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'Crisis Of Democracy' In ARC Election

'Crisis Of Democracy' In ARC Election

RAM media release 7.9.04

'Crisis of democracy' in ARC election

In today's NZ Herald, the editor says that the Auckland Regional Council election is "probably the most important vote any Aucklander will cast".

Contesting the ARC election, notes the NZ Herald editor, "we have five slates, only one of which gives a clear view of its preference on the congestion issue. The Residents Action Movement, a team of eight candidates led by socialist Grant Morgan, promises to put 'thousands' of buses on the road immediately and shift emphasis from motorways to public transport."

The NZ Herald editor is right when he notes that RAM (Residents Action Movement) is the only ARC ticket which has published a "clear view" on greater Auckland's crucial gridlock issue.

"In fact, RAM is the only ARC ticket to have published a detailed and integrated Manifesto," said RAM spokesperson Grant Morgan. "At best, other ARC tickets have issued a slim list of feel-good bumper sticker slogans, but not an in-depth Manifesto. At worst, other tickets have run smiley-face politician ads that say nothing."

"The lack of a manifesto from other tickets has two main causes - disunity and deception," said Grant Morgan.

" City Vision is running an ARC ticket in Auckland City. There is disunity within City Vision, which is an uneasy and grudging alliance between the Labour and Green parties."

"A key strategist in the Green Party told me that, immediately after the election, any City Vision councillors who belong to the Green Party faction will 'differentiate' themselves from the rest of City Vision by self-promotion as 'Green councillors'. Thus the City Vision ticket, along with its Manukau Vision clone, are merely a marriage of convenience that will fall apart straight after the election," said Grant Morgan.

"No wonder they cannot agree on a detailed Manifesto."

Advancing Auckland is running an extreme right ticket in tandem with Citizens & Ratepayers Now.

"These two ARC slates are hiding their corporate-driven agenda from the electorate because they know how unpopular their policies are," said Grant Morgan.

"Thus Advancing Auckland and Citizens & Ratepayers Now have refused to publicise their support for the corporate road lobby. For instance, they've kept quiet about their commitment to the Eastern Motorway, which most people know is financial and environmental insanity that will worsen gridlock."

"Their political deception means they cannot publish a detailed Manifesto."

"Instead, they're hiding behind the Auckland Business Forum. This corporate lobby group is fanatical about pouring many more billions into tarseal, which will deny the funding to give greater Auckland a world-class public transport system."

"The disunity and deception of RAM's main opponents in the ARC election means we face a crisis of democracy," said Grant Morgan.

"An informed democracy needs each ticket to issue a detailed manifesto, which provides electors with a clear picture of competing political agendas."

"RAM challenges other ARC tickets and independents to publish a detailed manifesto before ballot papers are posted out on 17 September," said Grant Morgan.

"We promise electors that a RAM-led ARC will promote practical expansions of democracy. We will invite strategic alliances with a wide range of community organisations, such as Greypower, sports clubs and religious faiths."

"And a RAM-led ARC will convene Citizens Assemblies around transport, rates and the environment. This interactive public debate on sustainable solutions to the region's problems will promote open democracy in a very concrete way."

"RAM's practical measures to expand the democratic voice of all citizens will solve the crisis in democracy that now faces the ARC," said Grant Morgan.

RAM's Manifesto is published in full below, followed by thumbnail sketches of RAM's eight candidates.

RAM Manifesto

Towards a Citizen's ARC

ORIGINS

1. For many years, the Auckland Regional Council has been dominated by money-driven politics. The Rates Revolt was a people¹s protest against the ARC¹s unfair policies.

2. But the ARC¹s corporate politicians still refuse to put right most of the harm they¹ve done. They must be voted out in this September¹s postal ballot.

3. The anger behind the Rates Revolt is still around. Large numbers of citizens will vote for change at the ARC.

4. So many times in the past, however, a change of politicians hasn¹t translated into a change of policies. Different faces have made vague promises about ³change² but, once elected, have continued to put money first, not people.

5. This time it can be different. The Rates Revolt has given birth to RAM, which aims to create a Citizen¹s ARC.

6. RAM is an inclusive, non-party, citizen¹s coalition, and is fielding the region¹s only united team right across North Shore, Auckland, Manukau and Papakura-Franklin.

7. All RAM candidates pledge to uphold our Manifesto, which unifies our core principles of open democracy, rates justice and transport sanity. RAM will integrate the policy advice of experts with the democratic involvement of citizens.

DEMOCRACY

1. Every citizen should have the right to a real say in how society is governed. But the ARC has been captured by corporate and bureaucratic interests. That must be changed. A RAM-led ARC will rely on a practical expansion of democracy to improve the quality of life of all citizens.

2. A RAM-led ARC will invite strategic alliances with citizen¹s organisations, such as Greypower, sports clubs, religious faiths, workers¹ unions, community groups, local Maori, ethnic associations and small business. These strategic alliances will promote open democracy.

3. When important new matters arise, a RAM-led ARC will convene a Citizen¹s Assembly that includes citizen¹s organisations plus corporate lobbyists. This will allow interactive community influence at the centre of ARC decision-making, while promoting transparency in dealings with the corporate sector. This expansion of democracy will deliver sustainable solutions to the region¹s problems.

4. Public service ethics will govern a RAM-led ARC. We intend to improve everyone¹s quality of life. We will resist all pressures which undermine the public good, such as ³public-private partnerships² or anything else that would erode public control of public assets.

5. A RAM-led ARC will set up a register of interest which outlines all significant assets, including shares, directorships and consultancies, of ARC councillors and senior staff in ARC-governed entities. Open to public scrutiny, this register will be a vital democratic tool to protect public assets from potential conflicts of interest.

6. RAM candidates pledge to follow this Manifesto as closely as changing conditions allow. As conditions change, RAM councillors will go to citizen¹s organisations for guidance. If only a minority of the next ARC are RAM councillors, they will negotiate as much of our policy as the balance of forces allows, while continuing to promote our whole Manifesto as a longer-term project. ARC proposals that would undermine the public good will be voted against. Any RAM councillor who sold out the Manifesto¹s core principles would be asked to leave RAM.

RATES

1. Every citizen should have the right to affordable housing. But the ARC¹s unfair rate hikes in 2003, mostly caused by axing the business differential, undermine homeowners¹ security and are passed onto tenants as higher rents. A RAM-led ARC will make sure that citizens are not rated out of their homes.

2. Apart from parks, the ARC¹s functions benefit urban business far more than anyone else. 60% of the ARC¹s funds go to transport, which oils the wheels of business. This link is shown by the unclogged roads at times of low business activity. And the ARC¹s strategic and environmental policy gives an integrated framework for business growth. So it¹s fair that urban business should pay a differential ­ a higher rate in the dollar.

3. RAM is the authentic voice of the Rates Revolt. A RAM-led ARC will set a business differential that delivers rates justice for homeowners. Going by ARC statistics, undoing last year¹s unfair rate hikes will require a differential of around 5, although the exact level will need detailed study. That would mean setting the business rate around 5 times higher in the dollar than the residential rate. Given that North Shore City Council levies a business differential of 9.35, an ARC differential of around 5 is a moderate policy.

4. Such a business differential will stimulate small business, contrary to the misinformation of corporate lobbyists. What small businesses lose on business rates will be offset by their gains on residential rates. More importantly, extra money will flow into the small business sector after the region¹s 400,000 homeowners get relief from unfair rates.

5. A RAM-led ARC will examine whether to return rating to land value, rather than the capital value system adopted last year. Whatever the outcome of this study, homeowners¹ rates will be returned to somewhere near 2002 levels, using a fair business differential as our major tool.

6. A RAM-led ARC will drop any legal actions against homeowners disputing the unfair rates levied in 2003.

7. A RAM-led ARC will look at special rating measures to safeguard homeowners on low fixed incomes, particularly the elderly.

8. A RAM-led ARC will examine whether a negative differential (perhaps 0.75) should be set in rural areas. Such a reduction would offset a lower level of services.

9. A RAM-led ARC will limit any overall rise in the total rate take to the inflation index unless a public mandate has been secured. This mandate must be a clear majority of the region¹s residents, not merely the sham of ³public consultation² that allows councils to do what they like.

10. A RAM-led ARC will negotiate with local councils about collecting ARC rates.

11. A RAM-led ARC will lobby central government to abolish GST on rates. Imposing this tax on a tax is unfair.

12. ARC statistics reveal that a Uniform Annual General Charge discriminates against the bottom 90% of homeowners. Meanwhile business would escape any UAGC through GST refunds, tax write-offs and cost-plus pricing. A RAM-led ARC will not impose a UAGC.

13. A RAM-led ARC will oppose user charges, which have a similar negative impact on the vast majority of citizens to a UAGC.

TRANSPORT

1. Every citizen should have the right to freedom of travel. But Auckland¹s car chaos is imposing increasing restrictions on our movement. We must restore the right to travel freely.

2. Every urban transport study around the world shows that motorways grow cars. The vast sums of money being turned into tarseal is the problem, not the solution. As well as clogging the region¹s arteries with cars, motorway mania is harmful in other ways. People¹s health suffers from exhaust fumes and traffic noise. ³Concrete jungles² destroy our natural and social environment.

3. The multi-billion Eastern Highway is being promoted by the corporate road lobby as a ³solution² to car chaos. Yet the Eastern Highway will create new bottlenecks in central Auckland which will ripple across the Harbour Bridge and slow North Shore traffic. Apart from worsening the region¹s traffic jams, this motorway is financial and ecological insanity. A RAM-led ARC will campaign to stop the Eastern Highway.

4. To fix Auckland¹s car chaos, a RAM-led ARC will promote a world class public transport network. That will require two things: First, there must be a major shift in transport funding away from tarseal and into lots more buses, trains and ferries which are seamlessly integrated into a regional growth strategy. And second, just as important, there must be the centralised political will to break the grip of the corporate road lobby and redirect limited resources towards public transport.

5. The present ARC, despite lip service to public transport, has shown neither the strategic vision nor the centralised will to fix Auckland¹s car chaos. The Regional Land Transport Strategy, brought together by the ARC, earmarks less than one-fifth of transport funds to rail projects over the next decade. Even worse, bus projects are to get under 5%, a pitiful sum.

6. A RAM-led ARC will push for public transport to get at least 50% of total project funds, and higher if possible. In Los Angeles, motorway capital of the world, car chaos has taken the city to the end of the road. Now the Los Angeles long term plan devotes 75% of transport funding to public transport. This should be both a warning and an example to greater Auckland.

7. Lessons from overseas show that the fastest and cheapest way of ending gridlock is to introduce lots of modern buses which run as a public service, not for private profit. A RAM-led ARC will work closely with local councils to bring buses to the people, including more disability services. We will examine how to introduce thousands more buses bringing frequent services that are cheap or free to everyone in built-up areas. This is the key element in creating a centralised transport strategy in the region.

8. While the immediate focus should be on vastly increasing bus services and reducing or eliminating their fares, it¹s also necessary to expand rail and ferry services. Since these are much more costly than buses and take longer to become operative, they are a medium term factor in sustainable transport.

9. There will be a net financial gain by switching funds from tarseal to public transport. Multi-billion savings on cancelled highway projects will outstrip the cost of public transport projects. And gridlock costs billions, whereas a major expansion of public transport will free up roads for commerce and industry. The benefits to business will far outweigh any rates differential.

10. A RAM-led ARC will lobby central government for a greater share of the region¹s petrol tax.

11. A RAM-led ARC will promote the extension of cycle ways.

12. Toll roads are being promoted as ³fair to everybody². In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Roads have traditionally been part of the public domain, but tolls commercialise them and open the way to effective private control. Meanwhile, business escapes paying tolls through GST refunds, tax write-offs and cost-plus pricing, thereby shifting the burden onto others. So tolls unfairly favour business. A RAM-led ARC will oppose toll roads.

ENVIRONMENT

1. Every citizen should have the right to enjoy a natural and built environment that¹s safe, clean and welcoming. But that right is being eroded by unplanned development, serious pollution and official policies. We must act to improve the natural and built environment that supports life in greater Auckland.

2. Unplanned development is the enemy of a high quality built environment and a rational transport network. While ARC officials and others in local government have designed a regional growth strategy, it¹s being constantly undermined by unplanned development. A RAM-led ARC will promote a more planned approach to the region¹s development.

3. Building more roads impacts badly on our environment. Road runoff spoils Auckland¹s waterways. Exhaust fumes pollute the air we breathe and worsen global warming. Motorways increase social isolation. A RAM-led ARC will counter this degradation by promoting sustainable public transport linked into a regional growth strategy.

4. While central government makes the national laws governing genetic engineering, the ARC has a legal responsibility to safeguard greater Auckland¹s environment. Many top scientists say GE has the potential to cause environmental catastrophe. A RAM-led ARC will adopt a strict precautionary approach. We will campaign to keep GE in the lab, where it can provide medical and scientific benefits without creating a danger to our food chain and the environment. Promoting the region¹s open spaces as a GE-free zone will exert strong moral pressure on central government to likewise adopt a more precautionary approach.

5. A RAM-led ARC will demand that authorities tell the public in advance of what is in any poisons to be sprayed over residential areas to kill pests. At present this information is kept secret. Only full disclosure can allow proper evaluation of the health risks of spray proposals.

SUMMARY

* RAM¹s core principles: Open democracy. Rates justice. Transport sanity.

* RAM¹s public service ethics: We intend to improve everyone¹s quality of life.

May 2004 -----------------------------------

RAM candidates in ARC election

NORTH SHORE

* JEREMY ELWOOD Top New Zealand comedian. Also musician and director. Community fundraiser.

AUCKLAND

* RACHEL ASHER Graduating from social work degree. Health sector and domestic violence worker.


* VALERIE VUI Church youth leader. Finishing law degree at Auckland University. Samoan descent.

* ELAINE WEST MEd. Led Rates Revolt march up Queen St. Literacy and parenting skills educator.

MANUKAU

* ROGER FOWLER Queens Service Medal for long community work. Manager of a learning centre.

* ROBYN HUGHES Health service manager. Former disability service manager. Community volunteer.

* GRANT MORGAN Spokesperson for RAM. A regionwide leader of Rates Revolt. Housing advocate.

FRANKLIN-PAPAKURA

* JENNY BROOKES Qualified horticulturalist. Women¹s Centre and conservation volunteer. END


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