Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Wall and the Paper

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  • Christopher Dempsey, in reply to peter mclennan,

    Wearing my Elected Rep hat...

    Mayor Brown's statement is correct.

    doffing my hat...

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • peter mclennan,

    Thanks, Russell. Thanks, Chris. So, if Rob Sheilds' story about it being a member of the public is incorrect, why did you claim to know the name of that person?

    "What officers don't know is that I know the name of the member of public"

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to peter mclennan,

    Thanks, Russell. Thanks, Chris. So, if Rob Sheilds’ story about it being a member of the public is incorrect, why did you claim to know the name of that person?

    Er, don’t be hating on Chris, please. I presume he has the same name I do, but wasn't aware who that "member of the public" is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • peter mclennan,

    ok, then. Fair enough.

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Also, the Mayor said that “Council contractors mistakenly painted over this mural after a request by an Auckland Council anti-graffiti volunteer”.

    Which is hardly a great boost to my confidence. Before Christopher swoops in and accuses me of taking a "cheap shot" at Len Brown, "whoops" isn't really good enough when it come to what I don't think it's hyperbole to call local government vandalism of private property without good cause. Or, it seems, any damn accountability.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Righto: via the Mayor’s press officer:

    Tony Crampton is an Auckland Council officer and performs as part of his job graffiti education and volunteer project duties.

    He is not the Individual that Len referred to as an anti-graffiti volunteer and Chris referred to as a member of the public.

    Unpaid members of the public work in partnership with council as part of the council’s anti-graffiti programmes across Auckland.

    So this was done on the say-so of an unnamed anti-graffiti volunteer (and frankly I’m not sure if a regular volunteer can really be called a “member of the public”, unless you’re actually aiming to cloud the issue) who presumably has no connection to the K Road area and just thought he’d call in a work on a private wall that has been part of the local landscape for 10 years. And even when the contractors queried it, Crampton didn’t bother to check and told them to go ahead and paint over the wall.

    And this bit from Shields is ridiculous:

    Council is taking full responsibility to rectify the situation and install a new artwork as soon as possible.

    Which is basically saying “sorry we wrecked your painting – but we’ll choose a new one for you. We'll dictate its style and content to save everyone else the bother.”

    There was only one proper course of action to be taken here: stay the hell out of this and let the original artist repaint the wall. And pay his costs to do so.

    I think any amount of fuss over this is justified if it prevents this sort of jumped-up idiocy happening in future.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Which is hardly a great boost to my confidence. Before Christopher swoops in and accuses me of taking a “cheap shot” at Len Brown,

    I thought Brown was evasive as to the key question of council officers’ powers in his interview on Media7, but it’s only his response to the original complaints that got it this far. His office has actually been quite helpful to me in pursuing it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    His office has actually been quite helpful to me in pursuing it.

    And I'll happily give credit where it's due, but I will stand by my original comment that officials too often are the politically convenient scapegoats for bad policy. But I feel very kindly disposed towards politicians who can just say "we got it wrong, and here's what we will do to put it right" then stop talking.

    Perhaps someone can pop along to that Auckland Unleashed Mayoral Summit on Thursday, and suggest one or two people who really need to be put on a very short choke chain.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    Wearing my hat...

    Mayor Brown wasn't responsible for graffitti policy that Shields was operating under (Auckland City Council was), and nor could I expect him to get on top of such policy, given he was sworn in less than four months ago. Additionally, staff have publicly said that they were at fault. Given this Mr Ranapia's position is odd.

    Doffing hat with a flourish cause I really need a blardy G&T right now and I don't have any tonic...

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Christopher Dempsey,

    Goodness Christopher! I have a bottle of real Angostura bitters (even better than tonic water with gin - I am told by the family's only gin drinker (my mother) - which I'd happily send you-
    I am also told they last forever, which better be the case because this bottle is over 25 years old...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Islander,

    Wonderful hangover cure - angostura bitters and soda. At least, I was told it was. Didn't like the taste at all. And I doubt now that I really did have a real hangover.....

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Christopher Dempsey,

    Mayor Brown wasn’t responsible for graffitti policy that Shields was operating under (Auckland City Council was), and nor could I expect him to get on top of such policy, given he was sworn in less than four months ago.

    Christopher: I'll issue a general policy statement, and will be entering into no further correspondence while wearing my floppy (yet surprisingly dashing) sun hat.

    You put your hand up for elected office, it's just your job to either know your portfolio or have someone very close at hand who will brief you immediately. The statute of limitation on blaming the other lot is as short for Brown as it was for Banks (and everyone else) -- i.e. non existent.

    I'm sorry if expecting simple (if politically inconvenient) competence and accountability from political leaders is a "odd" position to take, but I think I'm entitled to expect as much from my employees.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • peter mclennan, in reply to Christopher Dempsey,

    So Chris - "Mayor Brown wasn’t responsible for graffitti policy that Shields was operating under (Auckland City Council was), and nor could I expect him to get on top of such policy, given he was sworn in less than four months ago."

    In Brown's very first speech as mayor, he went on at length about being anti graffiti and what an important area it was for him as Mayor. So one would expect that if it was so important, he would look at it straight away. And he did. That's why he made a song and dance about painting out the graffiti and tagging covering the buildings on Albert st. And good on him.

    I find your suggestion that you wouldn't expect Mayor Brown to get on top of the graffiti policy in less than four months doesn't tally with the Mayor's own statements on the importance of clearing graffiti and tagging from Auckland.

    AK Central • Since Nov 2006 • 159 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    You put your hand up for elected office, it’s just your job to either know your portfolio or have someone very close at hand who will brief you immediately. The statute of limitation on blaming the other lot is as short for Brown as it was for Banks (and everyone else) – i.e. non existent.

    That doesn’t make any sense to me. Brown has inherited the anti-graffiti team involved from another council – Auckland City. He had had no role in hiring them or defining their roles and doesn’t really have much direct control over them. That’s the CEO, Doug McKay, who was chosen by the Auckland Transition Agency, which was elected by no one other than Rodney Hide.

    Fields and Crampton seem to have been behaving this way for some time under the previous council and this is the first time it’s got to the mayor’s office – in part because this is the most egregious example yet, but also because Brown actually responded to the protests he got via Twitter.

    Indeed, this would actually have been happily resolved by Brown if Shields had not taken it upon himself to lobby the building owner and convince him to let Shields take care of it all. Shields seems to me to have exceeded any logical role in doing so – but who knows? It’s not that Brown hadn’t caught up on policy in the four months he’s had to get a new council running, it’s that there is no policy. That’s the problem.

    It’s actually beneficial that everyone has at least been obliged to agree since his intervention that this was a “mistake” and that the council cannot go painting out the walls of private buildings without asking the damn owner for permission.

    Brown wouldn’t be drawn on the logical next step of having some way of gauging the local community’s wishes with respect to street art on public property, and that was disappointing. It’s a fuzzy issue, but given the power of officials under the Auckland Council set-up, it’s something that actually needs a policy, so enthusiastic ex-cops can’t turn the city grey.

    Brown has also been reluctant to publicly flame Cameron and Shields, which is understandable, even given the rank ineptitude they’ve shown. I suspect he sees them as basically good guys, who act in line with the policy he campaigned on. And they do do good work tracking and cleaning up nuisance tagging. I would hope that some sterner words have been said in private, even if via the CEO. And that Askew will be left to get on with restoring his own wall.

    But that doesn’t obviate the need for a sensitive policy to be discussed and developed around this. Brown did cultivate this culture when it suited him and he needs to acknowledge the good faith he was shown and have the conversation.

    Askew could be a star of the kind of city Brown claims to want. But that won’t happen if he’s left to be crapped on like this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to peter mclennan,

    I find your suggestion that you wouldn’t expect Mayor Brown to get on top of the graffiti policy in less than four months doesn’t tally with the Mayor’s own statements on the importance of clearing graffiti and tagging from Auckland.

    See above. There wasn't a policy, there was an official strategy developed under a previous organisation. We now have a bit of de facto policy with respect to private walls, which is good. OTOH, you're right: this was one of his issues and he needs to man up and do it properly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • John Holley, in reply to peter mclennan,

    Having been involved in the whole supercity creation I can say, personally, that the biggest challenge after Rodney and the ATA, was the culture that some Auckland City staff brought to the mix. Many just could not believe that other councils might do some things better. I could go through a long laundry list of stuff, but trust me, until the "Auckland City" culture is replaced with a truly inclusive culture across the region we will see these issues occurring.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 139 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to John Holley,

    I could go through a long laundry list of stuff, but trust me, until the “Auckland City” culture is replaced with a truly inclusive culture across the region we will see these issues occurring.

    You are not the first person I've heard this from.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    Sigh. Unleashing my hat - today, of all days - but nursing a blardy cold so I can't be present at the unleashing being done today by Mayor Brown...

    Russell's analysis is bang on, and far better than anything I could have done. Thank you Mr Brown.

    And the observation:

    the culture that some Auckland City staff brought to the mix.

    Yes, indeed. The mixing of staff cultures has been a mixed bag to say in the least. From what I can observe, quite a number of staff were employed from Auckland City Council because that Council was the largest in the region, and had better training systems, operating systems, etc, so it made sense to employ them.

    During the days of CEO Bryan Taylor (predecessor to David Rankin), who was an evangelical pastor in his spare time, a particular culture emerged. So the culture represented Taylor's worldview - there is a God, what god says goes, and god is supreme and everyone is ranged hierarchically below. So naturally, lots of mini-gods emerged everywhere.

    David Rankin deserves credit for softening this culture and did much to push the culture in a more inclusive and supportive direction, and by and large succeeded, but some staff naturally were resistant.

    As a result, there is naturally much errr, apprehension felt by other staff employed from other Councils. Doug McKay will have his work cut out for him in terms of creating a much better culture and I don't envy his job. On the few times I've meet him he's very engaging and committed so I'm reasonably happy that he'll do his best.

    Penny Hulse is very aware of the issue and I suspect is working politically to create a more inclusive culture, and bury the 'Auckland City' culture.

    Time will tell if the desire to create an alternative culture to the ‘Auckland City’ culture will be greater than the inert residual bulk of the ‘Auckland City’ culture.

    Doffing said hat…
    .

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to John Holley,

    until the “Auckland City” culture is replaced with a truly inclusive culture across the region we will see these issues occurring.

    Actually, John, I’d really be glad to see the “North Shore” culture taken out behind the barn and given a headshot – though, to be fair, a large part of that was driven by a mayor who didn’t play at all well with others.

    But I’m hoping that the libraries are going to be the norm not the exception that proves the rule – while the integration hasn’t been flawless, they just got on with an enormously complex job and (to be honest) did a much better job than I expected. Nobody even remotely connected with reality through it would be a plug and play operation, but I’m not entirely encouraged by folks I’ve talked to who quietly want the whole exercise to fail. (And no, I’m passive-aggressively bitching anyone here.)

    Still, taking my own advice, I'm cautiously optimistic that the overwhelming majority of people involved with the Auckland Council are being Tim Gunn about things. But for me, a large part of that "truly inclusive" culture is being able to very promptly admit when you've screwed up. I'm not trolling you, Christopher, but I really think Brown's earned a bare pass on this -- but the worse thing about screwing up is not learning from it and doing better.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12363 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I’m hoping that the libraries are going to be the norm not the exception that proves the rule

    They were already many years ahead with systems integration. Hence the ability to switch on interloaning right away.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19413 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    Hat time...

    But I’m hoping that the libraries are going to be the norm not the exception that proves the rule – while the integration hasn’t been flawless, they just got on with an enormously complex job and (to be honest) did a much better job than I expected.

    The libraries are wonderful aren't they? They had a head start. 5 or so years ago, some bright cookie suggested that the libraries agree to work together on back office things, like ordering books/journals, repairs, binding, developing a computer cataloguing system etc. Cause a book in Rodney is a book in Franklin. Thankfully libraries management agreed, and met regularly to align back office functions, while keeping individual 'fronts' i.e. Auckland City Libraries. My librarian contact told me that it took about two years before people started to see the benefits of working together.

    Libraries were the role model for how regional integration could occur while still remaining 'separate'. Other departments were just starting to develop the same model e.g. resource consent processing, or transport. Then Napoleon came along and the rest is history.

    But given the work that the libraries had done in the past, they are the one shining spot in terms of integration.

    I’m not trolling you, Christopher, but I really think Brown’s earned a bare pass on this – but the worse thing about screwing up is not learning from it and doing better.

    Well, that's a bit better. A bare pass is better than what you have been tagging Brown with so I'm happy. I'm sure Brown has knocked a few heads together and I'm sure Doug McKay has had a few hard words with appropriate people but we won't know the results of this unfortunately.

    My main concern now is to ensure that the replacement artwork is NOT dictated by Council.

    Doffing hat...

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I’m not trolling you, Christopher, but I really think Brown’s earned a bare pass on this – but the worse thing about screwing up is not learning from it and doing better.

    Sincere question: what do you believe he could or should have done?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

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