In a couple of weeks Hamiltonian’s who live East of the river will receive voting forms for a new Hamilton City Councillor. The elected candidate will be replacing the late Philip Yeung who is warmly regarded as being an advocate and representative of our ethnic residents and communities. He is well liked and is known for his big smile, warmth… and camera.
The new Councillor will be sworn in while the Council staff are putting together a consultation document which guides the city budget and direction for the next 10 years. Ironically this “long term budget” is reviewed every three years and (as we’ve seen in the ‘December marathon meetings’) can change dramatically. While popular commentary has focussed on not wanting another development of Garden Place or wanting destination playgrounds to remain on the agenda – the biggest challenge the Council face is development. Specifically greenfield development at Peacockes… a subject for another day.
15 candidates have put their name forward to be considered. Many have tried their hand before; other’s new to the game. Media coverage of local elections; particularly by-elections is usually pretty light – so many voters will have an 150 word blurb and a photo to try to distinguish candidate’s merits. Other’s will vote based on name recognition (the most dangerous form of voting).
Unfortunately there is no one-stop shop for finding out more about each candidate and research can be time consuming. It’s no wonder most won’t bother to open let alone send in their voting preference by February 17th. In the 2016 Hamilton City Council elections a mere 33% voted – amongst a reasonable amount of publicity on the east and west of the river. What response does a by-election, at the end of summer holidays hope to receive? Regardless, a new Councillor must be elected, so how do you choose?
On the Hamilton City Council website, they have a link to by-election information and candidate contact details. If a candidate is hard to contact, or not visible in media or the community – I probably wouldn’t bother with them. They will not be in as effective position to listen to and engage with the community effectively.
If someone takes your interest from there do a google or social media search. Flick through your local papers – including letters to the editor which some candidates use to get their messages to the public. Follow the Waikato Times, Hamilton News, Hamilton Press and the Waikato Independent on social (free) media for updates. Make sure you’ve liked FreeFM89 to find out about any candidate interviews happening.
Ask your friends, family and workmates what they know. This is key – because generally you’ll surround yourself with people with similar values – so if one of the candidates knocks about in your wider circle they’re quite likely to be better placed to represent you.
Give a shit. It’s true what they say – if you don’t vote you can’t complain. I’m seeing a lot of complaining on social media lately – I’d be interested in how many of them exercised their democratic right. It seems timely to admit that the system is flawed. A lot needs to change. But, not voting does not help. Particularly if you are young, disabled, a female, on low income, ethnic or in any way considered a minority. If you want better representation of your values and priorities – you have to vote for people that will do that.
Vote for a candidate who will question everything. Vote for a candidate who will bring a diverse perspective. Vote for a candidate who will respond to your concerns. Vote for a candidate who gives their time to our communities. Just vote.