Graphic: Porcupine Farm
Mayor Bob Parker says he won't be seeking the mayoralty again in October because he's 'exhausted'. Apparently it has got nothing to do with the fact he has no chance of winning.
Even as he announced he was not going to stand again for Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker still could not manage to be transparent or accountable. Especially in his second and undeserved term of office Parker has often promised to mend his ways but, in the end, we have seen yet more of the conspiratorial Bob Parker who has not only not been accountable to the people of Christchurch -he has betrayed our interests. He has pursued his agenda which has been to promote the agenda of the Key Government He was able to do this, let us remind ourselves, with the enthusiastic cooperation of his council supporters, the so-called and now infamous 'A Team' - most of whom are standing for re-election in October. If there is any justice, they will all be swept out of office.
Bob's ability to explain away his own behaviour has been remarkable only in the way a second hand car salesperson might sell you a rust bucket with a stuffed engine. And that was the case with his explanation for why he was not seeking a third term as mayor.
He made that announcement on TV3's Campbell Live - another chance to get on prime time television. He went to great lengths to explain that he was very stressed and that he was tired and that he just didn't have the energy to campaign for the mayoralty again. Boo hoo.
It was a huge reversal by Parker because only just a few weeks earlier he had insisted that he still wanted be mayor. He went as far as to send his main opponent, Lianne Dalziel, a link to the video for Elton John's song 'I'm Still Standing'.
But between then and now he suddenly woke up and decided he was stressed and tired.
Parker told the media: 'I feel exhausted having worked non-stop over the past six years in office and I know that I can't sustain the pressure and stress of this job for another three."
This is the 'explanation' from someone who picks up a $200,000+ mayoral salary, not to mention the other perks he gets like the additional $38,000 he receives for being a director of Christchurch City Holdings.
Bob, unlike so many people in Christchurch, has not seen his life fall apart. He has not had to struggle with the impact of top-down government policies and the brutal and intransigent behaviour of the insurance companies, the Earthquake Commission and CERA. Unfortunately for most people they can't just pull out when the going gets tough. They just don't have the choices that Parker's wealth provides.
'"It's really, really hard work." continued Bob.
But Parker isn't working some minimum pay job with deteriorating working conditions and 'his hard, hard work' has included some extensive overseas travel. This year Parker decided that, rather than addressing issues in Christchurch, he and the wife needed to visit some of Christchurch's sister cities. On April 26 I wrote:
'...Bob's lack of concern for the good people of Christchurch is such that he hasn't even been in the city for almost a quarter of this year. Sideshow and the wife have been holidaying overseas under the guise of visiting Christchurch's 'sister cities'. So far the couple have been in the United States, South Korea, Japan and China.
None of the above seemed to be of consequence to John Campbell. The man who speaks in admiration of the great journalist John Pilger, actually sympathised with the wealthy and well-vacationed Sideshow Bob!
Campbell apparently has magical medical skills because he gazed into Parker's eyes and agreed, in that annoying baleful 'empathetic' tone that he adopts for occasions like these, that Bob was indeed tired and stressed.
The whole interview was a 'caring and sharing' moment and could only of been more sickening if the two men had leaped off their chairs and hugged each other.
Let's be real.
The only reason that reason why Parker pulled out of the mayoral race is because he knew he couldn't win. He might have had a slim chance against an inexperienced candidate but not against a veteran campaigner like Lianne Dalziel. The recent Press Research First Poll revealed that Dalziel had the support of 70 per cent of respondents, while Parker had just 30 per cent,
The fiasco over building consents was the final nail in his political coffin especially as they could still be further revelations in the coming weeks.
But Parker really didn't take any responsibility for this debacle and would only refer to taking his political 'baggage' out of the equation for the good of the city.
And even then he chose to defend his former faithful right hand man Tony Marryatt.
"All I see that gets directed at him is a lot of negativity.", said Parker, as if poor old Tony - on nearly $600,000 a year - has been the victim of unjustified criticism. Perhaps Bob Parker thinks it was all part of his elusive 'left wing conspiracy'.
My politics have never been a career winner for me because I get somewhat surly when the political establishment joins hands to muddy the waters and rewrite history.
And so Parker is going to cruise through the last few months on the mayoral job safe in the knowledge that his political opponents will leave him alone. After all they have now applauded him for his 'courageous' and 'principled stand' for pulling out of the mayoral race. Some have even gone as far as to congratulate him for all the work he has supposedly done. So to attack Parker now will be viewed as somewhat hypocritical.
Worryingly future mayor Lianne Dalziel was positively rapturous about Bob: 'He has given so much to the city. It is true that he has given his heart and soul to the city.' It's Saint Bob! Or, more than likely, Sir Bob.
Dalziel now, unbelievably, thinks that Sideshow Bob could have a role to play for the Christchurch City Council and wants to talk to him about it.
But what did Bob actually give to the city?
Fans of Bob invariably ring up talkback radio and declare that Bob and his high visibility orange safety jacket were a steadying and inspirational presence while the city shook. He apparently did this by being in the media all the time.
But, again, this was all about Bob. The unpopular Bob faced been well beaten by mayoral opponent Jim Anderton and the earthquakes saved his political skin. He made sure they did.
We should remember that Bob was heavily criticised for his behaviour after the September 2010 quake.
A draft report by Environment Canterbury's (ECan) senior civil defence manager, Bob Upton, was scathing about Bob's grandstanding.
The report said that Parker's appearances contributed to a "crisis situation being depicted by the media".
It went on to say: "Reliance on mayors as media spokespersons can contribute to an artificial air of crisis that is very difficult to climb down from...the emphasis on the city mayor appearing in most media opportunities tended to distort the true picture of the extent of the emergency, external perceptions of needs and initial decisions as to appropriate responses".
Parker commented that he found the report 'upsetting' and the comments about him were subsequently removed from the final version of the report to the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Joint Committee because they were deemed 'contentious'.
And there would not be too many people in the eastern suburbs who would agree with Dalziel that Parker 'has given his heart and the soul to the city'.
Eastside residents have had to confront - and are still confronting - a myriad of problems. Not only have they struggled with arrogant and uncooperative insurance companies, the Earthquake Commission and CERA they've also had to had to deal with bloodsucking landlords demanding extortionate rents from people desperate for somewhere to live.
Parker should of been fighting our corner but he has remained silent throughout, preferring to take his orders from the Minister For Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlie. It has been a total abdication of responsibility by Parker and he deserves no forgiveness for this.
With people still living in damaged houses, in overcrowded conditions, in garages and caravans, Bob's response has been to make vacuous videos for Canterbury Tourism and prattle on about cycleways and the Canterbury Crusaders.
And now he's leaving and good riddance. He's been a poor and cynical mayor who failed the people of Christchurch at a time of their greatest need. He did right by his political masters in Wellington and, in doing so, turned his back on the very people he was supposed to represent.
I've heard some say that the demise of Parker will be like ' a breath of fresh air' for Christchurch. If Parker's demise leads only to organisational reform within the Christchurch City Council itself, then it won't be. A changing of the guards isn't enough.
But it could be if the new Council understands that there must be a devolution of power to local communities so that we can all have a real and meaningful say in Christchurch's future.
Commentator Rod Oram said last year that there was nothing in the government's top-down central city plan that 'distinguished it from the pack' and that remains true today. How will Lianne Dalziel and her council confront this problem or will they simply say they are 'stuck' with what has been foisted on us?