The Age of Reason: Follow the leader ….

This is indeed a tumultuous month with the international scene overshadowed by the sad passing of a wonder lady, mother and world leader. The media from around the world is showering us with completely understandable epithets concerning Elizabeth Windsor. Far be it for me to attempt to outdo the journalistic professionals.

But leadership here at home is also under scrutiny with the opportunity for local people – you and me – to cast our vote in the triennial local body elections. It is a happening that is sadly deficient in the level of interest shown by voters – resulting in a normal turnout of in the mid-30 per cent of those registered.

Frankly, shame on all of us to be so low in our caring of what could and should happen in our local community.

Is it the fact that councils are staffed with slow-moving bureaucrats where getting the simplest of things done appears to take forever? Or is it that some of the good and the great – or those aspiring by election to be so – are balanced by other elected members of the public for whom the word governance is possibly too hard to understand?

On Monday last week I attended the Chamber of Commerce ‘meet the candidates’ evening put together with the support of the new Cambridge Town Hall Trust. There were three mayoral hopefuls, a brace of aspirants for the new Māori ward and a handful of would-be councillors. We were spared the elongating of the proceeding by not meeting those standing for the lesser body known as the community board. This latter, nevertheless, is an important part of our rightful democracy.

Philip Coles apologising

Listening to their timing-controlled presentations there were no surprises – save for the bumbling apology from one council candidate (rudely wearing a cap throughout) – who had seriously upset the good people who govern and manage one of our fine local schools – a major provider of education, employment and farming. Anyone with any sense of responsibility should at that stage, faced with what had allegedly transpired, think twice before proceeding on with electoral aggrandisement.

For those others standing on the stage for whom a greater respect should be given the three mayoral candidates were allotted, by my small group, marks out of 10 for presentation, sincerity, future plans and understanding of the task ahead.

For the record they were marked – Susan O’Regan 8.5, Jim Mylchreest 8 and Chris Woodhams 7. It’s not easy for someone with no local body experience to stand against long-standing council members.

The others were too hard to mark but if the length and volume of personal applause were to be the measure then councillor (and deputy mayor) Liz Stolwyk won hands down.

I have the pleasure on the day that this newspaper hits your homes to be chairing a mayoral forum in Cambridge where the three hopefuls mentioned above will be explaining their plans to a large group of people with an average age of 81 years. Those people have some needs differing from the general populace, but history shows that at least those ‘of an age’ do actually care to vote.

In conclusion – and harking back to the opening paragraph – I attended the first evening of the regal memorial photography show on the front of the Town Hall. Russel Armitage (with Council’s financial support) presented a black and white mural that was meaningful, poignant and reminiscent of the Queen’s earlier visit to this lovely town.  I can only describe it as soooo Cambridge.

Mayoral candidates l-r Jim Mylchreest, Susan O’Regan and Chris Woodhams with Peter Carr.

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