Thursday, March 11, 2004

It's The Opportunity Cost, Asshole

My thoughts on the proposed Eastern Motorway. It's nice to see that the nearly moribund Campaign for Better Transport has finally decided to do something. Even if it's just issuing a press release.

Fortunately Bruce Hucker seemed to grasp the point about opportunity cost with great clarity. Calling it a road to nowhere, he also put out a press release:

The latest plans for the Eastern Corridor are hugely expensive, won't ease congestion and would stop us spending on real transport solutions, says Bruce Hucker, leader of the City Vision group of Auckland City councillors.

And he dispensed with the bullshit promise of bus lanes thusly:

Proposing a busway alongside the present railway defies the principles of good transport planning", he said. "The busway sets up the bus and rail to compete rather than having buses feeding off the railway as they should.

Fortunately, the Eastern Motorway will not be built.

Unfortunately, there is no way in hell that Bruce Hucker will get anywhere near the behind of the mayor's desk. What is it about City Vision that makes them think that can win a mayoralty race? What makes them think that they have to?

The role of mayor is both a political position and a symbolic one. Because the mayor's fight is so high profile, it's less likely that anyone openly associated with the left can take the seat, particularly in Auckland. But on the plus side, if a mayor is opposed by the majority on council, there is very little that he or she can do. Therefore it is symbolically important to get rid of Banks and politically necessary to maximise the progressive hold on council. Good politics often comes down to a question of realistic expectations. If you are a democrat it means doing what you can to make the situation better, not worse. Sometimes that can mean that ending up in some kind of alliance with someone that you don't like in order to get rid of someone that you both hate.

A preliminary analysis of the 2001 Auckland election shows that the mistake of the left was that they got greedy and refused to join forces against Banks. They split the vote. Badly. In addition to Fletcher, the left decided to run two candidates for mayor, Matt McCarten and for the Greens, Metiana Turiana. Matt was running for the Alliance. Check out the breakdown:

Banks: 47059

Fletcher: 31699

McCarten: 15785

Turiana: 2213

Look at it this way: the non-Banks vote was 49,697 to Banksie's 47,059. Remember that local body elections are not based on proportional representation. It's just winner take all. Once you realise this, you are faced with a few key questions:

Q: Do we have a realistic shot at the mayoralty?
A: No.

Q: Could we win a few council seats by not wasting our resources on the mayor's seat?
A: Maybe.

Q: Well, then who do we think we can work with, considering that we have now rationalised our resources and may be able to win some council seats?
A: Fletcher.

Q: O.K., then who do we really need to get rid of?
A: Banks.

The only thing that has changed is that City Vision is now in the picture. On the surface it appears as a rationalisation of the left vote. But by running against Fletcher, City Vision are effectively splitting the anti-Banks vote again. Even though Fletcher is a former National politician, she has still shown herself to be more progressive on public transport and easier to work with than Banks.

My prediction: Banks wins again because of City Vision. Eastern (Transit Corridor) Motorway fails to get necessary funding. And only the part for cars gets built.