My Vision for Napier

I would have loved to run for Napier City Council this election, but I just can’t afford to.

There is a limit put on how much you can spend on a local body election campaign. As an “at large” candidate (what I would have gone for), I would have been able to spend up to $30,000. I don’t have that sort of cash to spare. EVER. That’s a crazy amount of expenditure to me – it’s around ¾ of my annual household income. Heck, with rent, bills and all the rest, I couldn’t even afford the $200 nomination fee!

If I REALLY wanted it, I was told, I would have hustled, borrowed and begged to get the money. But that’s not my style. As I’ve said before, I’m not keen on owing money, especially when it can lead to potential influences on matters further down the road. Politics is riddled with such cases. Idealist, I know, but I’d like to do be in council for the many, not the money.

It’s a shame, really. Not only does the council miss out on my wisdom, ideas and youth (three concepts completely foreign to the current mob), but it also leaves the door open to these silently sycophantic incumbents. A council should be an accurate reflection of its constituents – old and young, white and brown, rich and poor. It’s a shame that just the old, rich and white options have held power over Napier for so long. I think this lack of representation has taken its toll on our city.

Contemplating running for council has given me some good ideas for blog topics and did spark some great debates on Twitter.

A Twitter friends kept asking me for my vision for Napier, so here you go:

If elected would have aimed to:

• At 35 I would have brought a younger viewpoint to Napier City Council, with fresh ideas and solutions to issues facing our city based on a life born and bred in Napier.

• Bring more council focus onto Napier’s youth. Each year hundreds of young, talented people leave Napier for education or work, often never to return. We need to not only retain these youth, but make Napier a more attractive option to other younger generations for living, learning and working in.

• Move the promotion of Napier beyond the Art Deco obsession of the past. Our city has so many wonderful, diverse aspects. Why focus on just one?

• Focus less on tourism and more on Napier residents. Cruise ship passengers visit our city for only a day in summer months, while Napier’s residents are here all year round. Let’s celebrate them and create events and activities for their benefit!

• Make Napier a more attractive location for high value, well-paying businesses to set up operations in. The current agricultural and tourism / hospitality-based employment focus has not helped our economy with its low wages and will not help the region’s moral through the flow-on effects of low incomes. Hawke’s Bay needs to work smarter, not harder.

• Work to ensure a greater transparency in council operations and decision making. Currently too many meetings are held behind closed doors and feature the words “Public Excluded”, keeping those who ultimately pay for the results out of the process.

• Make council decision making and processes more available and open to the general public by web-streaming council and committee meetings, so those who can’t attend can still keep an eye on matters that interest them.

• You can’t have transparency without accountability. Currently, elected councillors are not allowed to publicly criticise, or interact too much with council-employed staff. You can vote out an underperforming, long-standing councillor, but you can’t vote out a similarly entrenched manager. All sections of Napier’s City Council need to be held accountable for their actions (or inactions as the case may be).

For now, all I can do is hope that some fresh blood gets elected into NCC in October and they can institute at least some of the ideas I expressed above.

In related election news, I was disappointed to read that two more too-long-standing councillors are once again seeking re-election:

Hastings Deputy Mayor, Cynthia Bowers is seeking a 7th term, yes, you read correctly, SEVEN TERMS! If successful, she will have been a HDC councillor for 21 years! That’s longer than your average university student has been alive!

In Napier, Councillor Faye White is seeking a fifth term, not quite as bad as councillor Bowers , but can anyone tell me what Faye has achieved in her 12 years on NCC? Because I don’t know! I’m not sure if any of the general voting public does. Four terms in power is a heck of a long time to gift to someone for no major or obvious results.

The downside of such nominations, is once you are nominated you can’t withdraw, except for serious medical reasons. Knowing the poor track-record of local body election voting in Napier (less than 50{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of registered voters actually voted in the last three elections!) It’s highly likely these councillors will retain their seats.

It’s enough to make me wish I had the money again…

Oh, No! Oh, No! It’s Off to Work I Go!

“He said ‘Son, I think this is killing me’ as the smile ran away from his face. ‘I’m sure I could be a movie star, if I could get out of this place!’”
“The Piano Man” by Billy Joel.

How many people reading this post LOVE their current job? If you do, you are very lucky.

Over a decade ago, I worked in a bookshop. I loved it. I worked a Friday – Tuesday week, so with shorter weekend hours, I was never going to make much money from it (this was in the days when $10 per hour was a “good” retail wage – unthinkably low today). But my fellow staff and customers were awesome and almost every day I’d get to open a box of newly delivered books – it was like Christmas! There was not a single day I woke up thinking “${3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948}^&, I have to go to work today.”

How times change. Back then I believed that doing a job just for the money was the worst possible reason to ever have a job. These days, for thousands of people, it’s become a way of life.

An article I read on LinkedIn today reported a mere 19{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of workers in the United States and Canada were “satisfied” with their job. That’s a pretty dire figure!

Dissatisfaction at work can become a bit of a vicious cycle. You are unhappy, so you stop putting your all into your job. You stop backing your own abilities. You stop looking for career possibilities when you get overlooked for advancement. You lose focus on what you REALLY want to do with your working life. But you still need the money, so you keep working till something better comes along. You hope. If it doesn’t, you become even more dissatisfied.

It reminds me of a song from the stage show and movie “The Producers”.

People say “Well, just leave!” But they must know it’s not that easy. There is rent and bills to pay, mouths to feed. Those things won’t happen if you “just leave”. Besides, where would you go?

Stuff reported today that New Zealand’s unemployment rate rose to 6.4{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} last month. It might not sound too much, but that works out to over 150,000 (give or take 10,000) New Zealanders out of work. Sure, some of them don’t actually want to work, but large numbers do. The news is full of reports where hundreds of this type of people applied for a single, minimum-wage position. That’s far from encouraging.

Having being burned myself, I’m also dubious about investing too much time and money in further education or training, as it adds even further expense (or student debt) into a venture that may not get you a return on your investment.

Even for those who stick with their job just for the money, the threat of redundancy or restructuring is ever-present. The government went on a state services slaying spree a couple years ago (and then they wondered why “Wellington is dying”) and New Zealand Post appears to be laying off staff faster than they can deliver actual mail. In some of the most heartless corporate cases, even when companies are making record profits, they are still laying off staff.

Is it any wonder growing numbers of people are feeling unhappy and insecure in their jobs?

I dearly wish I had an answer to this problem. But I don’t. Fortunately Ilya Pozin, the author of the first article I cited, has some suggestions on how to improve your outlook:

Get to the root of the problem.
Simply hating your job isn’t enough of a reason to throw in the towel. What’s really keeping you from feeling positive and engaged at work? Find where the problem (or problems) lie and begin to establish a solution. For example, if you’re feeling underutilized and bored in your position, ask yourself how you would feel more challenged. Set up a meeting with your manager, present the situation, and ask to cross-train or take on some work more closely aligned with your interests.

Leave your misery at work.
One of the simplest ways to encourage a cycle of continued distaste for your job — and ultimately your entire life — is to bring your on-the-job negativity home with you. This can be especially challenging if you have a family. Try to create the mythical element of work-life balance by leaving your work mindset in the office. Consider heading to the gym or a fitness class as soon as you get off work, playing recreational sports, or even making time every night for your hobbies. This will keep your mind focused on other positive aspects of your life and refresh you for the next day.

Block out negativity.
Misery loves company, and this holds especially true when it comes to complaining about hating your job. But it’s best to avoid venting your frustrations to your coworkers because it may leave everyone feeling even worse than before. Instead, try to actively find a way to improve things. If there’s one process taking place in the office that you know is annoying everyone — unnecessarily long meetings, for example — come up with a few different solutions and present them to your team. This will drive engagement through reactivity rather than negativity.

Be better.
When your job sucks, you may start to think you suck, too. Remember: You aren’t your job. Keep from wallowing and look for ways to improve yourself professionally. Begin attending networking events, seminars, and conferences within your industry to gain traction and stay up on the latest trends. You may also consider taking online classes or participating in professional development offered through your company. This will allow you to develop new skills and expand your resume, making you feel more fulfilled. Your boss may even take notice of this and put your new skills to use.

Bond with your co-workers.
Increase your on-the-job engagement by making time to get to know your co-workers better. According to a recent Jobsite survey, 70 percent of respondents said having friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life. Your negativity may have been causing you to distance yourself from co-workers without even realizing you were doing so. If you truly come to like those you work with, you can gain a new appreciation for your position and the company as a whole.

Manage your bad days.
Everyone has bad days, but having several in a row can be especially challenging. A bad day often starts out with a number of problems or unlucky happenings, then by lunchtime you’ve classified it as being altogether awful. One small event doesn’t have to setback your entire day.
Break this bad habit by regularly taking a step back to assess situations before you jump to conclusions. If you’ve had a number of setbacks, consider taking a short walk outside or even breaking for lunch earlier. Giving yourself a moment to leave the situation for a short time to realize you might be overreacting.

Know why you’re sticking around.
If leaving isn’t an option, ask yourself why exactly you’ve got to tough it out. This may be in regard to your pay grade or the fact that it’s a necessary step in your career. Keep your reasoning at the forefront of your mind to make working your crappy job just a little easier. Whenever you’re feeling down about your job, remember that it’s paying your bills and filling your resume for the time being.

Your job may suck, but you should still be actively attempting to stay engaged and manage your own happiness.”

PS: I promise my next blog will be much more positive, cheerier or contain cute pictures of cats. AF

Can’t See the Resurgence for all the Empty Shops

You may remember my previous blog post about Taradale looking a bit worse for wear after its recent upgrade. I must have had a point, as someone wrote to the Napier Courier voicing the same opinion. But I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or moan at the Taradale Marketing Association’s response to this letter in last week’s edition:

Napier Courier Letters to the Editor Wednesday 31 June 2013

Let’s look at a couple of points T.M.A. raises:

“Taradale is having a resurgence, the town is abuzz and the sun is out”
To paraphrase Meatloaf: “One out of three IS bad” Yes, the sun is out, but no the town isn’t abuzz, unless you count tumbleweeds and how could anyone let alone Taradale’s own promotions group think it’s “resurgent” when there are a dozen empty shops in their main street?

“Our parking situation is helped by friendly retailers who might just slip you a dollar”
You wanna’ bet? With retailers struggling for survival due to the parking meters scaring shoppers away, how many of them would be willing to GIVE AWAY money?

The rest of the letter descends into the usual terminally optimistic fluff that far too many Hawke’s Bay marketers have fallen back on rather than engaging in fixing the negative issues they face over past decades.

Reading Taradale Marketing Association’s response reminds me of three old sayings:

“The first step on the way to recovery is admitting you have a problem.”

“If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always gotten.”

“Those who chose to ignore the past are doomed to relive it.”
I think these are adages that too many of Napier’s older; retail precinct focussed “marketers” have been guilty of ignoring for too long. You will all too often read or hear that, according to them, things are just fine and dandy. When in reality a wheel may have already fallen off and others look decidedly shaky.

My EIT Diploma in Marketing may not have turned out to be worth the paper it was printed on, but it at least taught me a few key points on the subject. One of those things was that one of marketing’s cornerstones is “S.W.O.T.” analysis. It stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats” and is a core starting point for any project, outlining what they are good at, what they are bad at, what they can do to be better and what can get in the way of them achieving their goals. The “terminal optimism” as I call it expressed in such press releases flies in the face of such sensible practices as “S.W.O.T.”.

I may not be one of the cheeriest people on the planet, but at least my “realist” (some would say “pessimist”) outlook allows me to recognise problems, come up with possible solutions and truly appreciate and celebrate the successes when the problems are fixed and things are better than ever.

I like Taradale shopping centre and wish its retailers all the best as I feel they’ve been given a bit of a raw deal since their town centre upgrade. I just wish the promoters they doubtlessly pay a reasonable fee to would wake up to, or at least acknowledge the fact things aren’t all that great and take serious actions to remedy the problems they face. Otherwise people will not be able to see the Taradale’s “resurgence” for all the empty shops.

Hosting a “Tweetup” 101

A Tweet Little Gathering!

To many people Twitter and other social media are viewed as quite a sterile, distant, disconnected form of communication. But they don’t have to be!

One of my favourite aspects of Hawke’s Bay’s large and vibrant Twitter community is the reasonably regular “Tweetups” we have.

A Tweetup is a get-together, or meet-up for local twitterers. It’s great getting to meet in person all the people you have been conversing with across the World Wide Web.

I’ve been to maybe half a dozen #HBTweetups, so while the long winter nights were taking their toll last month, I decided to organise one myself. Below is my step-by-step guide to organising / hosting your own Tweetup!

Step One: Find a Location
Most of the Tweetups I’ve been to have been at restaurants or bars. It makes sense really – they’re relaxed social venues with the added benefit of food and drink, but I’ve also heard of fish and chip Tweetups on the beach and others at bigger venues with themed parties, etc.

Newly opened or refurbished establishments and those just entering the social media world are often on the lookout for ways to get their brand out into the Twittersphere, so they can be quite receptive to hosting such events. A venue that has wifi access is a bonus too, as it allows live tweets from the Tweetup.

From what I’ve experienced the venue will often provide finger food and the first drink on the house. But this varies from place to place and can quite often be offset by getting attendees to stay for dinner, or join a loyalty programme the venue may be doing. It works out pretty win-win either way. You or the hosting venue might even decide to offer spot prizes, or something similar to sweeten the deal for guests.

The hardest part I found of negotiating hosting a Tweetup is you can never be too sure of how many people will come. Sometimes you will get positive responses from 30 people and only 12 will turn up to the event. You can also have 20 people respond and end up with 50 on the day, as word gets around. You may find yourself using the words “ballpark figure” quite a bit.

In my case, I tweeted Grant from Napier’s new Viceroy Hotel and Delmonico’s Bistro & Wine Bar and set up a meeting to discuss the possibility of them hosting a Tweetup. Grant was very positive and we set a date. Around three weeks lead-in gives you enough time to get the word out and RSVPs back and get things organised, while still being close enough to attract and keep interest.

Step Two: Get the Word Out
Prepare to Tweet and #Hashtag like you’ve never Tweeted and #Hashtaged before!

The easiest way to get things started is to Tweet about it. Adding a “#” (Hashtag) with the events name (Hawke’s Bay Tweetups usually use the Hashtag “#HBTweetup”) is a good place to start. You can track people’s comments and responses using Twitter’s search function and typing in your event’s Hashtag name.

Another way is setting up the event through a site like Twitvite, where people can RSVP and see the details of the Tweetup, like we did here.

Now spend the next two weeks sending out general or targeted (@ all the local people you’d like to attend) tweets with links to your Twitvite page, hashtaging and generally promoting the living snot out of your Tweetup. Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night screaming “Tweetup!” at some stage during this time, it’s perfectly normal.

Step Three: The Big Day – Enjoy!
You would have confirmed final numbers with the host a day or two before the event for catering purposes and organised any extra bits and pieces that may be required, so all you can do now is sit back and relax! (cigar, slippers and satin smoking jacket optional).

A “Tweet-wall” is a neat feature where those at the Tweetup and those who wish they were can have their tweets displayed usually via a data projector onto a screen. Hawke’s Bay digital wizards Mogul have an application called “Strea.ma” that is set up for just such a purpose. Check it out – it’s very cool and interactive!

Most of all enjoy yourself (and don’t forget to invite me)!