Why am I writing about this on a feminist blog? Is my concern that (yet more) public money is being spent on rugby-related expenses that would never even be considered for a women's sports tournament? Did all the men vote for it and the women against?
While the former is true, the latter is not. And neither are what this post is about.
This post is about some very awful sexism that Councillor Cathy Casey (Albert Eden Roskill ward) has faced because she had to leave before the vote was taken.
Now for a bit more context. Cathy Casey is a friend of mine; I wouldn't say a close mate or anything, but we did run on the same ticket and she is one of the two councillors for the ward I represent at Local Board level.* We agree about a lot, politically, and she is a staunch feminist too, as her presence at Auckland's SlutWalk this year attests to. Cathy and I have had disagreements too, not least when we were both very involved in the Alliance party and wanted that organisation to go in different political directions. We haven't discussed this privately at all, although I have expressed some of the sentiments in this post on Facebook, including on her public page there.
Casey has spoken of her opposition to extra local government money for the Rugby World Cup passionately, publicly, and repeatedly, including stating on her (public) Facebook page "
The Herald article reports on the vote split and notes Casey as the only councillor absent. Actually two other councillors were absent - Michael Goudie (Albany ward) and Penny Webster (Rodney ward) who are both overseas at a planning conference I believe. I suspect both of them would have voted against. Of the centre-right contingent on the Governing Body, predominantly represented by Citizens & Ratepayers, one of their number, Noelene Raffills (Whau ward), voted for the funding.
Yet all the heat is on Casey, for leaving before the vote. Her integrity has been repeatedly questioned, with the implication that she left early to avoid voting against her centre-left colleagues who were supporting the funding.
Comments have been made, on the Facebook page of Councillor Cameron Brewer (Orakei ward) (also public), such as:
"Casey needs a kick in the arse for that 'performance' what a pathetic cop out"
"...the dissenter (Cr CASEY) had to leave (convenient), instead of speaking up and having the guts to go against her political allies to vote according to her conviction on this issue. Paid to vote and take a stand!"
"if you are being paid to be a councillor of NZ's biggest city ...you should be at every damn thing !"
"Ah. So the democratic decision-making process for a big decision with public interest for New Zealand's biggest city is not as important as getting on time for a step-daughter's birthday party."There was a letter similar to the last comment above in the Herald today, although by a different person. And I'm having a wee Facebook scrap with someone who started out by stating "$1.5M dinner!"
Yes, Casey had to leave to attend her step-daughter's birthday. The meeting was called very last minute, for 5pm on a Tuesday. Casey stayed as long as she could, until 6.30pm, but eventually had to go rather than let her family down entirely. She was supposed to be cooking her step-daughter's favourite meal for dinner, instead she missed the mains entirely and they had to have something else. She clearly communicated her time constraints to the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Auckland Council's CEO beforehand. Casey has made all this public, via her Facebook page, and not hidden a skerrick.
Going to the meeting at all was a significant compromise on her part, in my opinion. That the vote was taken after she had to leave is not Casey's fault. In fact she could not have known how close the vote would be when she left; they continued debating for another hour before voting.
Of the five comments I've mentioned above, at least two come from members of Citizens & Ratepayers (the centre-right ticket). One comes from a fellow member of mine on the Puketapapa Local Board. Their extreme scrutiny of Councillor Casey is not only unreasonable, it's also hypocritical given they seem to be failing to make any criticism of their C&R colleague who voted for the funding. Plus Casey has one of the highest attendance and voting records on Auckland Council.
Politicians are not robots. We are people, human beings, and sometimes, just sometimes, we might take a holiday, or get sick, or attend a family event. Sometimes the commitments we have as elected members clash, so while we may not be at meeting X it's because we're off at meeting Y instead. I recall Mike Lee saying earlier this year that he had been booked to attend three meetings simultaneously - in Henderson, the CBD and on Waiheke. Can't be in two (or three) places at the same time. Family time is important too, yet the dismissive comments imply that a step-daughter's birthday just wasn't important enough.
I think Cathy made the correct choice, as hard as it might have been for her both then and since. Women so often seem to be in lose-lose situations when it comes to holding positions of power; stay at work and disappoint your family, go home and disappoint others.
* Puketapapa is part of the Albert-Eden-Roskill ward.