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Posted by Philip on 13 November 2017, 6:26 pm in , , , , , , ,

Why I've changed my mind about entering local body politics

People have been telling me for 20 years I should be in politics. For 20 years I've recoiled in horror, saying I wouldn't be seen dead in politics — in fact, I remember saying at a comedy gig once to shoot me if I did.

City Vision logo

I was just joking.

In March this year, I applied and was selected to be on Auckland Council's Disability Advisory Panel. In May I was elected chair. I also joined the NZ Green Party. A few weeks ago a City Vision member suggested I nominate my self for selection as a candidate for the February Waitematā Local Board by-election.

If you're free at 7pm on Wednesday, please come and be part of the public vote to support me at Horticultural Building, Great North Rd, Western Springs.

Last week I nominated myself and the selection meeting is Wednesday evening. So, what's changed?

I think the main reason is that having been deeply involved in leadership for the last decade, I've seen a disturbing lack of good leadership in politics. I once had the chance to ask a senior MP this: If democracy is, as Winston Churchill famously said (but apparently didn’t coin the phrase), " the worst form of government, except for all the others," what conversations are you and colleagues having about improving it? His answer: "Well it's not that bad."

I found the glib answer disappointing, a bit offensive but more so, cowardly because leadership is so much about having courageous conversations, critically analysing systems and processes and being genuinely committed to and curious about change and improvement.

I also know several political leaders, however, who are courageous, critical, committed and curious, whom I admire and want to support and to work alongside.

Another reason I want to approach the political arena is that there are too few people in my demographic doing so — and I realise I can't go on rooting for the few who do from the sidelines. So I need to throw my hat in the ring. I've proved myself in business, entertainment, entrepreneurship and social enterprise — I can make it in politics too. But to do so I'll need to change the culture of politics, because there are some things about the way you do things around here now that won't work for me, just like the other sectors I've worked in.

I strongly believe the lack of gender, cultural, functional, sexual and other diversity in leadership isn't the issue. The problem is that the culture of leadership, in all spheres, is set by white, middle-class, cis-normative, heterosexual men (and Mai Chen). Change that culture and you'll see diversity of a kind you wouldn't believe existed. And Mai and the boys will probably enjoy their lives more too.

I am not a two trick pony, either. Sure I'm non-heterosexual and have access needs, but I'm also a white, middle-class bloke too. So, in the shadow of Joni Mitchell, I've looked at life from both sides. If I'm selected and elected, you won't just hear me banging on about ramps and rainbow flags. I want to see less poverty, homelessness, violence, pollution and discrimination. I want to see more meaningful employment, environmental sustainability, community cohesion, neighbourhood connectedness, green space and bike lanes.

And I want to see more ramps and rainbow flags, too. But not too many flags — I have flag issues, but that's another conversation.

I know Auckland's issues are complex — and I love complexity. Complexity is like raising a child — every time you see them they've changed because they've interacted with another person, environment and experience. How interesting is that? (And tiresome — a friend's daughter lived with me from age 14 to 18.) The solutions aren't simple, like baking a cake, but they're not complicated either, like building Elon Musk's Mars colonial transporter.

Leading in complex environments requires creativity, commitment, confidence, humility, generosity, the ability to realise you're wrong (because just being wrong feels like being right), agility, humour and resilience. It never ends — it's what humanity creates and complexity won't end until humanity does.

If I'm selected and elected, I am committed to working with my colleagues to address Auckland's issues head-on and realistically, collaboratively and collectively, representatively and respectfully, innovatively and discerningly. But also, I expect to have fun, to laugh and play, modelling a way of approaching life's challenges constructively, lightly and hopefully.

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