SEVERAL MONTHS AGO the editor of The Star, a free weekly Christchurch newspaper, declared that no one stood a chance of beating Lianne Dalziel in the Christchurch mayoralty contest. To suggest that the mayoralty, the most high profile of local body positions, was already a 'done deal' was hardly going to inspire local folk to take an interest in local body politics but that point seemed to pass Barry Clarke by.
Despite Clarke's past confidence that Dalziel will win, this week he has written an editorial fully endorsing the sitting Mayor of Christchurch. This may have something to do with the fact that since Clarke declared his utmost faith in Dalziel's political invincibility, John Minto has entered the mayoral contest. So maybe Clarke thinks she needs a bit of a helping hand.
The Star has been the happy recipient of some of Dalziel's campaign dollars. Last week a large advertisement for Dalziel was wrapped around the tabloid itself. This week there's another advertisement for Dalziel on the front page. Three years ago Dalziel spent some $60,000 to get elected.
Clarke thinks folk should vote for Dalziel because " a vote for Dalziel is a vote for stability and continuity." Does that 'continuity' include the continued neglect of the eastern suburbs? The continued failure to replace community services? The continued rise in the level of homelessness? The continued hike in rates?
Unlike John Minto, who is campaigning on such policies as free public transport, a thousand more council homes to be built in his first term and rates capped to the rate of inflation, Clarke thinks we should be all excited about Dalziel who is promising little more than corporate business as usual. I wrote a few weeks ago;
"Despite claiming she wanted greater community involvement in the Christchurch rebuild little has changed during her mayoralty. She is as much a loyal supporter of the top-down and bureaucratic - and failed- rebuild as was her predecessor Bob Parker. Despite Dalziel criticising Parker for an all-too-cosy relationship with the Minister for Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee, even a supporter of Dalziel such as former mayor Garry Moore was recently moved to tell the Christchurch Star that he thought Dalziel's council had allowed the government "too much power in the rebuild".
Clarke however lauds Dalziel's political trajectory. He happily observes that she "has moved from being a Labour MP with a trade union background, to the middle ground.."
Another three years of Dalziel's 'stability and continuity' also means that asset sales remain very much on the agenda of her council. She has tried to downplay the issue during her campaign - and muddy the waters - but the reality is that she and her supporters on council will sell assets as and when required.
Clarke though knows that the local community are not in favour of such sales and suggests that these assets are 'still in public hands' because of Dalziel's governance.
This is nonsense. The sale of City Care, the council's maintenance and construction division, fell over only because the council only received one unsatisfactory offer for it. Clarke neglects to mention that Lianne Dalziel and her council wasted nearly a million dollars on consultants over this botched sale.
But Clarke admits that asset sales remain a real possibility - "whether those assets remain in public hands during the next council's term remains to be seen." He suggests that the council's assets are "a handy back-up if times get tough and the cost of the big ticket rebuild items starts to fall more on the city's hands".
In other words, Clarke is okay with the good people of Christchurch subsiding loss-making projects that will, in the end, only benefit the corporates. That doesn't sound much of a deal to me, but that apparently is the price of Barry Clarke's "stability and continuity" under another three years of the corporate approved Lianne Dalziel.