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Len Brown: Letter to Manukau - 35,000 doorsteps

Letter to Manukau
9 September 2007
35,000 doorsteps.

What a journey! Over the last four years I have personally doorknocked a little over 35,000 homes across this city, and a team of enthusiastic supporters have visited on my behalf another 10,000 homes.

There are approximately 95,000 homes in our city. It has been an amazing tour, and of course it has not finished yet.

My personal visits to our people have been the heart and soul of my campaign to win the Mayoralty. It’s old style politics in the modern age of email, texts and u tube. In the vernacular, I am doing the “hard yards”. Bill Clinton calls this “retail politics”. For me, I do it because I think people ought to have the chance to meet the person who wants to lead their city. In this age, people feel distant from their government, from their representatives, from their democracy. I want to try and bridge that gap, and this is the best way I know how.
“Come on in”
I also do this because I love it. In recent months my progress has slowed a little because people are increasingly getting me off the door steps to come in for a cuppa, for a chat, or both. Often, they just want to tell me their story, express their anger or frustration, or pride in their town or community. I’ve learnt to be a better listener and through these stories, have a better understanding our history, and how we need to approach our future.

I had a lady in tears of exasperation at the impact of graffiti on her Manurewa home. She demanded that I deal with it, and “bring back the pride”. Many find the experience of finding me on their doorstep so unique, that they take the opportunity of downloading 10 years of outstanding concerns. On me! After these house visits I have pages and pages of jobs that council has neglected to do for our residents over the years.
We are different but the same.
There are some consistent themes across our city and our ethnic and cultural differences. We are all focussed on doing the best for our kids, getting them the best chance in life. Everyone talks about schooling and their local school. After all these years how the local school is doing is still a barometer about how a community feels about itself. We are all worried about drugs and the risk our kids are on them. When people have kids in trouble they don’t know where to go, and this lack of knowledge is quietly wrecking good families. I am going to stand up on this issue.

We are all worried about our safety around home and in the city. Too many of us have been victims of burglaries. I became involved as a witness in Dannemora of a broad daylight heist on a Saturday afternoon. People are however overwhelmingly prepared to do their bit in the neighbourhood, to make their street safer. Thank God. We can harness this energy for change.
A better story
In reflecting on his time as President, Bill Clinton said that he had been listening to people’s stories all his life, and that everyone had a story. He had come to the view that main point of his job as a politician was to try and give people a chance to have a better story. Having had the privilege of listening to the stories of thousands of my fellow citizens over the last four years, I don’t think he is far off the mark.

We all just want to get ahead, and have the best life that we can. We are all increasingly busy, working and as a result we spend less of our time relaxing with our families or in leisure pursuits. In amongst that we don’t ask a lot from our City and its Council. It’s not a lot to ask for us not to be rated out of our homes, that we all live in relative safety, that we move around our city with ungridlocked ease, that we don’t pollute our waterways and sea, and that we provide the essential utilities of our urban lives; power, water, wastewater, all reasonably priced and infrastructures competently maintained.

This is the better story. It’s time for us to deliver it.

Len Brown
Mayoral Candidate - Manukau 2007

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