A couple of weeks ago, the Bay Of Plenty Times reported on the Elected Member's attendance records at 77 Council meetings and my record was the worst. I had attended 66 meetings making my record 86%.
I am surprised I had apparently attended only 66 meetings because I often feel like I attend about that many meetings in some months alone!
It is disappointing that a report like this one only further instills the perception that all Elected Members do is attend 77 meetings a year or about 1.5 meetings a week on average. That is so far from reality.
Over the past couple of weeks, several people I know (and don't know) have questioned my record assuming that it is a result of my career as a professional speaker. I do not deny that I have missed several meetings, not all of them, because of speaking engagements.
Before I was elected into Council, I accepted over 100 speaking engagements in a year. In the last 2 years, I have accepted less than 30 and stopped marketing my business internationally the day I was elected. There is no magic number. As with everything in my life, I made a deliberate decision and compromise. Council meeting schedules are released a year ahead and I work my life around them. But Council meeting schedules change all the time and in truth, sometimes to suit the schedule of selected Elected Members.
Unlike my colleagues, I have a very successful career outside of my Council appointment that fortunately, does not take up a lot of my time. Unlike most other Elected Members, I am not dependent on the income in the elected position and I do not make selfish or "looks good" decisions for the main reason of keeping the salary that comes with the job. I genuinely want to make a difference and I have made a conscious compromise with my career to do this.
There are 77 formal and minuted meetings a year and really, that is the minimum that a Councillor needs to do to fulfill his/her obligation as an Elected Member. I learnt that more than half the issues discussed in those meetings don't ever get anywhere.
I did not put my hand up for 8 other sub-committees and taskforces because I thought it might be fun or because I decided 77 meetings was not enough. Ratepayers need to know that a difference is made and the real work happens in the sub-committees and taskforces. Not in those 77 meetings.
I have long ago discovered that Council can be a dark and very demoralising place. The people who know me will probably be surprised at those words because they know that I am rarely negative like that. Unfortunately, it is true.
Having been a City Councillor for over 2 years now, I am even more certain that my speaking engagements offer a positive balance in my life. Taking on 10 other Elected Members is exhausting and it is great to have the opportunity to go away once or twice a month, recharge myself with the positivity and inspiration that come back to me from my audience, before returning to take on those 10 again.
I really do enjoy my career as a professional speaker as it is an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and sometimes see new places. I view my speaking engagements as similar to my other hobbies and in this regard, I am no different to the next person who enjoys travelling, sports, art, fishing, hiking, camping, cooking, gardening or even reading.
For most who don't know, I am a member of the following taskforces and sub-committees:
- Joint Governance with Western BOP
- Waterfront Development
- City Centre Taskforce
- TECT Park Sub-Committee
- Greerton Library Group
- Hotel Development Group
- Marine Precinct
- Chairman of the Tree Management Sub-Committee
I am also a member of Community & Events Funding as well as the Developers Forum.
As always, I welcome ratepayers to engage with me about issues relating to the above or any other matters about Council.