John Minto has announced that he's standing for the Christchurch mayoralty. He represents a progressive alternative to the corporate backed politics of Mayor Lianne Dalziel and her supporters.
ALTHOUGH SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN quick to claim her 'independent' political credentials, Mayor Lianne Dalziel has been as 'independent' as former mayor Bob Parker. Like Parker, she has vigorously pursued the corporate agenda for Christchurch and the rebuild. It was entirely predictable that both the government and the corporate sector endorsed the Labour-aligned Dalziel’s bid for a second term - the political reward for her loyalty.
And the decision of People's Choice not to stand a candidate against their Labour colleague meant that she was expected to breeze on back into the mayoral's office. Uncontested. Unexamined. So much for 'local democracy'.
But Dalziel's determination to pursue the sale of council assets to fund a misconceived, undemocratic and botched corporate rebuild is unpopular, especially in the neglected eastern suburbs of the city. Some 96 percent of the submissions to the Christchurch City Council's Long Term Plan last year expressed opposition to asset sales. That Dalziel and her loyal supporters like deputy mayor Vicki Buck and Finance committee chairperson Raf Manji have continued to pursue such sales regardless has antagonised many. To add insult to injury they have no mandate from the local community to pursue such sales.
While the sale of council assets has been the catalyst for John Minto's bid for the mayoralty, he is also giving a much needed public voice to a widespread dissatisfaction and anger with a bureaucratic rebuild that has deliberately excluded the local community from the decision making process.
Meanwhile the Eastside has become the land that the Christchurch City Council forgot. But while the eastern suburbs remain ignored, a wealthy property developer like Antony Gough receives a $300,000 council grant for an energy-efficient heating system for his $150 million apartment development. Antony Gough is the uncle of Councillor Jamie Gough.
John Minto says: "Christchurch has become a city strangled by corporate control foisted on the city by the National government in the form of MP Gerry Brownlee and assisted by the Mayor – former Labour MP Lianne Dalziel."
Minto though is not a 'one trick pony', although hammering home the message that asset sales are not acceptable won't do his election chances any harm.
Other policies represent an alternative to the corporate agenda of the present Christchurch City Council. They include a proposed increase in the city's social housing stock. In a city ravaged by homelessness, high rents and overcrowding, a policy to build 1000 new council flats within ten years is a sensible and compassionate policy.
John Minto is also campaigning on a platform of free public transport free throughout the city. He is also campaigning for a living wage for all council workers which will to be paid from reductions in the bloated salaries of senior council management.
The reaction to John Minto’s announcement from his political opponents has been mixed.
Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch is a longtime Dalziel supporter and he told his radio audience this week that Minto could not win. While Minto himself recognises he is the underdog he is not going into this mayoral election campaign simply to come second. Lynch's assessment that Minto can't win can't be based on the fact that Dalziel is widely popular - because she isn't.
A more subtle putdown of Minto's campaign has come from loyal Dalziel supporter Councillor Raf Manji. On Twitter Manji tweeted that Minto was 'passionate' about what he believed in and he would add some 'colour' to the mayoral contest. This is pretty condescending stuff but not unusual for Manji. It might come as news to him but Minto has not entered the mayoral race as some kind of favour for those seeking a more 'entertaining' campaign.
Meanwhile the Christchurch Star has already decided who it will be supporting - not that we didn't know already. A few weeks ago editor Barry Clarke wrote that no one stood a chance against Lianne Dalziel. This week the newspaper has published a 'Vox Pop' featuring five local people. They were asked whether they thought Minto would make a good mayor, what they thought his chances were against Lianne Dalziel and whether they would vote for him.
The Christchurch Star mysteriously couldn't manage to find one person who had anything positive to say about Minto. Comments ranged from "I don't want him as mayor' to "I think he's a bit too radical" to "I should hope he doesn't stand much of a chance." The 'best' comment that Minto received was "I don't know how I would feel about him as mayor of Christchurch."
But, around the world, there has been a reaction against corporate- controlled politics, against 'politics as usual'. With no one on the Christchurch City Council reflecting that same dissatisfaction in Christchurch, John Minto reflects a politics that puts people first. Perhaps we could indeed have a Minto moment.