Posts tagged ‘employment’


The graffiti issue

25.09.2013

One voter says, ‘Hi, when I show people around Wellington I feel really ashamed of how our beautiful city has been covered in graffiti.’ And she is right. So what can we do?
   I responded in an email:

You are right, and believe it or not, $500,000 of our rates are going toward the cleaning and we’ve little to show for it. It’s worsened over the last few years.
   There are some basic things we can do, but they won’t stop the problem. Let me get those out of the way first, just out of completeness’ sake, because residents have told me they’d like to see these in place.
   Spray paint buyers could provide ID when buying, and I notice Eastern Ward council candidate Sarah Free proposes that sellers should even record the colour and date of purchase. I’d certainly support a bylaw for the ID requirement.
   Shop owners are telling me that it’s not just graffiti, it’s glass-scratchers. They’re going to huge expense replacing the glass.
   I understand from police that it’s difficult to identify the offenders but the few that we do catch, I support having them come and clean up their own mess along with doing community service.
   Now, all of the above are things we can do after the fact. What we really need to do is make sure young people (most taggers are 22–23) don’t commit these crimes in the first place.
   So here are my solutions.
   It’s no surprise that this happens more during a recession. Two main reasons these young people spray graffiti are: creativity (21·6 per cent); and believing in “celebrity” (15·7 per cent).
   This is why I emphasized youth in some of my policies. I put these in to my manifesto back in April, three to four months before my opponents even had theirs. Youth unemployment is shockingly high in Wellington—if you only look at 15–19, it’s 25 per cent. But if we provide them with apprenticeships (Dunedin City Council is already doing this) and internships, then they will be able to see that they can have a proper career path.
   Wellington businesses are telling me they are finding it hard to get talent, including the creative industries, and if some of these taggers are frustrated creatives or people who want their name “in lights”, let’s make them do things that benefit our economy.
   I’d rather spend [a chunk of] the $500,000 on the apprenticeship programme instead. I mention this as I’m not one to make election promises that we can’t pay for as a city.
   We publicize these programmes and we must include those that have an artistic component to them, and target the areas in our city that fall foul to graffiti the most.
   We recognize their issue that there aren’t jobs, and show them that they can apply their talents legitimately. Those businesses that want artists can get them; and the young people understand they can have a future.
   It’s not a perfect solution, but I’m all about targeting root causes rather than applying Band-Aids.
   This has the added effect of stopping some of the drunkenness as well—which is also socioeconomic and partly cultural—so we have a more palatable Courtenay Place and entertainment district. In effect, all this leads to a more presentable, liveable and prouder city.

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Posted in culture, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Why do the major parties insist on holding us back?

04.07.2011

In 2002, I did something really stupid. I bought a brand-new, 750 Mbyte Zip drive.
   After all, I had had three years of use out of my 100 Mbyte one, and since 750s looked like the way of the future, I had one installed.
   I can still count the number of times I used it on one hand, because CD-ROMs became common currency and replaced the Zips.
   So when I see we’re building more roads, it reminds me of the Zip drive. Investing in a 20th-century technology in the 21st century.
   When, in fact, we can grow a city and a country more effectively by ensuring its technology is up to speed with the rest of the world.
   If we’re going to attract the best and brightest minds to our shores—and many of them are in the IT world, and software is a frictionless export that overcomes the tyranny of distance—we need to have an infrastructure that isn’t stuck in the previous century, either.
   A forward-looking technological investment for better internet speeds or a real wifi network is better value—and potentially generates more jobs for this nation.
   Which makes me wonder just how clued up the major parties are in this year’s General Election.
   The disappointment I’ve seen in business-damaging legislation, from the Copyright Act to what potentially exists in the TPPA, suggests that neither major party understands what it takes to grow business sustainably in this nation.
   And now to see a sudden change of heart from certain members of the government and the Opposition when the UN has published a report calling internet disconnection a violation of human rights shows they never understood the law in the first place.
   From Ars Technica (emphasis added):

Michael Geist notes that on Friday, Sweden made remarks at the UN Human Rights Council that endorsed many of the report’s findings, including the criticism of “three strikes” rules. The statement was signed by 40 other nations, including the United States and Canada. The United Kingdom and France, two nations that have enacted “three strikes” regimes, did not sign the statement.
   “All users should have greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services,” the statement said, adding that “cutting off users from access to the Internet is generally not a proportionate sanction.” It also called network neutrality and Internet openness “important objectives.”
   Interestingly, the report is signed by New Zealand, which enacted legislation in April that sets up a special Copyright Tribunal for expediting file-sharing cases. The penalties available to the New Zealand government include Internet disconnections of up to six months.

   That’s pretty worrying, when lawmakers don’t understand law. Would you have a mechanic who didn’t understand the mechanics of your car? A dentist who didn’t understand teeth? Or, for that matter, political party leaders whose opinion of their nation is so low that they might consider locking their nation in to backward industries?
   That doesn’t sound like understanding New Zealand, and its ingenuity and pride, to me.
   At least I learned from my Zip drive moment. You do when you spend your own money, outside the political world.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »


A bad choice of word, but what does the gay community actually think?

19.03.2011

While I was out, I had noticed on Twitter a news item about an octogenarian, working for American Airlines, who was sacked for his use of the word faggot.
   I despise words like that, just as much as chink or nigger, but the question arises: should he have been sacked, losing some of his benefits after 54 years’ service?
   He wasn’t a homophobe. The story, which may have surfaced in the Murdoch Press (where else?), was that Freddy Schmitt backed the right of gay soldiers to serve openly. He said, ‘Back then, a faggot coulda saved my life.’
   Bad choice of word? Absolutely.
   But the man is 82, and probably grew up at a time when such words were not deemed unacceptable. Maybe we can say he should have kept up with the times, but sometimes, new learning slips your mind and you fall back on the old.
   I have a father who grew up at a time when Negro and Negress were acceptable words, and, while he rarely uses them (the last time I heard him use Negress was 2004), the guy is 75.
   I’m not sure if this is playing the age card: it’s simply understanding that we’re not that good at retaining knowledge we gain later in life. In Dad’s case, even more so, when you’re talking about a language he only started learning at 14.
   After a while, you just don’t feel like keeping up with the vernacular, foreign or not.
   I asked my American friends of African ethnicity what they thought was acceptable, and they didn’t have a problem with people of Dad’s generation using these two words, as long as he kept away from the n word itself. (Which he does, as it was probably derogatory for a long time.)
   The gay community is more than capable of speaking out for themselves without my second-guessing their reaction to Mr Schmitt. With that in mind, I popped into the Pink News site (‘Europe’s largest gay news service’) to see readers’ reactions, and mostly, they felt Mr Schmitt should be taught proper usage and not be given an apology, but that he should not have lost his job over it.
   A minority backed American Airlines’ move.
   So, judging by the readers of one publication, it seems that Mr Schmitt should be told off, especially if he’s still working as a trainer and contacting the public, but many of those whom he supposedly offended are far more tolerant than the airline might think.
   Not unlike the 1970s’ British TV series, Mind Your Language, where it seemed the majority deemed it politically incorrect as it was supposedly offensive to minorities.
   I don’t find the show offensive, the actors (most of whom were of the ethnic groups they portrayed) didn’t, and I have yet to meet any member of a minority who does.
   The fact that the majority thought us so weak and so unable to speak for ourselves that they made that judgement for us is more offensive.
   ‘Oh, those poor [insert minority race here]. They will be so offended by that. Let’s cancel the show.’
   I’m sorry, we have a voice, thank you. Engaging in dialogue with us is not that hard.
   Just as the gay community has a voice in this instance. They don’t need me, or American Airlines, or anyone else, to speak for them about the utterance of an 82-year-old man.
   ‘Oh, those poor gays. They will be so offended by that. Let’s fire the man.’
   Of course we should speak out in defence of our fellow human beings, but we should also engage in dialogue, too (that’s an invitation: everyone’s comments are welcome). We shouldn’t presume that, somehow, one group is superior, and that the other’s voice should not be heard.
   I just hope the motive for the article isn’t to separate people, because, as one reader on Pink News pointed out:

Political correctness run amuck! Aside from being unfair this is EXACTLY the sort of PC BS that causes moderate Str8s to think ‘gosh, the queers ARE getting out of hand’.

   It’s not the ‘queers’ doing it, it’s a corporation which likely had heterosexuals making the judgement to fire Mr Schmitt.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, USA | 2 Comments »


Parts of Japan are decimated, and I think back to my grandfather

11.03.2011

My grandfather, Col. Tung Wan Yan, of the Chinese Constitutional Army, had a very interesting war.
   He was on a Japanese hit-list and was hiding in trees when some soldiers opened fire on him with automatic weapons. By some miracle, he escaped unharmed.
   It’s one of the close calls he had in China and Malaya during World War II.
   Last night, and for a little while this morning, I Tweeted some public notices to help get word out for the Japanese people, which is one of the few things my limited skill set allows for. I translated Tweets via Google Translate to keep people informed, especially those in Japan who might not understand Japanese.
   And my mind turned to him. He’s the one guy in our family who has met a lot more Japanese people than we can claim.
   Not because of any contrast, but because of similar motives.
   Immediately after the surrender, my grandfather created jobs for stranded Japanese soldiers in Malaya, so they could earn their passage back home.
   When you cast aside government orders, people are people—and compassion is a natural trait in most of us. They put down their guns and became brothers.
   If you ask me what part of my grandfather’s war record I am proud of, it was that immediate postwar work. Technically, it’s not part of his war record, though it is part of his military record.
   He had to get back to his family, too, but, as any leader would do, he placed others before himself. More importantly, these others included not only his own men, but those whom, a day before, were called ‘the enemy’.
   He was a few months younger than I am now, and had done way more than I ever could. In this and other respects, he was a better man than me.
   Tweeting public notices isn’t much compared with actual job creation and restoring public services and infrastructure in a foreign country.
   But what he and I have in common is that we believe that, in these times of need, we are all brothers and sisters in unity with the citizens and families of Japan.

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Posted in China, internet, leadership | 3 Comments »


It’s time to consider open source

14.06.2010

Certain media are reporting the city’s [debt] in the $200 million–$300 million mark but our outside-council research reveals this is a very conservative estimate. It’s likely to be more.
   Regardless of whether it’s $200 million or half an (American) billion (scary just saying it), any deficit that’s nine digits long can’t be good for a relatively small city.
   One of my plans after I get into office will be to balance the budget, which is why I have been going on about growing jobs and businesses in such a big way. In a very shortcut way of explaining it: more new businesses, more ratepayers, fewer reasons to increase the rates. Which, I might add, this current administration has already locked in for us over the next few years, letting the next mayor get the blame.
   I object to any cuts in library services, even if there is a strong denial that that is happening. In a knowledge economy, we cannot afford to create a class system of the knowledge-rich and the knowledge-poor.
   On this note, recently I asked Don Christie of the New Zealand Open Source Society to examine an open-source strategy for Wellington City. For starters, we discussed how the library software is a proprietary system that costs this city a considerable amount—when there is a New Zealand-developed open-source program that many other cities have implemented.
   While it would be nice to keep believing we can afford expensive software to run city services, I don’t like debt, and I certainly don’t like owing people any money.
   And I’m not prepared to sell off our water to technocrats or any profitable part of the family jewels to see the hundred-million figure reduced.
   There are good examples of open source working for cities and creating significant savings. Zaragoza, Spain, has been moving to a complete open-source desktop. And it’s not the only one.
   Furthermore, open source will mean jobs in Wellington. This will mean new jobs. I have already gone on about the tech clusters being a vital part of this city’s economy. Open-source skills are in high demand, and if overseas trends are anything to go by, we can attract these skilled people to our city. Already Wellington is a centre of excellence in many IT-related fields. I’m talking about extending this and making a real claim to open-source. Let the world know that Wellington is the home of not just the most advanced software and visual effects’ companies, but logically extend that to open source as well.
   It’s projected that by 2020, 40 per cent of jobs in IT will be open-source-related, so if we don’t do it, another New Zealand city will. I’m not about to give up one of our most important advantages, one which has been emerging in the capital since the 1990s.
   Such moves can be done with the city and Wellington’s private enterprises working together—but this will need to come from the top, and be put in motion by a mayor who’s passionate about job creation. It’s one of the biggest challenges we face, and I seem to be a lone voice on focusing on this for our city.

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 9 Comments »


Wellington wants free wifi

17.02.2010

While I’ve been a LinkedIn member for many years—my LinkedIn ID has six digits, which gives you an idea of how long ago—I have to confess that I did not browse the brilliant Wellington, New Zealand group till quite recently.
   And free wifi is being talked up there, too, as something Wellingtonians genuinely want.
   We hear from expats who feel Wellington needs this as a major city, from Wellingtonians who believe this would be great for growing business, and from some concerned citizens who wonder where the money comes from.
   Fortunately, two of the posters there have experience in the wifi space, and can attest to the fact that the infrastructure already exists. As mentioned on my mayoral campaign site, we can make this profitable for the city. Secondly, it will provide an additional avenue for Wellington businesses to be found.
   Indeed, one of these experts notes that it was exceedingly rare for anyone to go mental over downloading things; in any case, I propose there will be a daily data cap on the service.
   When I made wifi one of my core issues last year, I knew instinctively it would be right for Wellington.
   I don’t live in a bubble, and I’m not part of the political élite. Which means I haven’t learned how to distance myself from the needs of Wellingtonians. I’ve been engaging with people for a long time with an eye on this campaign. Anyone with one’s pulse on the city knows that free wifi and new jobs are things that a world-class city needs—and I firmly believe Wellington is potentially world-class. I would hate for us to miss the opportunities that are before us right now, which can catapult us into the big league to become one of the world’s great cities.
   As those of you who came out to the two Asian Events’ Trust shows at TSB Arena in Wellington over the weekend know, I have returned to our shores after a wonderful trip to Europe. The warmest it got, I should note, was 2°C, which makes even a foggy, overcast day like today seem dreamy. (The coldest was –15°C.)
   Some of the conversations I had in Sweden still can’t be revealed yet (this isn’t about transparency—this is about legality), but I was there studying some benchmarks for transportation and the environment. I want Wellingtonians to know I travel on my money and I use the opportunity to benefit my city. I don’t miss these opportunities. (And yes, I was in København, too.)
   As some of you who have followed my career know, I am not talking about incremental improvements.
   After all, as early as 2001 I was talking about Fair Trade and social responsibility. By 2003, I had talked to the United Nations Environment Programme and convinced them that the best way of making environmental issues cool was to mainstream them through the world of fashion and celebrity—and Lucire’s partnership with them was born. The same year, we at the Medinge Group decided that Beyond Branding should be a Carbon Neutral book. The previous decade I was doing everything from web publishing (1993) to launching the country’s longest running online fashion title (1997).
   So when I talk about these ideas in Sweden, I am talking about game-changers that can benefit Wellington.
   You have to be a few years ahead of your time, given what politics is like. No one who seeks public office can afford to be reactive or behind the times. And I hope that in the last 23 years, I’ve managed to demonstrate a fairly good record of identifying the next big thing.
   And I owe a debt of gratitude to my good friend (and one of Sweden’s outside-the-box marketing thinkers) Stefan Engeseth for arranging my speeches and meetings. Thank you for entrusting me, Stefan, for being your first speaker in your Unplugged Speeches session—it was an extremely good, interactive morning. It’s not every day I get to interact with someone who works for NASA. (If you thought I was good, you should see speaker number two, who has a Ph.D. and is very easy on the eyes.) But mostly, thank you for inspiring me even more, because you, too, always seem to be a few years ahead of the game.
   As to France, the other country I spent heaps of time in on this trip, it was an honour to talk at the Sorbonne–CELSA campus with my colleagues at Medinge.
   While part of the Paris trip was occupied by a board meeting and with the 2010 Brands with a Conscience awards, I had the opportunity to discuss my mayoral campaign with the world’s leading brand thinkers in a meaningful, collegial presentation. Medinge, too, is filled with those forward-thinking from people who are nearly always right about their predictions of how the world would look in three to ten years’ time.
   And the session at La Sorbonne was, in my mind, a true highlight—where, again, Wellington got plenty of promotion, and I was able to share some thoughts with a smart, young audience.
   I’ll be letting voters know ahead of time what else was discussed with the Swedish companies, so you can be even better armed when you fill out your ballot forms for the local elections later this year.
   In the meantime, let me give my Facebook campaign page another little plug: click here for more. My heartfelt thanks to all those who have joined and have given me amazing encouragement for this campaign.

At the Sorbonne–CELSA
Cat Soubbotnik

Above At La Sorbonne–CELSA in Levallois. Below Presenting to my Medinge Group colleagues at MIP.

At Medinge Paris
Sergei E. Mitrofanov, copyright

StockholmRight I wasn’t kidding about Stockholm hitting –15°C. It was around –9°C when this pic was taken.

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Posted in branding, business, France, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, social responsibility, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 4 Comments »


The 2010 mayoral election is about job creation and transparency

02.01.2010

Back Jack 2010 for Wellington MayorThe Fairfax Press has been talking about how Wellingtonians are expected to bail out some loss-makers, such as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. And that the decision to do this has been made behind closed doors. The city’s debt is over $200 million—we were looking at very similar numbers at the time of the 2007 local body elections.
   I’m curious now that it is election year why most of my opponents have not talked about job creation. There has, instead, been some easy talk about pedestrianizing, which might give a short-term boost to contractors. That’s all well and good, but we need bigger change.
   It’s why I’ve talked about free wifi for some time. It’s not a whim. Open it up and creative and tech businesses will come here. There is plenty of evidence to show that if you can create industry clusters, you can find success. And what are Wellington’s most likely clusters that we can build quickly and create jobs with? Creative and tech.
   It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if we attract more new businesses here, we will collect more rates, which means the burden on ratepayers is spread more fairly.
   Clusters can be created easily if there’s a will—and Sir Peter Jackson and his work in the film industry have reminded us this much.
   As to funding our loss-makers, it incenses me that this was all done behind closed doors, in what the Fairfax Press calls secret meetings.
   No more. My term, if you elect me, will be about transparency. Decisions like this will be put, openly, on to a city blog—the prototype of which is Your Wellington. You can’t make a council meeting? No worries: you can comment online and have your say.
   By being transparent about everything, we’ll force the groups that want city aid to put up a heck of a business case, and convince us that they won’t repeat the same mistakes and come cap-in-hand to us again in a few years’ time.
   The 2010 mayoral election is not about the same old élites, but about understanding that Wellington is on the cusp of something great. The best person for the job is someone who represents us and realizes our potential—not someone who will land us in the same old funk again.

PS.: Please feel free to use the new campaign graphic. Props to Maree Hoare for the slogan. Bigger ones are below.—JY

Back Jack 2010 for Wellington Mayor Back Jack 2010 for Wellington Mayor

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 3 Comments »