CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

The Christchurch City Council's brand new offices, dubbed 'Bob's Palace' by locals, has barely been operational since it was officially opened last August. Now speculation is rife that the building is far more seriously damaged than Sideshow Bob and his chums are letting on. Will anyone be held to account for this debacle? Don't count on it..



A few weeks ago increasingly disgruntled staff at the Christchurch Art Gallery were told that the gallery would not re-open in 2011 and neither were any commitments being made about 2012.

The art gallery is now occupied by Christchurch City Council staff who, in normal circumstances, would be housed in the nearby Christchurch City Council offices. The stumbling block is that the building has barely been functional since it was officially opened last August.

It was closed for approximately two months when the September quake hit and it has remained closed since the February quake.

Mayor Parker described the damage caused by the September quake as 'superficial' - although anywhere between $5-15 million worth of repairs were done - but he has remained silent about the state of the building since the February quake and the severe June aftershocks.

Christchurch, New Zealand's second largest city, is a city without an administrative centre. All that remains is an empty building, which despite the fact that it cost over $140 million (excluding repair costs), remains a quake risk.

Even if the building is reopened many staff have already indicated they will not work in a building that they consider to be unsafe.

Like the AMI Stadium debacle, the same old suspects are involved in this debacle - former mayor Garry Moore, CEO Tony Marryatt, Sideshow Bob and his supporters on council like Sue Wells and Barry Corbett.

It was former mayor Garry Moore who railroaded through the proposal to buy the former Post Office building in the central city and extensively redevelop it in a joint venture with Nga Tahu Property, the owners of the building.

Moore, despite extensive public opposition to the plan, demonstrated scant regard for the democratic process.

As I wrote in 2008:

Just two days before postal voting closed in the October local body elections, the Christchurch City Council voted to spend over $100 million on new council offices.

It was effectively the last act of Mayor Garry Moore and his council.

Garry Moore railroaded the proposal through by ensuring that councillors were given just twelve hours notification that the massive building project would be on the agenda. Councillors were only provided details of the project at the meeting. (This was the same tactic that Sideshow used to steamroll through the Henderson bailout).

Despite knowing very little about the proposal and its implications, the councillors (most of whom got voted back on) voted to spend the money anyway – and they made the rotten decision away from the public gaze. Disgracefully, the meeting was closed to the public – the same public who would have to pay through the nose for the new council 'Palace'.

Sideshow Bob deserves our opprobrium because during the mayoral campaign he publicly stated that, if he was voted mayor, he would defer any decision on any new council building until after the election. Not coincidentally it was during the mayoral campaign that Moore publicly endorsed Bob's bid for the mayoralty.

The many opponents of the plan to buy the old Post Office building said that the Christchurch City Council needed new and purpose-built offices that acknowledged the difficult economic times that the city was facing.

MP Jim Anderton said it was not 'a good look' for the council to be operating in a costly building while people 'really in need of assistance' were not receiving adequate support.

The opponents of Moore's bid to build a monument to himself were dismissed by Bob, who claimed that the new offices would be 'a great asset for Christchurch'.

Said Garry Moore: 'The new Civic Building will be designed as an A grade building to engender a sense of civic pride'.

Mark Solomon of Nga Tahu commented : 'We congratulate the Councillors on their foresight in moving into the field of public-private partnerships which will reduce their costs and benefit ratepayers. The joint venture is groundbreaking and sets the standard for the rest of New Zealand.'

Despite Solomon's grand claims that the new council offices set a new benchmark for the rest of New Zealand, there appears to have been no structural strengthening done to a building constructed in the 1970s and that it fails to comply to modern earthquake standards.

Sideshow Bob has been evasive on this issue but shortly after the September quake The Press reported:

'Parker said the Council had considered upgrading the new civic building to Civil Defense standards, but instead it was built to office building standards.”

Said Parker: "I'm very proud of the way the new council building behaved. It did what it was designed to do and any people inside would have been completely safe." he said.

"If you go around a number of the other high-rises in the city, you'll find a number of them making exactly the same repairs."


Despite Parker's assurances that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the Civic Offices, it was still knocked out of action for two months.

It took an even bigger hit in the February quake and now the building will remain closed for at least the rest of this year. There are rumours circulating that the building is proving to be a engineering nightmare.

Sideshow Bob has yet to come forward with any information on how many more millions have been thrown at this lame duck building.

It is simply unacceptable that this building, which is also supposed to house Civil Defence in times of crisis, is completely disabled.

As with the AMI Stadium the architects of this massive debacle - Sideshow Bob, Tony Marryatt, Garry Moore, Sue Wells, Barry Corbett, to name just several - are not being held accountable. They remain in their highly-paid jobs. The rest of us get to pay for their incompetence and cronyism.

HAIL THE GREEKS

While our union 'leaders' snooze to the November General Election and insist that the Labour Party is somehow 'different' from the National Party, the Greek people show how it is really done..


In little old New Zealand we are being told by our well paid and complacent 'labour leaders' and their lackeys in the media and the blogosphere that 'our' salvation lies in voting a neoliberal Labour Party into power in November.

This is a party whose shambolic leader says there is no alternative to the 'free market' and whose finance spokesperson says Labour will not shirk its 'responsibility' to make cuts.This is the party whose leader froths at the mouth at the mere mention of the Mana Party and who thinks its moderate left-social democratic economic policies are 'extreme'. This is not the Road to Salvation - this is the Highway to Hell.

Refreshing it is then - and inspiring - to see the Greek people resisting the austerity demands of their Government.

The European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are insisting that the Greek Parliament vote to accept more austerity and privatisation before they will release a 12 billion euro loan to Greece.

In New Zealand, where union 'leaders' like Helen Kelly and Robert Reid think 'protest action' is about issuing a press statement and sticking a video on YouTube, Greek workers and their unions are not prepared to accept the austerity attacks. Consistently, opinion polls show that between 70 and 80 percent of the population are opposed to the Government's plans.

The strikes and mass protests have thrown the Greek government into turmoil, and got Europe’s ruling classes worried about their ability to impose their will not only on the Greek people but the people of Europe. They are looking nervously at countries at Spain and Portugal which have already seen protest action against the policies of austerity.

While the corporate media has, predictably, been highlighting the Greek protests turning 'violent' - while ignoring the ongoing economic violence of the Greek Government - what we are witnessing is the Greek people declaring that they will not be conquered by a Government that is the puppet of the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank.

Ordinary Greek people are not cowed by the corrupt corporatism that dominates the European Union.

PAYING FOR THE BLUNDERS OF BOB AND CO

A week or so ago Sideshow Bob announced that the proposed rates increase for this year would be 7.1%. Previously an increase of 5.3% had been proposed. The new figure is, supposedly , to cover 'cost increases ' incurred by the February earthquake.

But blaming this new increase on the earthquake is also a convenient way for Sideshow Bob and the Christchurch City Council to deflect attention from its own errors and misbehaviour.

What Bob has avoided saying is that an estimated 2.67% of this increase will be used to cover the debts incurred by the redevelopment of the AMI Stadium.

Christchurch ratepayers, already under considerable financial pressure, are going to be forced to foot an $50 million plus debt blowout by the city council-owned AMI stadium operator Vbase. Dozens of staff have already been sacked to save on running costs.

Whichever way you look at it, the upgrade of AMI stadium was misconceived from the start and it is the good people of Christchurch who are expected to pay for the folly of others.

Four years ago Sideshow Bob's predecessor, Garry Moore. claimed that the stadium upgrade would have no financial impact on ratepayers - 'none whatsoever', he claimed.

Moore has since been working for the Christchurch City Council on a freelance basis.

Shortly before the February quake hit Deputy-Mayor Ngaire Button defended the looming stadium bailout on the grounds that the Rugby World Cup games, scheduled to be played at the AMI Stadium, would be ' a real benefit' to the city.

This argument was dubious at best, and was rendered redundant by the earthquake.

Columnist James Dann has written in The Christchurch Mail this week:

'While the expansion was clearly designed with the Rugby World Cup in mind, once that competition was over we would have been left with more than 40,000 seats, requiring the attendance of one in every ten people from the wider Canterbury region to reach capacity. The stadium upgrade never made financial sense, and the cost to ratepayers shouldn't be attributed to the misfortune of the earthquake.'


Now the Christchurch ratepayer, effectively left impoverished by two devastating quakes, is expected to pay for the expensive blunder of people who remain in highly paid council jobs and who still think they are entitled to tell the rest of us what we should do.

IT WON'T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT...

Is the Government deliberately concealing the truth about the Christchurch earthquakes? It's a job for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully!

There's been a lot of talk, and a lot written, about Christchurch's current wave of seismic activity.

That's been a problem.

Of course we do need a wide discussion, but the problem is that far too much of that discussion has been unfounded opinion, idle speculation, gossip and, frankly, crazy talk.

Too often little things like FACTS have been conspicuous by their absence. Rationality and logic are nowhere to seen. The discipline of science has been left lying bleeding in the gutter of a silt covered street in Aranui.

Just this week I've read one commentator speculating that Christchurch could be in for decades of seismic activity. No evidence was provided for this claim but that didn't stop the commentator spewing his opinion over the net. Apparently Christchurch could be morphing into a strange hybrid of Fred Flintstone's hometown of Bedrock and the nightmarish Los Angeles depicted in the movie Bladerunner, sans Replicants.

I've also read people seriously suggesting that the Government knows more about Christchurch's seismic activities than it is letting on, the implication being that 'The Big One' is still on its way. This sounds like a case for Fox Mulder and Dana Scully to solve in a mildly entertaining 45 minute sci-fi television show but it has no place in a rational and intelligent conversation.

As well as the loony conspiracy stories there are also the inevitable looney religious claims. A bit of web surfing reveals that there are a number of nutters claiming that Christchurch's earthquakes are 'a sign' heralding the apocalypse and 'the second coming' of Jesus. Other religious fruitcakes say its all part of God's wrath against a sinful world - and for voting Sideshow Bob Parker back into office ( I made that up).

According to one blogger the February quake was the sign of a wrathful and a merciful God:

'This event is surely phenomenal and shows the handprint of God as the crust just ripped open, while sparing the lives of the entire populace of the city.'

Mmm, apparently God thinks he has to be cruel to be kind. Who knew God was a devotee of 'Tough love'?

The writer goes on to say:

'Apparently, God used the city named CHRISTCHURCH in which it was scientifically impossible to experience an earthquake.

It therefore appears evident that the God of Heaven ripped open the crust because previously there was NO FAULT LINE at or near Christchurch New Zealand, but there is now!'

Oh and lets not forget the lunacy of Ken Ring and his followers who think the moon provokes earthquakes.

Seriously though, all this crazy talk does is add to the extremely high anxiety level in Christchurch right now, something it could well do without.

What Christchurch needs is a sober and scientific assessment of what is going on.

One of the better assessments that I've seen has come from Dr Gary Gibson, Principal Research Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

He told The Australian in February that it was the depth and proximity of the magnitude 6.3 February quake that inflicted such widespread damage.

“The critical issue with this earthquake was that the epicentre was at shallow depth (5km) under Christchurch, so many people were within 10km to 20km of the fault rupture.

“The magnitude 7.1 earthquake on September 4 (last year) was 30km to 40km west of Christchurch and ruptured mainly to the west. “

The good news is that Dr Gibson doesn't expect that there will be further quakes of this magnitude:

“The September earthquake and this February earthquake will have relieved the majority of stress in the regions in which they occurred, so another larger earthquake is unlikely.'

He also pointed out that '....aftershocks have continued at a decreasing rate since the September earthquake.'

However Dr Gibson added that major aftershocks could be expected in the days and weeks to come:

'...aftershocks will certainly occur over the next few days and weeks which may cause further damage in weakened buildings, and will be very distressing for residents.'

And that indeed has very much been the pattern since the February quake.

Gibson also dismisses the notion that there is something unusual about two major earthquakes occurring in a relatively short period of time.

“Earthquakes always cluster in time and space with some large earthquakes having foreshocks and most large earthquakes have many aftershocks.

“Multiple large earthquakes are not uncommon, often when the main rupture of the earlier event is extended into an adjacent segment of the active fault.”

The eminently sensible Dr Gibson reminds us that we must, above all, allow the discipline of science to be the determining factor in discussions about earthquake activity in the Christchurch and Canterbury region.

While no one is saying that the Christchurch quakes have not been devastating, lets not allow ourselves to become the victims of irrational fear and hysteria.

Things will eventually return to what society likes to consider to be 'normal'. In the words of the noted philosopher and part-time model, Rachel Hunter, it won't happen overnight, but it will happen..

MARRYATT ON HIS WAY OUT?

Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt faces an uphill battle to save his job, despite the best efforts of Sideshow Bob. In the light of this debacle, is it now time to look at 'reconstructing' the Christchurch City Council as well as the city?

The campaign to remove Tony Marryatt from his position of Christchurch City Council CEO has gathered momentum with former Hamilton mayor David Braithwaite speaking to the campaign group last week.

Braithwaite often clashed with Marryatt who was, at the time, the CEO of the Hamilton City Council.

Braithwaite told the group that Marryatt had created an environment of fear and bullying' in Hamilton, and was often referred to as "the 14th councillor".

'Shortly after I was elected, he told me that he was running the city and not me ... he was an unelected bureaucrat who interfered with the order and management of the city.'

It's understood that the Council is split 7-6 in favour of reappointing Marryatt but there is pressure on Marryatt supporter and former ACT candidate Aaron Keown to withdraw from the appointment process. That would deadlock the council at 6-6, with Sideshow Bob having already reluctantly said he would take no further part in appointing the CEO.

Keown last week asked councillors if they supported Marryatt and he has also made public statements supporting him.

Keown says he is not going to withdraw from the appointment process but he may find he will forced to do because legal action will almost certainly be commenced if he doesn't and Marryatt is reappointed.

Regardless Marryatt looks like a lost cause for Sideshow Bob and his chums. Bob's faithful right hand man has managed to lose the support of nearly half of the council and significant local business interests.

At the best of times this affair would not be - in Bill English's words - 'a good look' for the Christchurch City Council but in quake-ravaged Christchurch it is very ugly indeed.

Certainly it adds weight to the argument that we should also be taking the time to reform the Christchurch City Council to bring it under the control of the people it is supposed to represent.

We require mechanisms to be make the Mayor and councillors directly accountable to the people of Christchurch.

A LAW UNTO HIMSELF

Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt ignores a councillor's legitimate request...

Christchurch councillor Yani Johnanson writes a weekly column for The Star and this week he has fired a few shots at the way the earthquake 'recovery' process is 'progressing'.

Johanson is a councillor for the Hagley/Ferrymead ward in the eastern suburbs, so he is acutely aware of the plight of many Eastside residents.

Johanson is critical that the Eastside has, once again, come off a distant second to an obsession by politicians and business interests alike to 'deal' with the devastation within the central city 'red zone'. Despite a whole load of huffin' and puffin' though, nothing much has actually happened.

Johanson observes that since the severe quakes of June 13:

'There has been a huge focus on central building assessments while there appears to be no or very limited rapid assessments of properties and businesses outside the red zone.

So the safest part of the city that is already blocked off gets a focus while in local neighbourhoods potentially dangerous buildings sit ready to collapse at any minute without any inspection. This makes nos sense to me at all.'

The Minister of Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, has refused to give councillors a briefing on the situation. Not surprisingly, Sideshow Bob has said nothing. When Brownlee says 'Jump!', Bob asks 'How high?'

Meanwhile Christchurch CEO Tony Marryatt has been causing problems again. Johanson says he asked Marryatt for 'key contacts to get things done'. Marryatt has simply ignored his request.

He isn't so uncooperative with Sideshow Bob though, who doesn't seem to have a problem with 'Tony' refusing to act on the requests of councillors.

BOB BLAMES THE MEDIA (AGAIN)

Having already interfered, Bob now says he won't interfere in the appointment of the Christchurch City Council CEO, although he's only promising not to issue any further press releases...

Having already made it very clear that he wants his pal Tony Marryatt reappointed as the CEO of the Christchurch City Council, Sideshow Bob's announcement that he would now 'withdraw' from the appointment process, is plainly ridiculous and self serving.

Bob's so-called 'withdrawal' only amounts to him not making 'any further public comments on this issue or issuing press releases.'

This won't stop Bob lobbying behind the scenes and badgering councillors to support Marryatt. Remember, political 'transparency and accountability' are flexible concepts as far as Bob is concerned.

Bob, as he often does, is blaming the media for the debacle that he himself has created.

Says Bob: 'I am aware that there has been some media reporting in which comments have been attributed to me relating to the appointment process. I refute the accuracy of some of what has been reported.'

That's Bob's excuse and he's sticking to it.

Meanwhile, Bob has yet to reappear in the battered eastern suburbs. There are no photo opportunities for Bob being accosted by angry residents outside their damaged homes so he is staying well clear.

There is real despondency and anger in the Eastside. Christchurch requires a Mayor prepared to take on the Government and advocate for local people, but Bob isn't prepared to do anything that may embarrass his political masters. After all, Sideshow has a New Years honour to protect.

What advice has Bob got for people dealing with a Government that seems incapable of coming to grips with the crisis?

'Everyone should boil their water..' intones Bob.

What a leader.

MEDIA STUNT

Despite workers being on the receiving end of the Government's savage austerity drive, the big issue on Clare Curran's mind last week was a rugby jersey..

Last week Labour MP Clare Curran was told to leave Parliament for wearing an old Highlander's rugby jersey.

The Speaker ruled that wearing arugby jersey was not appropriate and ordered her to leave the debating chamber, saying she could return once she had changed her clothes.

I thought this incident was a load of old nonsense so I'm grateful to a reader who has referred me to some critical comments on Labour's own website Red Alert.

Curran commented: 'I was taking a wee stand (as we say in the South) on something I thought was important. Though I know taking direct action has its responsibilities. And consequences.'

Thankfully someone called Wanda responded to this load of self-serving old drivel:

“Making a wee stand” … how about making a BIG stand over the fact that there are people out here who can’t afford to see doctors… people who haven’t been to a dentist in decades because they can’t afford it , how about a stand over sales of OUR assets ..oh that’s right, you guys sold half of them … how about a wee stand against the TPPA ? ..why don’t you leave the rugby industry to the people who make money out of rugby and start standing up for working class people out here who think you guys are just “National Lite”?

Wanda went on to say:

'Labour has become SO close to National, they have a leader with no fire in his belly, the same old hacks and trough feeders filling seats and waiting to collect nice pensions.

Labour seems to have truly forgotten its base and when I see MP’s “protesting” rugby jersey colours I see RED ! It isn’t a game for us out here !'

I agree entirely.

BLEAK TIMES

Having dismally failed to put up any significant resistance to the Government's austerity drive, the CTU and PSA want people to vote for a right wing Labour Party in November.

Such is the protracted and serious nature of the economic crisis that the National Government has little option but to make working people pay and pay again. Yes, we are paying for an economic crisis that we were not responsible for.

Its austerity policies will, and are, leading to a much diminished welfare state and further privatisation and job losses in the public sector. Such is the cynicism of the Key Government that it can demand women on the DPB to rejoin the workforce while, at the same time, add to the lengthening unemployment lines by cutting jobs in the public service.

It is also seeking to drive down further wages and working conditions while it pretends that its goal is to raise New Zealand wages to levels that compare favourably with those that can be found in Australia.

As part of the drive to suppress wage levels, Key this week signalled his intention to change labour laws and these changes certainly won't be for the benefit of workers.

He now wants bargaining agents to negotiate company employment agreements for workers rather than having a trade union do it.

As Matt McCarten has pointed out in the NZ Herald this system was brought in under a previous National Government (Jim Bolger) and resulted in workers getting screwed again.

Key also wants to reintroduce youth rates - this will be the precursor to the end of the minimum wage.

It's clear which road the National wants to drag us down and, right now, that road lies unencumbered by political protest and resistance.

The little resistance out there is coming from groups and individuals that have limited resources and influence. They have plenty of determination but lack the firepower.

In start contrast the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and the Public Service Association (PSA) have the firepower but lack the willpower and the guts to use it. John Key knows he can get away with just about anything and neither the CTU's Helen Kelly and the PSA's Brenda Pilott will do a thing. He would face more opposition from a blancmange.

Neither the CTU or the PSA will rock Phil Goff's boat. At the Labour Party conference in May Helen Kelly confirmed that the only 'strategy' that the CTU had was to get a right wing Labour Party elected in November.

She also said 'The Labour Party has a proud record in support of economic well-being, social needs and worker rights.'

Really? Under Labour, among other things, the gap between rich and poor widened significantly. Perhaps Kelly is still grateful to Labour for giving it the Employment Relations Act which outlawed 'wildcat strikes' and kept the rank and file under the reactionary thumb of the trade union bureaucracy.

In 2009 Kelly boasted to the New Zealand Press Association that the ERA had led to all-time low levels of industrial action.

This is the same Helen Kelly who allowed John Key to speak at the CTU conference in 2009, the same Helen Kelly who was the main union figure at the government’s so-called 'Jobs Summit', which heralded an attack on wage levels and working conditions.

Phil Goff and the Labour Party are hostile to any form of protracted industrial action and its stance on the Government's austerity policies is ambivalent and confused, at best. Given that David Cunliffe, Labour's finance spokesperson, has already said that Labour would not shirk its 'responsibility' to make spending cuts, I am being very generous here.

Of course we also have to remember that over the past twenty years or so there has been a drop in strike levels which has been accompanied by the fat-assed do-nothing union bureaucrats basically being able to rule the roost without having to deal with a organised rank and file.

The strikes that have occurred have been short-lived, strictly legal and resulting in a 'compromise' (ie sellout) negotiated by the union officials. This is the environment that dismal union officials like Helen Kelly and Andrew Little have operated in.

If the CTU and the PSA think Labour is the solution then workers are facing some very bleak times indeed.

OBAMA, MARX, SANTORUM (?)

Stuff that caught my attention this week but I never got round to writing up. This week: Barack 'the great liberal hope' Obama screws Haiti's poor, a new book on Marx tells us why the old man was right and a anti-gay Republican presidential hopeful is lampooned on the internet. He says its 'revolting' but everyone else thinks its funny.





Do you reckon liberals everywhere are embarrassed about the uncritical and hysterical claims they made about Barack Obama representing 'real change'? Certainly some of those silly Labourites on The Standard seem to have gone rather quiet about him. It seems being a befuddled social democrat means never having to face up to reality.

The latest embarrassment for Obama fans is that Wikileaks cables have revealed that the Obama administration pressured Haiti not to raise its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour, or five dollars a day.

Two years ago, Haiti unanimously passed a law raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. It wasn't much but it was better than the previous 24 cents an hour.

This increase outraged American clothing giants like Levi's and Haines who said that they would only pay an additional seven-cent-an-hour increase to their Haitian slave workers to sew together their over-priced clothes.

As the Columbian Journalism Review comments, 'The U.S. ambassador put pressure on Haiti’s president, who duly carved out a $3 a day minimum wage for textile companies (the U.S. minimum wage, which itself is very low, works out to $58 a day).

Hanesbrands Incorporated made $211 million on $4.3 billion in sales last year. Its CEO Richard Noll is on a $10 million salary package.


A book that might be worth reading is Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right.

Eagleton has written this book, he says, at a time when "the system has ceased to be as natural as the air we breathe, and can be seen instead as the historically rather recent phenomenon it is"

Eagleton refutes the usual prejudices of liberals and right wingers alike - Marx led to Stalin, its alleged economic determinism, its so-called utopianism, etc,etc

The book has received mixed reviews overseas although I notice that many of the more critical reviews have come from people not sympathetic to the Marxist tradition in the first place.


Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum (he has no chance) has angered many Americans with his, among other things, strident anti-gay statements. He says that homosexuality will 'undermine the fabric' of American society and he wants to outlaw same-sex civil unions.

He is now the target of an internet campaign, Just google 'Rick Santorum' and see what you get or click this (don't click it if you think you might be offended).

Santorum, who has been lampooned by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, says 'the Internet allows for this type of vulgarity to circulate.'

Most of us think its rather amusing...

LIMBOLAND

A fruit and vege store that I occasionally shopped at was, a fortnight ago, deemed 'unsafe' and will be demolished. The list of buildings and homes destined to be destroyed continues to grow and the future of east Christchurch remains clouded in uncertainty and anxiety. While the media focus its attention on the central city, the Eastside's plight remains serious.

We're living in limboland out here in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch

Many folk feel they have, yet again , been abandoned by both the Government and the Christchurch City Council while they focus their energies and concerns on the central city. They are being put under pressure by local business interests who went access to the central business district and are unfamiliar with not getting their own way all the time.

But out here in the Eastside , other then demolition work and temporary patch-up work (my street has been dug up this week), not a lot has changed. Many of the portaloos might of disappeared but people are still struggling with damaged houses, insurance concerns , the Earthquake Commission, devastated roads, the lack of public utilities. The list of issues goes on.

And buildings are still being condemned. Buildings that previously were deemed safe have, on closer inspection, proven to be nothing of the sort.

A fortnight ago I was in a fruit and vegetable store that was last week deemed unsafe and will be demolished - along with a pub and a video store. A nearby bakery and a pizza shop were abandoned shortly after the February quake.

Just down the road there is a large area of empty land where once stood the local supermarket.

Meanwhile the local unemployment figures have skyrocketed to over twenty percent of the workforce. And that doesn't include the many people who have simply 'disappeared'.

This is proving to be a 'winter of anger' rather than a 'winter of discontent'.

Such is the level of anger that we may well see street protests over the coming weeks.

Many people don't know if their neighbourhood has a future or it will simply be abandoned.

Reports on the state of the land were due to be released by the end of May but now the Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, is refusing to offer any dates whatsoever. He has called for 'patience' but people ran out of patience many weeks ago.

Barry Tutt, chairman of Bexley Residents Association before the February quake, has told The Press the Government needed to front up with answers.

'Winter is setting in and people's patience has expired,' he said.

'We are getting to the point where there will be protests in the street.'

And Mayor Sideshow Bob has seemingly forgotten - again - where the Eastside is. He remains, like many of his councillors, ensconced elsewhere.

When not lobbying to get his mate Tony Marryatt back into his CEO job, Sideshow has been going out to dinner with Mrs Sideshow Bob.

To celebrate her birthday a few days ago, Bob took Jo Nicholls-Parker on a 'coffee date to Vic's Café' and then to dinner at one of the few city restaurants that remain open.

How the other half live, eh?

ANOTHER SIDESHOW BOB DEBACLE!

Bob wants Tony Marryatt reappointed as CEO of the Christchurch City Council. The problem for Bob is that powerful local business interests don't agree with him.

It's another Sideshow Bob debacle!

Although the Christchurch City Council decided to advertise the position of Chief Executive Officer for a five year term, Bob has gone into bat for his pal and loyal right hand man Tony Marryatt

He has made it clear that he wants Marryatt reappointed and now it has emerged that Sideshow has told councillors that he would even 'consider' resigning if he didn't get his way.

At a closed meeting last week he even tried to pressure all his councillors into supporting Marryatt by demanding of each councillor if they 'supported' his good mate. I understand that some councillors basically told Sideshow 'to get stuffed'.

Bob has now opened the Council to legal action . If Marryatt is reappointed then unsuccessful applicants could challenge the appointment , legitimately arguing that the process had been stacked against them from the start.

While Bob thinks Tony is the next best thing to sliced bread, its not a opinion held by all councillors and, significantly, it looks like Marryatt is out of favour with local business interests.

The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and the Canterbury Business Leaders Group, in a letter to the Christchurch City Council commented that the role of the CEO needs to be "'broader than required in the past and at an exceptional level'.

The letter goes on to say:

'The relationship with business leaders in particular must be with us as partner investors in the future of our city, not just as another group of ratepayers. We are sure as councillors you will agree with us on this.

'We respectfully request that you, as elected representatives of the people of Christchurch, take the time to review the CEO appointment process very carefully.'

It was signed by Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder, for the business leaders, and chamber chief executive Peter Townsend - a man who was very critical of the Henderson bailout and is known to have a close ally in the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee.

The implication is obvious - local business don't think Marryatt is up to the job.

Much of this disquiet emerged after the September quake. The Council was slow to react and very little recovery work was done. Then the February quake hit.

Bob, having received the original letter, tried to stop it being sent to the Council. So much for his election promise to be 'more accountable and transparent'.

Bob made a flurry of phone calls.

Don Elder received several calls from Sideshow but politely gave him the brush-off.

'I explained that this letter was perhaps the mildest of the many views that had been expressed and if we did not send this letter we might anticipate two things happening – first, a headline something like `Mayor silences business group', which we both agreed would be in no-one's interest, and second, he and councillors would be likely to receive a range of much stronger and less measured or constructive correspondence and messages, either directly or through the media."

Elder wasn't the only person who had the 'pleasure' of a phone call from Bob.

In a email leaked to the media, chamber president Peter Davie, the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch chief executive, said that he had received 'a very heated call from the mayor'.

It looks the February quake, in particular, has put a strain on 'the old boys network' and cracks have begun to emerge.

BASHING THE POOR

Talkback radio likes to bash the working poor as well as beneficiaries. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jeremy Parkinson. He thinks the country can't afford to raise the minimum wage, but it can afford tax cuts for the wealthy. Oh, and bail out his boss as well..

Last night I ventured into the land of talkback radio and stumbled across Radio Live's Jeremy Parkinson preaching from his right wing pulpit again.

Parkinson is not a regular host on the low rating station but fills in for other hosts when the need arises. Yesterday was a public holiday so Parkinson was filling in for the regular host on the 10pm-1am.

Parkinson's regular job is producer ( glorified receptionist) on the 9-noon show hosted by the awful Michael Laws. So you know the political views you're going to get from our mate Jeremy ain't liberal.

One of the staple activities of talkback hosts and their followers, when not complaining about dogs, is bashing beneficiaries.

Parkinson has done his share of beneficiary bashing in the past but last night he extended his 'enlightened' views to the working poor.

'We can't afford to raise the minimum wage,' trumpeted Jeremy, who is not happy with Labour's election promise to raise the minimum wage to $15. Jeremy will be voting National in November.

This is not the first rime good old Jeremy had a go at campaigns to raise the minimum wage having previously decried the Unite Union's campaign to have the minimum wage raised also to $15 an hour.

But, according to Parkinson, while 'we' can't afford to help out New Zealand's working poor and their families, 'we' can afford to give tax cuts to the wealthy!

Jeremy doesn't like people disagreeing with him though.

His favourite tactic to stifle contrary views is to cut off the offending caller mid sentence then proceed into another monologue about why he, Jeremy Parkinson, is always right about everything.

During the half hour or so that I listened he employed that tactic on three callers. Then he played some boring Roy Orbison song because Jeremy thinks he's a cool cat who knows what music is all about.

Parkinson - and Radio Live generally = are , of course, on very shaky ground when they indulge in beneficiary bashing and tell us what the country can and cannot afford.

Radio Live is owned by debt-ridden Mediaworks which earlier this year was given a $43.3 million loan from its pals in Government to enable it to renew its radio broadcasting licences for the next 20 years.

So apparently 'we' can afford to bail out Jeremy's employer but 'we' can't afford to raise the minimum wage.

'How much do you get paid an hour?' one caller asked of Parkinson. He refused to say.

It'll be a whole lot more than $13 an hour though..

SLUT VS. SLUTWALK

National MP Paul Quinn recently issued an apology for suggesting that ''there is a real issue with young ladies getting drunk' in a television debate on rape. He suggested that short skirts and drunkenness contributed to rape but, after a storm of protest, he claimed that he had misheard the question from a representative of the 'Slutwalk' movement and that he had been quoted out of context.

The Slutwalk protest movement was sparked by a Canadian police officer's advice to women students to "avoid dressing like sluts" to avoid rape and sexual assault.

Some 3,000 people took part in the first 'SlutWalk' in Toronto last month. The SlutWalk Toronto website says the aim of the movement is to 're-appropriate' the word slut.The goal, say organisers, is to highlight a culture in which the victim rather than rapist or abuser is blamed.

Trish Kahle
argues that it is not a case of reclaiming the word slut but disempowering and eradicating it.


I can't tell you how happy I am to see women around the world organizing against rape culture, taking a stand against the misogyny that permeates our everyday lives, refusing to let other people do the labeling, finally saying, "Enough." In addition,women everywhere have finally been talking in a significant way about the issues the invigorated women's movement will face. The SlutWalks have brought some of these issues to the forefront.

SocialistWorker.org has been one of few to host a full and rich online debate among activists about what the SlutWalks mean, praising and criticizing them. I recommend looking over these before going on. I might refer to them, but so long as we're in cyberspace, there's really no point in my quoting most of the articles. The writers raise a host of different issues, but it seems we come again and again to the use of the word "slut."

So what's in a word? Can it ever have a place in a movement against sexism and rape culture? The thought process wasn't easy for me. It was three days of arguments with myself and others. While the SlutWalks themselves are not about reclaiming the word slut, and therefore not really the object of the discussion I'm having here, the questions that have been raised are important for women to consider going forward, because as an activist, and an optimist, I hope the movement will expand beyond the SlutWalks, a march in which I will be an organizer.

I kept oscilating between two things I felt I knew were true. First, that no one has the right to tell women how to dress, how to act, or how to refer to themselves. The second was that the word "slut" is--and has always been--used to degrade women, imply that sexuality is equivalent to deviance, and enforce structural sexism. And when I say oscilate, that's really what I mean. I went back and forth, back and forth.

This is the conclusion I was finally able to draw.

In the context of something like the SlutWalks, which were first organized as a response to a Toronto cop advising women to avoid getting raped by dressing less sluttily, saying "I am a slut," or "we are all sluts," is not an act of reclaimation. It is not telling women what to call themselves. Rather, it is a shortened way of saying "If the ability to be raped makes you a slut, we are all sluts. If dressing how you want makes you a slut, we are all sluts. If expecting the basic right to live without constant threat of rape makes you a slut, we are all sluts. Because what you have done is equated being a woman with being a slut." SlutWalk is about taking a stand for women.

This, to me, is radically different from the opposite end of the spectrum, which is attempting to claim the word "slut" as a term of female empowerment--whether that be indiviually or on a wider scale. As Jen Roesch states, "the word "slut" is a sexist slur that cannot be re-appropriated." The approach here, I argue, is that instead of trying to reclaim the word slut for the very plain reason Jen states, we should eradicate the word so it can no longer be used as a tool of sexual, physical, and emotional violence against women. The argument should not be "we are sluts and proud" but instead, we should say that regardless of how we dress, act, or speak, we are not "sluts," and neither is any other person.

I urge everyone to continue these discussions, and join with women worldwide fighting rape culture. Organize and march in a SlutWalk near you!

This article was first published on Trish's blog, I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit

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