Archive for September 2010

Explaining to Lucire readers about my political ads


Basin Reserve billboard[Cross-posted at Lucire] New Zealand readers will be seeing a few advertisements around this site relating to the local body election in Wellington. And perhaps, thanks to programming not always being precise, a few more readers outside New Zealand will notice them, too, although we have targeted them for this country alone. I think it’s time to explain them to you.
   Long-time Lucire readers will know that I’ve put my name forward to be the next Mayor of Wellington. (We have not turned away any advertising from my opponents, incidentally.) Our publications will continue (in fact, we have additional editions to announce) and I will maintain a supervisory role, but the majority of my own time, if elected, will be dedicated to the people of Wellington and to give them the same opportunities that I was given as I grew my businesses here.
   This is an important move because those of us under 45 have not had a mayor in this city who understands the importance of the role for quite some time. Turnout among younger voters is traditionally low, except for one time: when a 39-year-old, Mark Blumsky, ran, he managed to inspire more younger voters to get out. (I am 38.) He got there through citizen engagement, and people could see that here was a potential mayor who would continue being connected.
   In 2010, I have no excuse to not be connected. I’ve made a big deal of staying in touch with everyone through Twitter and Facebook all year—as we reach the first anniversary of this campaign on the 25th. And I’ve pledged at several meetings to continue doing so after I am elected in to office. All the Tweets are mine, uncensored—sometimes uncensored to the point of being politically incorrect. …
   We’ll keep our events because Wellington does better with our creative talent, and we’ll grow our economy because Wellington punches well above its weight with our technological prowess.
   But the one thing that I keep hearing, more so in the last weeks of the campaign, is the lack of transparency and the failure of politicians to engage early with people. Decisions are almost brought to Wellingtonians as faits accomplis, with citizens feeling disengaged.
   This was the theme at several sessions of Residents 2010, a conference for residents’ associations earlier this year. Coverage of the event was to have been my op–ed for an earlier New Zealand print edition of Lucire, which had to have been delayed this year due to a decline in advertising. Ironical, then, that we seem to be continuing abroad—thank goodness for export markets, so we can keep companies going here. It’s a lesson to learn.
   Beginning with a video from John Ralston Saul, of whose writings I am a huge fan, the theme was set. Cities might have lovely facilities now—if you can afford them. And somehow there is a tax shortage despite there being so much money. Saul blamed the specialization of management, because decisions were given to specialists, who failed to engage with citizens; and that he had little time for what he called ‘the efficiency dogma’.
   Whenever I hear the word efficiency, I immediately think of Slater Walker and any argument made by various corporate raiders of the 1960s through to the 1980s; but besides that, Saul is right. There is insufficient engagement in this city and in others with citizens, and politics is the one area where there hasn’t been enough democratization.
   Session after session, the same theme emerged. Attendees argued that engagement would not open the floodgates to making a city less efficient. That politicians feared losing power through engagement. That the Local Government Act does not empower local representatives to represent local people. That electronic media should be used for continued engagement, as an ongoing process to the exchange of ideas between Wellingtonians and our City Council.
   We’ve seen democratization in business. Multi-million-dollar ad campaigns can become nothing if someone makes a viral video refuting their messages. And politics needs it, because the tools are there: the web is a great way to engage; and people do indeed have their say when bad decisions are made. How about engaging so early that we don’t make those mistakes, not just with pressure groups, but with all citizens? I don’t care if it’s Facebook, Twitter or some other service—if we can do it in publishing, by talking with you through this website, then why can’t a city?
   No mayor is an island, especially when (s)he must be an advocate and a representative.
   And that, in a very long-winded way, is the reason for these ads: a reminder that you can come to me with your concerns—early. So you know where to go to if you want to see what is being discussed in your next council. So there can be early engagement, in this case, prior to my potentially taking office on October 10, 2010.
   Everything I have done in life has been as a change agent. This publication only exists because I wanted to make fashion more accessible and its coverage fairer. The print editions only exist because I wanted to prove a point: that you could go global and be based in Wellington, New Zealand. And politics now needs a change agent: Wellington can be a globally competitive city while engaging with its weakest citizens—to make sure we are all included as the 2010s take shape.—Jack Yan

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Creative or reactive? Your choice


Back Jack Yan for Mayor The Fairfax Press has been very interesting in its coverage since the beginning of my mayoral campaign. A Miramar Wharf hotel–training centre development that I pushed for missed any quotes from myself, while today’s announcement of wifi for the waterfront by the incumbent and the Fairfax Press itself again does the same.
   But, you might be asking, does this change any part of my mayoral strategy? No. We knew there could be the possibility of such a move since April 2010, and it came up in our Vista Group conversations in August as ‘a done deal’.
   We simply have to ask one question: does Wellington want a creative mayor, or a reactive mayor?
   I know, a few of you cheeky ones will be posing the question back to me since I seem to be reacting to a newspaper article! In my mind I am preempting the questions you may have for me about my campaign.
   Let’s say we have wifi: do we want it as part of a political move, or something that has been integrated into a proper technological strategy for Wellington?
   Something well thought-out or something done for political reasons?
   Looking at the early Tweets, the tech community who would benefit first from such a programme seems to recognize just where the impetus came from.
   I consider it a partial victory that this has even come up on the radar at Wakefield Street, because if it were not for my pushing for it since September, I doubt it would even be on the political agenda. Or why Fairfax has kept wifi out of its pages during my campaign till now. The game has changed.
   And those of us in the creative community who value originality and a global vision for Wellington won’t want someone who can now be branded a copycat, moving out of desperation.
   In 2010, in a decade that is more complex than ever, and where processes and politicking have far less effect than they ever did, will you vote for creative, or reactive?

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What’s possible with open government


Back Jack Yan for MayorWhen I go on about free wifi, it’s not just some vague election promise. Someone mentioned that I should have put the reason behind the message on my first billboard, but the reasons are too plentiful.
   It’s not just about giving businesses and tourists the access they expect in a modern society. It’s also about signalling that Wellington is open for business, especially the type that can grow this economy with Kiwi entrepreneurship at its core. And it’s a great tool for transparency.
   Brad Gallen shared this link, and while these weren’t the apps I had in mind originally, they show that in a creative world, people will come up with great ideas if you give them the infrastructure.
   While the Open311 API has come from San Francisco, under Mayor Gavin Newsom—Jen’s husband—there’s no reason we couldn’t have come up with it here. But now that it has been developed, we should use it. There are five apps that Mashable has identified—and these are the sorts of things I can envisage popping up in Wellington if I am elected mayor.
   Wellingtonians can elect someone who will give little more than lip service to transparency and technology, or someone who will use both to create and grow the city we deserve.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Simon Young shared this link with me: a story on the live Taupo City Council stream. Yet another thing we should have done ages ago. Now, like Dunedin and free wifi, we find ourselves catching up and being reactive. When we should be rearranging the letters and being creative.

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