Kāpiti’s Mayor Needs To Boost, Not Ban, Free Speech — Op Ed

Kāpiti Mayor K Gurunathan needs to take a few deep breaths and then start to run Council meetings in a more organised and democratic way, says KIN Editor Alan Tristram.

Mayor Gurunathan should take a few deep breaths

“Public speaking time is vital to our local democracy

Sympathetic approach

This means the Chair should be sympathetic toward citizens who may be very upset by a local issue, but untrained, or nervous, about speaking in public.

Quite often a clear but friendly approach works best.

Citizens who feel they are being respected and listened to, usually quieten down.

Mayor Alan Milne’s fine record

I spent six years as a KCDC councillor, and I had the privilege of working with Mayor Alan Milne.

He was a master at dealing with tricky situations — and a paragon of fairness.

But unfortunately, Mr Gurunathan seems to have got his knickers in a twist over a minor incident.

Forced to leave the meeting

Manly street resident Dennis Grant was forced to leave the council meeting last Thursday after making an impassioned argument.

Councillors were looking at a new beach bylaw.

Mr Grant said there was no consistency in the proposal, the cost of keeping the site ( a beach boat ramp in Manly St ) open had not been mentioned before, and, despite the talk about consultation, ‘there was no consultation with us.

At this point the mayor said he found Mr Grant’s comments excessive and asked him to leave.

Reporter’s assessment

Our experienced senior reporter assures me that Mr Grant was not obscene, offensive, or in any way violent. It appears to KIN the Mayor may have been over-reacting after racial slurs affected students at a meeting in February. But the Manly St issue is unrelated to that event.

I think the Mayor, who failed to see or note the racial problem at the February meeting, may now vented some of his frustration on the hapless Mr Grant.

Perhaps it’s time for everyone to sit down quietly and have a nice cup of tea.

But, Mr Gurunthan, please be careful how you try to restrict public speaking at an open Council meeting.

And you could start by organising things so that the public are not crowded into a ridiculously small space — and even excluded from the meeting itelf.

It’s time to let local democracy breathe!”

I will add, that considering some of the accusations made about the Gateway Project and perceived lack of consultation, I felt it important to clarify whether or not the two submitters remembered refusing to support my proposal in 2018, of a smaller temporary ‘Gateway facility’ in the area of the current Boating Club grounds for approx $200k, and that it be included in the key four questions fronting the 2018 LTP consultation document. To put the project front and forward for further public consultation. Their answer at the time was ‘No’, Councillors therefore did not support progressing my very practical and affordable proposal. A great pity as it would have made a real difference now that the project is green lighted. And it remains a very relevant question. Readers will as you say – ‘determine whether or not my accusations are correct or further evidence of my inventiveness when it comes to facts’. Thank you Christopher for the opportunity to clarify this.

Dear Christopher Ruthe, thank you for your observations. Just to clarify, at the meeting of 25th Feb, I was referring to a meeting the two submitters attended with the Mayor and myself, held at their home. He had no need to stop me -quote ‘from mis using my power to denigrate ratepayers based on false facts’ because he was in no doubt about the accuracy of my questions. He was present. I hope this helps clarify the situation for the readers.

Dear Editor,
Councillor Elliott’s “intelligent addition to this conversation'”was to wave her rather vitriolic sword, trying to slay you with her fanciful accusation that you used abuse in describing Gurunathan’s actions in having an elderly ratepayer removed from council chambers. Facts do not concern the intelligent Councillor Elliott.
At the Council meeting on 25 February concerning the Gateway she put to two submitters that they had had conversations with her years previously. Both these ratepayers were adamant no such conversations took place.

The reason I mention this is because this is another example of the unfairness of Gurunathan. Any competent chairperson would have stopped Councillor Elliott in her tracks. She was mis using her power to denigrate ratepayers based on false facts. Gurunathan did nothing, presumably because both those persons were opposed to his pet project.

Dear editor, you were absolutely right in raising the matter in a dispassionate non abusive way. Readers themselves can determine whether Elliott’s accusations are correct- or further evidence of her inventiveness when it to facts.

Kia Ora Chris,
Thanks for this. Yes, we do try to be fair.
Luckily, we now have a trained senior journalist, JeremySmith, who has agreed to covedr local body affzirs.
So he will be able to keep a close eye on all the politicians and the various plans and projects!
Best wishes, Alan T

It is unfortunate Mr Editor, that your reporter failed to report the fact that as exiting, Mr Grant pointed to the Mayor, then up at the wall and said it had been his intention from arrival to nail his face to the wall. Indicating clearly that every disrespectful word and gesture was deliberate and pre-meditated. Hardly the actions of the anyone untrained, or nervous about speaking in public.

I had hoped for some intelligent addition to this conversation, by your bringing to it the wealth of your experience as a councillor, however what I read above is just another pithy excuse to use an abusive phrase to describe the Mayors actions.
It is a pity you handn’t remembered to let the public know we also have an open mic public speaking opportunity for half an hour prior to each meeting. Starting at 9am on meeting days,

Have to disagree with your view of Alan Milne, Alan. In a personal submission to the council, my whangai, still in his teens,stood to deliver his opening words in Te Reo (his first language, and an official language of this country). Milne told him to sit down, and totally mangled his name, which pronounced syllable by syllable is extremely simple. To my great pride, my boy stood his ground, continued his mihi, and switched to English for the rest of his speech in support of youth intiatives. When we left, he was upset, but several of the other submitters took the time and effort to come and congratulate him on his stance. Now, years later, although he has a responsible professional role, I doubt he will ever put himself in such a monocultural position again.

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