Chris Trotter on Len Brown

Slowly but surely people on the left are deciding that to be aligned with Len Brown is to cloak oneself in the stench of a rotting corpse.

Chris Trotter backs away from Len Brown now.

IS AUCKLAND about to join Toronto? A city with a mayor some would dearly like to be rid of but cannot sack?

Auckland’s Len Brown may not have smoked crack cocaine or clean-bowled an elderly councillor in the council chamber, like the rampaging Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, but he is fast engendering a very similar sort of cringe factor.

Like Toronto, Auckland is its country’s commercial heart. Politically, it plays a similarly pivotal role. Who leads a city like Toronto or Auckland matters. Getting stuck with a laughing-stock mayor would be but a short step away from becoming a laughing-stock city.

That Auckland could finds itself contemplating that possibility is due to a peculiar constitutional anomaly. 

Time for recall elections I say. Legislation needs to be introduced to put some sort of recall facility in place.

The new Auckland “super city” was intended to be something else entirely. Its principal political architect, former local government minister Rodney Hide, wanted a city that could get things done swiftly and efficiently. That ruled out the parliamentary model of the UK and Australia which, being dominated by local political parties, was prone to pork-barrelling and horse-trading. Not being a conspicuous fan of either pork-barrelling or horse-trading, Hide opted instead for a lean, mean governance machine presided over by a mayor equipped with unprecedented executive powers.

No doubt the sort of figure Hide had in mind as the first mayor of his new super-city was a charismatic business tycoon; someone who could transform the Office of the Mayor into the workplace of a tough-minded, no-nonsense political CEO.

But that was not what he got.

Nope, what we got was a goose, and Trotter acknowledges that.

Auckland’s first “super mayor” turned out to be a rather daffy family lawyer from South Auckland. A great emoter and prone to random outbursts of song, Mayor Len Brown did not, in my view, appear to be either tough-minded or no-nonsense. He was, however, possessed of a keen legal mind and very quickly appreciated the possibilities inherent in the “executive mayoralty” Hide had bequeathed him.

Using the super mayor’s budgetary independence and patronage powers, Brown very rapidly constructed what I believe was a well-nigh impregnable political position within the governance structures of Auckland City. So much so that he could, without the slightest trace of irony, instruct his councillors to “leave their politics at the [council chamber] door”.

One of the greatest dangers confronting politicians who, like Brown, have been successful in protecting themselves from just about every kind of political attack, is to mistake impregnability for invulnerability. Those who believe themselves safe from their enemies’ attacks are all-too-often un-done by their own personal weaknesses.

So it proved with Toronto’s Rob Ford, and, in a very different way, I believe Auckland’s Len Brown has suffered the same fate.

In both cases, it is their council and their city that is being forced to pay the price.

Yes but how do we get rid of him?

So eager was Hide to set up his new and streamlined governance structure for the super-sized Auckland City that he neglected to include in its constitutional design any mechanisms for bringing a wayward super mayor to heel.

Even the president of the United States is subject to impeachment. But, short of being convicted of a serious crime, adjudged a bankrupt or declared insane, the mayors of Toronto and Auckland are effectively unsackable.

A bad mayor could, potentially, do a lot of damage in three years. The people of Toronto and Auckland deserve better mechanisms for keeping their elected Mayors on the straight and narrow.

Recall elections seems to be the easiest way…with triggering petition of perhaps 10% or 15% of electors triggering a recall election.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.