Would you have voted for him?

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Well, it’s nearly over – the elec­tion that is.

Just when we’ve got used to those ex­pen­sive bill­boards on vir­tu­ally ev­ery cor­ner they’ll all be spir­ited away in the night in the last few hours of Fri­day be­fore the polls close.

This ruth­less purge pre­sum­ably dates back to those near-Vic­to­rian days be­fore mail-in vot­ing. In those days there was some crazy the­ory that vot­ers must be pro­tected from ev­ery­thing that’s been promised, lied about or de­nied – and vote with­out any ref­er­ence to go­ings-on in the pre­vi­ous three weeks.

Now you can post your vote while the faces on the bill­boards still stare you down with an im­plicit ‘‘vote for me’’ when your choices ac­tu­ally dis­ap­peared into the near­est mail­box weeks be­fore.

There has been a low key ruckus over camp fol­low­ers wear­ing large, coloured rib­bons show­ing their sup­port for who­ever.

With that said, I still think it’s worth­while ask­ing: Would you have voted for this can­di­date?

Most of his earn­ings – 90 per cent of what he gets in salary – goes straight into a char­ity for the needy and home­less.

And his home isn’t one of those which shouts ‘‘I’m a suc­cess!’’ as you stare in, per­haps jeal­ously, at ten­nis courts, swim­ming pool, bil­liard room and six-car garag­ing ei­ther.

No, he and his wife live on a small farm away from the big spender sub­urbs. In fact, if you voted for him, when the count was fin­ished he would have headed home in his 1987 Volk­swa­gen Beetle for a quiet meal.

When he lists his as­sets he in­cludes the old car and the an­cient trac­tor off the farm – well, you would, wouldn’t you?

His wife Lu­cia might not have been there to greet him any­way. She could be out talk­ing about chrysan­the­mums. She grows them on the farm and sells them on at the lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­ket.

An ad­mirer summed up: ‘‘He re­ally prac­tises what he preaches and lots of peo­ple re­ally love him be­cause of it. It’s rare but needed more than ever,’’ she says.

There are some plans in his agenda which sound very fa­mil­iar – like low cost houses for poor com­mu­ni­ties. A lot of that money he gives away goes into his own gov­ern­ment’s scheme for low cost ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing.

When a me­dia man sug­gested he might be the poor­est man in his job in the world, his re­sponse was quick: ‘‘I don’t feel poor. Poor peo­ple are those who only work to try to keep an ex­pen­sive life­style and al­ways want more and more.’’

He has tried to align him­self with his vot­ers in choos­ing a life of sim­plic­ity and he meets as many of his needs from his small farm as his busy sched­ule will al­low. As far as I know, he doesn’t haul a chair out in sub­ur­ban main streets and sit lis­ten­ing to peo­ple’s gripes. He doesn’t need to. Peo­ple talk to him any­way. And he ap­par­ently won with­out promis­ing un­der­ground rail­ways, white wa­ter raft­ing or bread and cir­cuses.

He and his wife have al­ready ad­mit­ted they ‘‘be­long to the old cash gen­er­a­tion – we have no bank ac­counts and have never owned credit cards’’.

Which caused a stir among the more af­flu­ent peo­ple. Par­tic­u­larly big-time bankers. As it would, wouldn’t it?

He’s al­ways been dif­fer­ent. The son of a poor farmer, he hasn’t worn a tie for 20 years. Which pre­sum­ably has him catch­ing up in the fash­ion stakes with those trendy young suits with open shirt necks.

Un­der his watch, un­em­ploy­ment has dropped from 20 per cent to 6 per cent.

When his term is over, most are bet­ting he will get into his even rustier VW with Lu­cia and his dog Manuelo and drive back to the farm he loves.

That’s a pretty fancy name for his dog, you say. Well, yes, but I re­alise I haven’t told you his name yet. Sorry about that. He’s Jose´ Mu­jica voted in as 40th pres­i­dent of Uruguay in 2009.

I skimmed through that book of Auck­land elec­tion can­di­dates but I couldn’t find any­one who seemed to match him.

Well you wouldn’t would you? I mean just try this from his CV: ‘‘Founder mem­ber of his lo­cal bowl­ing club, be­came in­volved in the armed guer­rilla ac­tivist group Los Tu­pa­maros. His sta­tus rose among the move­ment, set­ting the foun­da­tions for a fu­ture in pol­i­tics.

‘‘Dur­ing this as­cent he was im­pris­oned by the dic­ta­tor­ship for a to­tal of 14 years, shot six times by po­lice and kept in iso­la­tion at the bot­tom of a stone well for 18 months un­til his re­lease in 1985 when democ­racy had been re­stored.’’

That cer­tainly would be un­usual if the man in the photo hap­pened to be the chair of your lo­cal com­mu­nity board, wouldn’t it?

But I reckon there could be some­thing in that old VW, a wife who grows flow­ers for the farm­ers’ mar­ket – and you might even get away with a dog called Manuelo.

But steer clear of a high im­pact biog about be­ing shot umpteen times by the po­lice – although wor­ry­ingly that’s catch­ing on here.

And cer­tainly don’t go down a well for all those years. Par­tic­u­larly if the wa­ter isn’t flu­o­ri­dated. Or is!

De­pends which elec­tion ma­te­rial you got foisted on you.

In the mail­bag, an­other an­gry voter:

‘‘Penny Web­ster has made her­self un­pop­u­lar with her re­marks about lawn­mow­ing in re­gions out­side Auck­land and earned some un­de­served brick­bats for us out­liers as Auck­land res­i­dents look at our rates and theirs. I’d just like to point out the ins and outs of be­ing a re­luc­tant Rod­ney res­i­dent of the su­per-city ... (we were press­ganged into it).

‘‘Over the past seven years, our lawn­mow­ing bill for the wide berms (our gar­den has no lawn) has cost nearly $5000 – we are pen­sion­ers.

‘‘We pay $2.75 for a rub­bish bag ev­ery week which is an­other $142 a year on top of rates.

‘‘We never have an in­or­ganic rub­bish col­lec­tion.

‘‘We pay for our own wa­ter – two re­fills of the tank over the sum­mer drought was $400.

‘‘Bushy grass is grow­ing out of the tar­mac along the kerb it’s so long since any­one came and sprayed.

‘‘We have no trains or buses or pub­lic trans­port in th­ese out­ly­ing Rod­ney ar­eas and since it costs ap­prox­i­mately $24 plus to drive into Auck­land Cen­tral to make use of the li­braries, art gallery, the­atres, etc, not many of us get there.

‘‘We also pay the tolls to get to Auck­land, just un­der $5 ev­ery time, so liv­ing in Rod­ney is not quite the free ride other ratepay­ers may per­haps be­lieve.

‘‘We are also the pos­ses­sors of some­thing like 700km of un­sealed roads. No sign of any progress there in three years of su­per-city rule.

‘‘We’re told that the tax take from Rod­ney is $42 mil­lion and what is spent on this district is some­where be­tween $5 and $10m – no $20m white-wa­ter raft­ing projects for us.’’ – Name pro­vided

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