RE-BLOG KEITH JOHNSON: TIME FOR ‘A CUP OF TEA’ ON BIG IDEAS?

Local economist, policy adviser and writer Keith Johnson says he will push for greater accountability, lower rate and debt rises, and higher levels of scrutiny for project planning and implementation.

The contest for Wellington’s mayoralty is heating up, with profesional public policy analyst and citizen journalist Keith Johnson declaring that he will enter the race as an independent. Johnson joins incumbent mayor Celia Wade-Brown, deputy mayor Justin Lester and councillors Nicola Young and Jo Coughlan in declaring their candidacies in the October election.

Reining in the Council’s sometimes massive, and apparently somewhat casual and arbitrary spending plans will be his top priority.

Like Jo Coughlan, Johnson is highly critical of the Council’s approach to transport planning, arguing that it is driven by emotion rather than objectivity. He agrees with Jo that failure to solve the Basin Reserve’s peak hour congestion has resulted in “lost years” of progress, resulting from the canning of a proposed highway flyover and a failure to promote a practical alternative.

Unlike all the other candidates who are standing, Keith is also highly critical of plans for the Council to contribute $90 million to the proposed Wellington Airport Runway Extension Project. He sees this as yet another example of Pollyanna planning that rides roughshod over good practice, involving the commissioning and application of business case analysis from tame and possibly biased consultants – in support of private profit.

Keith is also concerned that the Council’s Big Ideas spending takes insufficient account of the costs imposed on residents through rate rises and accumulating debt – and tends to favour a narrow group of interests in the tourism, hospitality, recreation and property development sectors, at the expense of local innovation and individual entrepreneurs in areas such as Information Technology, Education, Manufacturing and the Creative Arts.

Keith has been widely critical of the Council and its current mayor, and of WCC’s Chief Executive Officer Kevin Lavery, as demonstrated by numerous articles on his website ‘Keith Johnson Wellington NZ’ [ http://www.kjohnsonnz.blogspot.co.nz ]. Asked if he could work effectively with the Chief Executive and other councillors in the light of his criticisms, he was at pain to stress that he would be absolutely committed to working effectively with everyone who shared his love of Wellington:

“I have worked widely across the globe in planning and advisory roles and am dedicated to the highest standards of professional conduct. Making sure that projects are selected on the basis of sound analysis and the best principles of economy, effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and probity should create no problems. If the current crop of Big Ideas proposals passes muster, I will restrict myself to ensuring that the investments are implemented to best advantage. However, I am highly likely to oppose any further big spending, subsidy lobbying, and wish-list proposals by councillors”.

Keith was an early declaration for the 2013 Mayoralty Race but withdrew partly subsequent to a perceived lack of interest by voters [and partly due to commitments to a family of then small children].  However, he has since become conscious that many citizens were prepared to support him and that there is a widespread desire to have someone on the stage, along with the other candidates, who is prepared to argue for economy and ask tough questions about current spending plans.

“To have almost unlimited faith in Wellington’s citizens and little confidence in our existing politicians, is a view that is widely shared” he comments.

WHO IS KEITH JOHNSON?

  • Married with two boys aged 12 and 13, with two adult boys from a previous relationship
  • Holds BA and MA degrees from the University of Cambridge, UK and a PhD in Economic Geography from the Australian National University in Canberra
  • Has worked in a total of 27 countries as an academic, development economist and public policy analyst / adviser, including working as a Senior Development Policy Officer with the Asian Development Bank in Manila, Philippines
  • Is now an independent writer who is a widely read online journalist, commentator, creative writer and poet, with 800,000 – 1.5 million page views currently recorded on his website [depending on the metric], with readers from over 100 countries worldwide

ALSO IN THE MAYORAL RACE

Incumbent mayor Celia Wade-Brown

Councillor Justin Lester

Councillor Nicola Young

Councillor Jo Coughlan

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