'It has often been said that a society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable.'

That's a very enlightened view but you will be surprised who said it. It was none other than the unenlightened Mayor Sideshow Bob in his weekly column in the Christchurch Star.

The Christchurch City Council has, in principle, agreed to contribute $2 million to the redevelopment of the Christchurch City Mission's central city facilities. Bob thought he shouldn't allow this grant to go unremarked upon especially if it might assist another 'good cause' - namely the re-election chances of Sideshow Bob.

With a local body election on the horizon , Bob needs something - anything - to boost his increasingly tarnished reputation. So he has decided that it might be a good idea to bring the 'caring and sharing' Bob out of the closet for a bit of an airing. Hence his fulsome support for the City Mission.

But as is usually the case with Bob, its all smoke and mirrors. Remember - this is the same guy who illegally tried to put council rents up a massive twenty-four percent.

One thing Bob hasn't written abut in any of his columns (which are actually written by Diane Keenan, a former journalist with The Press), is that he was instrumental in making savage cuts to the council's community funding last year.

Some $1.5 million has been cut from the community funding budget.

Welfare groups warned the council that many welfare groups would struggle to survive without the funding it had traditionally received. Bob though thought it was more important to bail out his old mate, failed property developer Dave Henderson, to the tune of $17 million. Oh, and spend $5 million on garden shows, and $1.7 million on consultants reports, a big salary increase for Bob's right hand man, CEO Tony Marryatt, a new Porsche for Bob....

One valuable community organisation not getting any help from Sideshow Bob and his cronies is the Christchurch Youth Medical Centre. It faces closure at the end of the month. It provides free medical and health services for some of Christchurch's most vulnerable youth.

Sideshow Bob's rediscovered 'social conscience' has not extended as far as Christchurch's community-owned childcare centres either. These centres are run as a community service and not for profit.

The childcare centres face massive rent hikes.

A centre not far from where I live is Educare. It is faced with a 102 percent rent increase for the cramped house that it occupies.

It has 70 families on its roll. it At any one time the community-owned centre is looking after some 35 children, from babies to those approaching school age.

Educare are now faced with trying to find another $681 per week to cover the massive hike in the council lease.

The childcare centre is faced with the prospect of having to increase its charges. It is reluctant to do this because many of the parents who use the facilities are on low wages or are on benefits.

Educare's difficulties are typical of all the community-owed childcare centres in Christchurch.

If we can judge mayors by how they treat the most vulnerable people in their city then Sideshow Bob gets a big fat zero out of ten.


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