means in practice is a narrow clique of rich pricks who all live on the same street (in this case, Victoria Ave) and represent only themselves. Its a recipe for giving power to the rich and incumbents, while disenfranchising everyone else. And it speaks volumes that so many of my local council are in favour of that. Still, now at least I know who not to vote for in 2013

The good news is that the last time the PNCC tried to pull this scam, in 2007, it was rejected by the Local Government Commission [PDF]. The underlying reasons for that rejection - socio-economic disparity, divergent interests, and a manageable decision-space - haven't gone away. Which means that this scheme is likely to suffer the same fate.