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Title: Comment: Do it now! Credit: Doreen Agassiz-Suddens Comment Friday 15th June 2007 - 4:22pm1181881320 Article: 4524 Rights
 
This year is local body election year. The elections will be conducted through a postal ballot with the papers going out to voters in September. The 13th of October 2007 will be the last day that ballots can be received by the returning officers. The words 'local government' often create instant boredom and disinterest in some people, especially gays and lesbians who feel that local government issues have very little relevance to them. But that idea is changing as gays and lesbians are now putting themselves forward for election. Gay and lesbian candidates can highlight what the Council needs, and can do, to make the lives of GLBT people an important part of a diverse city community. The coming election in Auckland is an excellent example of the trend. For the first time an openly lesbian candidate, Lindsey Rea, has been selected to stand for Auckland City Council on the City Vision ticket in the Western Bays ward. Lindsey is the current Chair of the Eden/Albert Community Board but will relinquish that role at the end of this term. Also on the Eden/Albert Community Board is Christopher Dempsey, an openly gay man, who is putting his name forward as a Community Board member for the second time. At present there are two openly gay men on the Western Bays Community Board, Bruce Kilmister and Leigh Kennaway, and both are also putting their names forward for re-election with the hope of continuing in their role as Board members. In Christchurch Tony Milne, a gay man, has also announced he will be standing for council. Of course, transsexual Georgina Beyer remains our star local body politician, rising from councillor to mayor in the Wairarapa before Parliament beckoned. While we have in recent decades had a number of pro-gay and lesbian mayors and councillors in our main centres, the importance of having openly gay and lesbian local government politicians has been shown through the inclusion of the GLBT community in the Auckland City Council's Partnership's Committee. The committee was set up to help give a voice to the diverse groups within Auckland that felt they have not been listened to, consulted, or included, in the decisions made by the Council that affected their lives as citizens of the city. Among the other marginalised groups given recognition through the Partnership's Committee are ethnic, disabled, and religious groups. The inclusion of the GLBT community as a player in the partnership process was mainly achieved through the hard work and persistence of Lindsey, Bruce, Christopher, and Leigh. The best example of what the committee can do for the community was the influence it exerted on Councillors, the Mayor, and Deputy Mayor, to help fund the 20 years celebrations of Homosexual Law Reform which took place in the Auckland Town Hall. If our community loses any of our present openly gay elected representatives at the upcoming election we will be the poorer for it, as they have pushed for regular meetings with senior Council staff and other elected officials to make our views and concerns heard. It is important that we keep up the momentum and vote them back in and any other GLBT candidates who may also stand for election. Lindsey has stated that ‘your vote does make a real difference', and that ‘GLBT people need to check that they are on the Roll at their present address (www.elections.org.nz) and they need to fill out and return the ballot papers in October'. Her advice is valid wherever in the country openly gay or lesbian or transgender candidates put themselves up for election, and perhaps centres other than Auckland and Christchurch will see more motivated glbt folk throw their hats into the rings in coming weeks! So do not let us lose our voice because we left our ballot papers stuck to the fridge door, in the letter-box for the snails to eat, or were just too bored to bother filling it in on time. Doreen Agassiz-Suddens - 15th June 2007    
 
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