Meet the (first time) female candidates for HCC

Tonight was all about WOMEN.  The YWCA organised a Meet the (female) Candidate event to coincide with it being 123 years since Kate Sheppard and the suffragettes secured women the right to vote.  While we can fully participate in society now, there are still (crazily enough) equity issues between men and women.  Some of them tangible – like the discrepancy in pay rates and some of them harder to measure such as the pressure of (usually) being the primary caregivers of children and older family members.  There is also still (subconscious) sexism shown through treatment by men… Mansplaining comes to mind.  While we are fortunate compared to many other countries around the world, I believe we could be doing better.

The “full house” (102 to be exact) enjoyed great hospitality with canapes and wines from NZMA while we heard a 2 minute introduction to candidates… before speed dating – which involved 16 candidates heading the table for 2 minutes each to answer any questions we saw fit to ask.

I enjoyed the night (catching up with Kate from Chris Simpson’s campaign team) and thought I’d share my thoughts on a few of the NEW candidates.

The stand out candidate for me personally is Anna Casey-Cox; tonight’s presentation confirmed it as it’s the first time I’ve seen her speak in person.  She is standing for Hamilton East as part of the Community Voice ticket.  She is personable, warm and has a social and environmental conscience that for me is key in this election. She is a genuine advocate for the community and has involvement with the Environment Centre and Poverty Action.  (She tops scorecards from Sustainable Waikato and Generation Zero too).  Unfortunately I can’t vote for her since I’m on the other side of the river but I do urge you to check out her website/facebook page and consider giving her a tick if you’re in the East.

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A candidate I find ‘interesting’ is Siggi Henry.  I heard early on that she is a rather pushy anti-fluoride campaigner (although she hasn’t made that an issue at either of the events I’ve seen her speak at).  I had the impression she was negative and critical which doesn’t sit well with me when I want a positive and collaborative council.  Contradicting this at both events she came across as genuine; bubbly and quite likeable.  She’s standing for Hamilton West and I’m still debating a vote for her.  She doesn’t have a facebook page but here’s a link to the Hamilton News article announcing her candidacy.  She also gets a thumbs up for getting her hoardings out early… Hamilton West definitely lagged behind the East in this respect.

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Another candidate I relate to is first time candidate Angela Strange. She’s a mother (with four kids!) so like myself she values things that make Hamilton a great place to raise a family, like the gardens, the river, playgrounds and libraries.  The average Hamiltonian is in their 30’s with a young family – so she’ll understand their challenges and priorities better than some of the other candidates.  We discussed the reluctance some people have to voting in a female candidate with children. Karina Green seems to have given the rest of us a bad rep by default…  Like myself, the role of Councillor would be a full-time job for her.  One where she would take the role seriously enough to make alternative childcare arrangements (the salary definitely permits it).

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Cathy Holland may very well make a great Waikato District Health Board member – but I’m not sure why she’s standing for the city.  She didn’t speak about it, admitted her passion was health and … clearly her hearts not in it.  Tania Hennebry bothered me.  I’m not sure why… she may stand up for what she wants but she seemed a little arrogant (in my opinion).  Pat Kaio is interesting because she did a few terms back in the late 80’s, early 90’s; things have changed and I don’t think that she has what it takes now (with all due respect).

Well, in terms of new candidates … that leaves Paula Southgate.  But, I’m going to leave her for another day.  What I WILL say is even if you don’t vote her for Mayor – if you are on the East side you’d be crazy not to vote her in as Councillor for the skills, experience and networks that she has through her time as chair at the Regional Council.
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I’ve decided to only cover city council candidates – but want to just acknowledge Jo Wrigley who has my vote for Waikato Regional Council.  I like her because she doesn’t seem like a politician – but has the knowledge, skills and ability – that’s endearing and trustworthy in my eyes.

I’ve also decided to cover Angela O’Leary separately as she an incumbent (heading into her forth term!!)

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Disclaimer / This is all in my opinion … I don’t need you to agree; I just want you to consider and VOTE for the choice that is best for YOU.

A day in the life of a Modern Woman

Photo: Sshhhh...don't tell anyone ;-)

Today started like most weekdays… which is with me battling an (equally head strong) 5 year old to get out the door on time.  “Ella… can you get dressed?”  “Ella… your breakfast is getting cold”.  “Ella… have you brushed your teeth?”  “Hang on… Why aren’t you dressed yet?”  I have no idea how people get more than one child ready for school/work on time. Fortunately we are a 10 minute walk to Frankton primary so at least I don’t have commuter traffic to battle.  I was stoked to find that the op-shop across the road from her school was open early so popped in and found a new (old) skirt and blouse for a grand total of $6.50; what an awesome start to the day!  It was then time to get to work.

I’ve taken a part time role as a Recruitment Coordinator for the Women’s Health service at the DHB.  I’m involved with trying to attract midwives and doctors to Hamilton to provide obstetric and gynecological care.  As you can imagine, promoting Hamilton is second nature to me and I’m really enjoying the chance to be able to utilise my love of the city to attract others here.

I rushed back to school a bit earlier to attend a meeting by a parent lead group who focus on fundraising at the school.  We’re working on next month’s Spring Fair.  It will be held on Thursday October the 27th and provides an opportunity for the wider school community to visit and help with a number of fundraising efforts to purchase more outdoor gear.

I walked Ella home before heading off to my next appointment.  (More serious content now).  On Friday – I found a lump in my breast during a self examination.  My Gp put me at ease and the awkward process of her checking was not as  bad as I expected.  She confirmed there was in fact a lump – and she explained to me what happens next.  I (like most people my age I guess) don’t have private health cover so will be relying on the public health sector for follow up.  I’m now on the waiting list for a ultrasound and mammogram.  I’ll probably have to wait about two months…   My husband and I did briefly discuss “going private” but given the risk is low… (no known family history and a non-smoker) we feel comfortable to wait.  I’ll keep you posted, but do want to take the chance to remind women to check themselves regularly for any signs of changes to your breasts, shape – size – colour and lumps. It’s all about changes.

Get your mammogram!:

That wasn’t the end of the day.  I’d really been looking forward to the YWCA “Suffrage day Candidate event” as I am passionate about supporting women in politics.  It was an opportunity for women standing for local body elections, their supporters and the public to come together marking 123 years since women won the right to vote.  The event involved candidates for the HCC, Regional council and DHB introducing themselves and having the opportunity to answer questions in a “speed dating” format.  I’ll be writing more about this event tomorrow – but it wrapped up a day which for me was all about being a modern woman.  Juggling, aspiring and succeeding in nurturing our families, our jobs and our community.

 

 

What makes a good Councillor?

You may think a lawyer, accountant, property developer or business owner would automatically make a great addition to the Council table.  But it isn’t necessarily so.  In fact, if you are voting based on profession and corporate experience, you could be missing out on a candidate that has a whole lot more to offer.

We need to vote in the candidates that will advocate for OUR needs, OUR values and OUR vision for the city.  This doesn’t necessarily line up with their occupation.  If we can relate to them as being “the most like us” and if their message resonates; it’s probably a good indicator that they will vote for things that you personally would have voted for.  However – figuring out WHO they really are, without relying on the information they choose to give you can be difficult and time consuming to wade through.

But… I’m going to give it a go.  Deciphering the information they give… the information freely available and a little bit of reading between the lines I hope to introduce you to some of this years Hamilton City Council candidates.

Back to work

I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  It only took about three weeks to find a job.  After having nearly 4 years off I wasn’t too sure what to expect – or how the job market is at the moment.  Activating the Seek profile again wasn’t something I was looking forward to, especially after being self employed for the last few years.

I was open minded to what I could do – but narrowed it down to wanting to work part-time… which cuts out most of the job listings anyway.  I sent my application off for five through Seek, and decided to get in contact with Carmel from Asset Recruitment to find out what she had on the books.

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Asset Recruitment KPMG Building, Alexandra Street. Hamilton

I went in – we had a chat about what I was after and she consequently set up two interviews for me last week.  I was offered a Recruitment Coordinator role today.  It’s a temporary role for a Women’s health project up at the hospital.  The beauty is it has flexibility to fit in with Ella’s school hours with the added benefit of being a 10 minute bus ride from home. No hunting for car parks.  I’m really looking forward to the change… new routine… and SALARY!

Gotta admit – I’ve already started “work wardrobe” shopping – I’m loving it too.  Even though it’s frustrating when you can’t find your size, I am so glad I op-shop.  I found the most amazing dress for $10 at the Hospice last week, 2 other retro dresses (for $1 each) and a 50s style red cardi for $6; I’m just going to add vintage buttons to it.  Talk about guilt free shopping.

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They don’t stay small forever

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This time next week Ella will officially be a school kid.  I’m not sure how I feel about this. She’s too small.  I’m not ready… and I am SO ready. With her first day at school fast approaching – I’m becoming melancholic.  At her first school visit I teared up looking at the little people wandering around looking like they don’t know what to do with themselves. Their back-packs look heavy and their uniforms too big.  Ella is dying to start school and I know she’ll be fine… but I’m allowed to be a little bit sad – my toddler, who has only just graduated from being a baby is now a school kid.

I had no qualms about returning to part time work after my 12 weeks paid parental leave was up.  I found being at home with someone who didn’t do anything all day rather boring and was looking forward to life getting back to some sort of normality which at that stage meant a job.  Fast forward another year and I had resigned from that job to be a stay at home mum.

One of the main drivers for this was that her first winter had been a nightmare.  She (and consequently I) had been off sick with whatever the trending bug was on average about one day every fortnight.  It was also when I started to experience what was later diagnosed as (probable) fibromyalgia.  Despite an understanding Boss and flexible working conditions the thought of a second winter feeling guilty for taking time off and feeling guilty for sending her to creche (when my gut feeling was that she should be at home with me) was enough for me to admit defeat.

Leaving my job ended up being a bit of a blessing in disguise.  Like lots of other Mums I’ve met since; within a few months what had started as a hobby for my husband and I was morphing into something I felt could be a business (of some sort).  Starting a facebook page – selling online – booking markets – and starting my own market became my new job as owner/operator of Teacup and Saucer.  While the sales supplemented our income the behind the scenes stuff was keeping my brain active and I had one foot in the real world while focussing on Mum duties.

When my husband faced redundancy about a year later – instead of it being stressful we saw it as an opportunity to work together.  Yes financially it was hard.  We had to accept  we’d go into a bit of debt for day to day bills- but we will never regret all of that extra time we had as a family – at what was such a crucial time in her development.  You make sacrifices and get really thrifty to make do.  We bought second hand – or not at all.  We changed our eating habits – (we’re pretty much not eating meat at the moment which has the added bonus for the environment and animals too). When the financial pressure got too much after another year (there’s bills you just can’t plan for) James went back to work – and I continued on with our business.

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I’m proud of the achievements we made over the last few years and I’m grateful that we were able to spend so much time as a family… but I am really excited about getting back into the workforce.  I’m excited about having regular income.  HOLY MOLY do I miss money going into my account regularly.  It’s going to feel like winning lotto every time I get paid.  I’m excited to have a routine, it can be really difficult to separate your home and work-life when you work from a computer on the couch.  The email and facebook notifications come in day or night – and it can be hard to switch off at night.  I’m excited about learning something new, meeting new people and starting the next part of our life.

But I wish she’d stop growing… we made the most of it, but we’ll never have that time again.  If YOU can think of a way to make money from home when you have a young one – I urge you to give it a go.  Kids drive you insane and any Mum will tell you that some endless days is like hell on earth with a toddler – but your reward for surviving it far outweighs the challenges.  They don’t stay small forever.

 

 

Women! Why aren’t you standing?

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Cartoon by Sharon Murdoch.  From http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/cartoon/34045/prime-minister-helen-clark-breaking-the-glass-ceiling

For decision making to take in a comprehensive range of perspectives and ideals our governing body needs to be a fair representation of the population they are making decisions for.  Unfortunately for New Zealand, we are being over-represented by older white males with a privileged background.  This means we are not benefiting from a strong pool of different ideas, experiences and hopes for the future.  I am statistically the average Hamilton (who is in their early thirties, with a young family) and this would make me a great candidate standing for what matters to us.  Well… it will be in 2019 when I put my name forward.

With only 16% of the candidates for the 2016 HCC elections being female – it’s fair to say it’s an unbalanced race, gender wise.  However because females putting their hand up are more likely to be voted in, I think we’ll see an elected rate of 30-40% come in for Hamilton when votes are counted.  This aligns pretty much with what is happening everywhere else in NZ.  However, no matter how you look at it 16% is a pretty sad statistic when we have so many females with lots to offer out there.

So… I guess this leads to you asking me the question.  Why aren’t you running this time?

To be honest, I wish I hadn’t pulled out.  Because, once I did – I realised that the roadblocks holding me back from running this term are similar reasons other women don’t stand and I would like to have been able to set an example of “just doing it anyway”. The biggest fears I personally had were in executing a good campaign – which involves self promotion, going outside of my comfort zone and money.

Females in particular have a really bad habit, of not backing ourselves, not putting ourselves first and playing down achievements.  We can be our own worst enemy.  It felt that every time I told someone I was running, that I would automatically follow it up by putting myself down.  This personal characteristic certainly gets in the way of appearing confident which is needed to gain trust.  While the average person might not be as self deprecating as I am – no matter who you are – learning to back yourself against adversity is a skill, and one I have to learn.

The main thing I ruminated on was my perceived lack of ability with public speaking and small talk especially to people I was meeting for the first time.  While the role of the Councillor is to advocate for those you represent (which involves being a good listener) there is also an element of needing to be an effective/persuasive oral communicator.  I found myself hearing confident speakers and understanding how they get votes even if their ideas are stupid.  Look at Trump.  A prime example of how the gift of the gab (and money) can get you into positions you are not necessarily the best for.  Given an opportunity I would naturally shy away from public speaking though have experience of doing so effectively in previous roles.  I just didn’t give myself enough credit for what I am good at and focused on the negative.

Aside from the dangers of overthinking; which can influence the decision for women to stand we are more likely to be the one who juggles the family’s schedule.  We can struggle to ask to take time out from the family to put our own needs and wants first without feeling guilty.  We’re also more likely to pick a sick kid up from school or cancel our own plans / commitments if required.  We have the fear of being a “bad Mum” hovering over our heads daily.

Family and personal characteristics aside – the decision to campaign is a big one financially.  It costs $200 to put your name forward – but thousands to advertise to give yourself a good chance of being elected.  The average Hamiltonian ends up (if they do at all) voting for the name they SAW the most during election time – which usually favours incumbents and those with money.  For me, I was concerned with the risk of losing the money we put into the campaign.  Yes you can look at it as an investment, but you can also look at it as $2000+ you’ll never see again.  Most people don’t have that money lying around.

So, what would make it easier for women to run?  Support. We should be talking about politics as a career or community focussed option more – and not just for a few months before an election.  I would like to see a support/network group initiated for women who would like to venture into politics.  It would be extremely beneficial to be able to talk to other local, civically/politically minded people about the system and topics of the day and build networks that would ultimately lead to a more collaborative, well balanced and representative governing body.

 

 

 

 

#letsgetpolitcal

I’ve decided to campaign for HCC in 2019, and will be using Kelli Pike to share political updates for you until then. I think it is more important than ever for young New Zealanders in particular to stand up and vote for a future worth having.  Be part of the decision making that our local and central government make for OUR lives every day.  You are entitled to a vote so use it this year in the local elections and next year with central elections.  You cannot complain if you didn’t vote and a no-vote is a vote for the status quo.#letsgetpolitical