George Wood: Keeping The Public Safe; For Two Hours Every Six Weeks

Imagine Auckland Council had a secretary of right-wing leanings and associations. Imagine the secretary was known to boast about their aptitude at Facebook and imagine that this spilled over into their work hours, where they periodically got their social media fix on their employer’s time, eventually graduating to trolling the Facebook page of representatives of a political movement, democratically protesting outside the doors of the Council office.

Imagine the secretary used their public profile to deride, demean and harrass the protesters; advocating the use of ‘Alsatians’ and ‘water cannons’ and then climactically gloating in real time during their violent eviction, executed by their employer, paying private security forces and involving the NZ Police.

How would the secretary’s managers respond to this employment matter? The secretary would get fired, right? Facebook on work time? The cardinal capitalist sin?

Now imagine – that it wasn’t a secretary at all. Imagine that it is George Wood, the sitting Chairman of the Community Safety Board. Openly, on public record. On public time. On public dollars.

Which led us to wonder; what exactly is the Community Safety Board? What is the culture of it, if influenced by an internet Facebook troll?

Patching together the tiny scraps of democracy left in the wake of the evictions, we took a look at the public minutes of the Board, and quickly established that it is the local government equivalent of puppetry theatre.

The Community Safety Board:

* Meets every 6 weeks.
* Meeting times range from roughly 1 to 2 hours. Start to finish.
* Has several Auckland Council members and other representatives.
* Latenesses & absences on the part of members are frequent and noted in the minutes.

According to the minutes, every meeting covers off:

* Declarations of Interest
* Confirmation of Previous Minutes
* Petitions
* Public Input
* Local Board Input
* Extraordinary Business
* Notices of Motion

However, nearly ALL of the minutes for every meeting since the establishment of the Board, look like this:

“2 Declaration of Interest: There were no declarations of interest.
3 Confirmation of Minutes Resolution number CS/2012/6 MOVED by Cr Wood, seconded Cr Quax: That the minutes of the Community Safety Forum held on Tuesday, 28 February 2012, be confirmed as a true and correct. CARRIED
4 Petitions: There were no petitions.
5 Public Input: There was no public input.
6 Local Board Input: There was no Local Board input.
7 Extraordinary Business: There was no extraordinary business.
8 Notices of Motion: There were no notices of motion.”

Is this why they only meet for 1-2 hours every six weeks? Is this what it means to be in public service? How much are they getting paid to attend these meetings? Plus benefits/expenses? Transport? Catering??

Fortunately one set of minutes has this helpful snippet for us:

“Declaration of interest:
Members were reminded of the need to be vigilant to stand aside from decision making when a conflict arises between their role as an elected representative and any private or other external interest they might have. There were no declarations of interest.”

We take this to mean that were Occupy Auckland members to appear in the “Public Input” section of the Community Safety Board meeting that George Wood would have to step down as Chairman out of his private (public!) external interest in trolling Occupy Auckland Facebook pages?

If we were to show up there, apparently this next snippet dictates our rights as the public to contribute to one of these public meetings:

“Deputations/Public Forum
The Standing Orders provide for deputations. Those applying for deputations were
required to give five working days notice of subject matter and applications were approved
by the Chair. This means that details relating to deputations could be included in the
published agenda. Total speaking time per deputation was thirty minutes
The Standing Orders also provide for public forums. Advance notice was not required but
it was expected that those wishing to speak at the public forum would advise the
Committee Secretary prior to the meeting. A maximum of thirty minutes was allocated to
the public forum with five minutes speaking time for each speaker.”

Let’s just check that again. “Advance notice was not required but it was expected that those wishing to speak at the public forum would advise the Committee Secretary prior to the meeting.” Expected? So the law says, the public can attend a public meeting but your secretary, who may or may not be busy trolling a political organisation on Facebook ala your Chairman George Wood, expects advance notice of any future disruption to your completely vacuous meeting? Lest the spotless minutes feature something other than “There was no/there were no/there was no/there were no” from top to bottom?

Is this what they call red tape? Needless bureaucracy? Government for the sake of government? Middle management gone wild? And these are the guys currently privatising our country across the industrial board? Yes, they are..

I only have two words to say with how aghast we are with George Wood and the Community Safety Board, who fails to protect us as members of the public and does a completely insufficient and inept job of representing anyone at all other than themselves.

Here’s our two words.

MIC CHECK!

Disclaimer: Not all members of the Board are as inane as George Wood. Some, have gone on record as dissenting to much of the craziness rampant within the walls of Auckland Council.

That said, be it knowingly or unknowingly, George Wood’s “Community Safety Board” is cowering in the shadow of what a real democracy should provide to our public.

Full minutes for the Community Safety Board can be found here:

http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/meetings_agendas/committees/Pages/communitysafetyforum.aspx

C/O OCCUPY AUCKLAND MEDIA TEAM

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