Rankin’s record of missed meetings

The media jackals have found fresh Rankin bones to gnaw into.

They have shifted from Christine’s bed chamber ( tittle-tattle stuff on marriage, divorce, suicide and what have-you) and into the council chamber.

The Herald on Sunday has gone there and pounced on Rankin’s attendance record at Auckland Regional Council meetings.

It’s the worst among elected members of Greater Auckland’s major councils.

The North Shore resident and newly appointed Families Commissioner skipped almost half the council and committee meetings to which she was invited since the local body elections in October 2007.

The attendance records of the 84 members of the Auckland, Manukau, North Shore and Waitakere City Councils and Auckland Regional Council varied widely.

Rankin attended just 51 per cent of the 100-plus meetings to which she was invited, but Auckland City councillor Bill Christian attended all of his 68.

Rankin could not be reached for comment. A man who answered her phone said: "Not interested, sorry, bye," and hung up.

ARC chairman Mike Lee was reluctant to criticise her performance, saying she was a busy person.

"While it's true she may not have attended as many meetings as others, she has been a constructive, positive member of the ARC."

Local government minister Rodney Hide told the newspaper he prefers to judge people by what they get done, rather than by how many meetings they attend.

Fair enough. But ratepayers can’t easily judge councillors by what they do (at least, not what they do on public business) at the best of times. It becomes much harder when news media increasingly shy from central and local government stories in favour of reporting on the antics of celebrities.

The SoH report is of interest not only for Rankin watchers.

There’s grist, too, for the Whale Oil mill.

Whale Oil has been keeping a close (and thoroughly disapproving) eye on the performance of North Shore’s mayor.

The HoS found:

North Shore mayor Andrew Williams had the busiest schedule of any of the region’s mayors, showing up to more than 80 sessions – more than any of his counterparts.

But council minutes show Williams was also recorded absent 34 times, although on 17 occasions he was on council business.

Williams said he objected to “pathetic little queries” about councillors’ attendance and it wasn’t a mayor’s job to sit through meetings.

“The mayor is elected at large by the people to do things for the city, not sit around a committee table.”

He had been to “probably several thousand” meetings in the past two years with Government ministers, other mayors, and residents.

“My day sometimes starts at 7.30am and finishes at 11pm.”

Just one more thing: when Rankin doesn’t front up at council meetings, she doesn’t get paid.

The regional council is Auckland’s only local body to link pay to meeting attendance.

Salaries starting at $22,750 for members with no responsibilities are bumped up $230 a day for attending meetings.

On the other hand, elected members at the four city councils get only a base salary.

This means there’s no financial benefit in attending meetings – and no loss for failing to show up.

Base rates for city councillors range from $48,855 to $57,435, while those who lead major committees earn between $68,000 and $78,975.

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