stv-electing first Mayor of Mahurangi
Some dots can take longer to connect. And the more obvious the dot, the longer it seems to take for it to be connected.
Since the announcement of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, the Mahurangi Magazine has been exploring ways that Mahurangi democracy might be strengthened. The royal commission failed spectacularly on two fronts. One was its focus on a powerful Mayor of London-style mayoralty, at the expense of local board power. The other was to allow the powerful new mayors to be elected by archaic, unfit-for-purpose fppfirst-past-the-post.
Had the royal commissioners known even a little about electoral systems, they would have well appreciated the potential for their grand, Auckland Council to be headed by a misogynist fake-news populist with the ticks of fewer than 20% of the region’s registered voters. Had they advised that their recommendation for a powerful mayoralty only be implemented if preference voting—stvsingle-transferable-vote— was mandatory, Auckland Council, on 17 December, could be hosting the global bicentennial of the first stvsingle-transferable-vote election. That it is probable that the honour of hosting the stv bicentennial will go to the 17 December Warkworth Town Hall Talk is preposterous—some would say shameful, but it will be a proud moment for Mahurangi, even if the panellists are more numerous than the punters.
The dot that begged to be connected was no brainchild of the Mahurangi Magazine or Warkworth Town Hall Talks organiser Mahurangi Action, but inspired by a faithful reader of the former and member of the latter. J Barry Ferguson, in a former life, was the director of New York’s now National Register of Historic Places-listed Greenacre Park. Latterly a Mahurangi West and now an Oaks on Neville resident, Barry—florist and events organiser to New York’s rich and famous for three decades—is still a man in a hurry. He has been asking, provocatively, why there is no mayor of his community he can chase to address glaring local deficiencies.
There are many models for community mayors, of which Italy’s is but one. Italy has nearly 8000 mayors, representing, on average, fewer than 8000 people—about the current, set to explode, Mahurangi population. By refusing to implement inhuman and criminogenic state-decreed antimigrant measures, many Italian mayors are demonstrating how essential it is for democracy to have depth. A Mahurangi mayor, elected annually, and available regularly for consultation at the Warkworth Town Hall, would go a long way towards putting the local back into local government. Warkworth’s town hall was built by the Warkworth Town Board, beginning in 1909, and since its lavish restoration and opening in 2017, has hosted town-hall talks, organised by Mahurangi Action supported by the Mahurangi Matters.
After clashing with several longer-running events, the town-hall talks have settled into a fourth-Thursday-of-the-month, February through November, pattern. However, on Tuesday 17 December, an extraordinary Warkworth Town Hall Talk will be the—and possibly the—stv bicentennial, well justifying the exception to the new fourth-Thursdays rule. And the inaugural annual election of the first Mayor of Mahurangi, and, of course, by stv. Until adopted by a more suitable organisation, the Mahurangi Magazine will host the election, beginning as of now by declaring nominations open and accepting any nomination that has the approval of the nomineeas opposed to the nominator. Over time, a constitution will be democratically developed, addressing such things as a one-year term of office commencing on the anniversary of stvsingle-transferable-vote, 17 December, and the nomination and voting period—any day other than the day polling closes for the former, any day up to 6 am polling day for the latter. Anytime voting is just one of the ways the state needs to begin demonstrating rather more respectful restraint in its gratuitous exercise of power. Preference voting, however, will be unapologetically mandatory—the only circumstance where fpp is democratic is where there are two candidates only, for the one office.
Clumsily implemented, stv can bring an ocean of negative consequences. Requiring voters to rank up to 23 candidates—if voters wish to fully express their preferences for Waitematā District Health Board members—is utterly unreasonable. Many voters will fail to recognise a single name. If the political parties encouraging the respective candidates was known to the voter, that at least would assist those voters who prefer to know candidate party affiliations. In the current election, only three candidates with party affiliationsall three are Labour Party candidates were sufficiently transparent to declare them. Aside from allowing some very stale, pale, alphabetically advantaged males to become permanent district health board fixtures, the shame is that the near impossibility of making an informed choice means many ballot papers fail to be completed and posted. Doubly tragic this election, when the largely toothless district health boards look to become history anyway.
The existential imperative for democracy to be deepened, of course, is the beyond-urgent climate emergency. In addition to the anthropogenic global heating already baked in, impossible-to-quantify climate feedbacks will impact on billions cruelly through to fatally. Given the raw nativism evoked by the early trickle of climate refugees, warnings of the death of democracy were far from hyperbole, with the United States buried five-deep in the flawed democracy index, and full democracies only representing 4.5% of global population. With leaving broke things unfixed having long been elevated to an artform, and the more recent asinine insistence of placing of every ‘disruptive’ get-rich-quick technology on a pedestal, civilisation is dead in the water, three decades after it should have hit its climate-action bootstraps.
A Mayor of Mahurangi may sound frivolous, but, in the cause of climate action mobilisation, every effort that can be made, must be made, to strengthen social fabric. It is in that spirit that the writer has accepted nomination by Ayla Walker, to contest the inaugural Mayor of Mahurangi election. However, without at least three candidates, the election, on 17 December, will fail to be a demonstration of elegant simplicity of stv in action.
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