Thursday, September 16, 2010

The difference in the term

The term being -- "election".

Mayor of Auckland City John Banks, at the launch of the Sir George Grey Exhibition last night, quipped about the whole Super City thing we're going through now. It is well-known how he  really, really wants the job of Auckland's first Super-Mayor come 1 November.

He mentioned in his speech how the first Mayor of Auckland, Philip A Philips, "appointed himself" as mayor of the new Municipal Corporation of Auckland (our city) in 1871, and that his successor, Henry Isaacs, did likewise.

Well ...

Philips was actually already chairman of the City Board from 1867, the year the Municipal Corporations Act came into effect. The entire Board, under the Act, was constituted as incorporated, and Philips was indeed elected as the first Mayor -- by the new councillors. This practice was common in the mid 19th century here, chairman of committees and boards rarely running for office apart from the office of acctually sitting on the committees. Positions such as chairmanships and mayoralties were sorted from within the ranks of the winners.

 From here:
... it was a lucky day for Auckland when the old Board gave place to the Auckland City Council, which came into existence in 1871. The fact that the Borough was proclaimed under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1867 shows that little time was lost in securing for Auckland the advantages vouchsafed by that statute. The credit for this promptness fairly belongs to Mr. P. A. Philips, then chairman of the City Board, and afterwards longer and better known as town clerk of Auckland. Through his initiative Auckland was constituted a borough under “The Municipal Corporations Act, 1867,” on the 24th of April, 1871, and at a meeting of the City Board of Commissioners, held on the morning of Monday, the 22nd of May, Mr. Philips read the proclamation in the General Government Gazette, and declared the City Board duly incorporated as the Municipal Council. The members of this board, who thus became the first City Councillors of Auckland, under the new constitution, were:—Messrs Atkin, Asher, Bugden, George, Hampton, Macready, Staines, Smart, and Tonks. These members, at the same meeting, elected Mr. Philips as the first mayor of Auckland under the new Municipal Corporations Act. After holding the position for three years in succession, Mr. Philips declined further re-election to the mayoralty, and accepted the more permanent, though less prominent, office of Town Clerk.
What about Mayor No. 2, Henry Isaacs?

In 1874, Philips stepped down as Mayor to take up the office of Town Clerk (not often you see a local politician actually stepping down to a lesser position voluntarily!) Once again, the matter of who was to be Mayor foer the rest of the term rested with the elected officials -- and they chose Henry Isaacs (Southern Cross, 4 July 1874), a mayor just until 1875. There's a handy list of Auckland's Mayors at the City Archives site.

So, Mayor John Banks' implied quip -- wouldn't it be good if he could just appoint himself as Super-Mayor rather than do all the usual election circus stuff -- doesn't really hold much water historically. 

There ya go, history being the wet blanket on another political speech anecdote, yet again ...

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