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October 5, 2009 | by  | in Features |
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Meet Jack Yan

Typeface designer. Magazine publisher. Branding consultant. Wellington Mayoral candidate.

All-round good guy and typeface connoisseur Jack Yan has recently announced his intention to stand for the Wellington mayoralty in next year’s local body elections.

Salient feature writer Sarah Robson has a chat with the man who has put his hand up to take over the reins of Wellington City.

There are a couple of reasons why Jack Yan has decided to run for the Wellington mayoralty.

“I’ve looked at the folks that are running and I wouldn’t vote for them,” Yan tells me, quite bluntly.

“The other thing is the John McCain factor. John McCain went up there against George Bush back in 2000 and didn’t get anywhere. You think if this guy was good enough, he would have been the Republican nominee in 2000, and I see the same thing with the folk there,” he explains.

“They’re very, very good at what they do, but if they had any sort of real great big idea for Wellington, I would have heard about it as a ratepayer, and I would have said ‘hey, that’s the next mayor’.”

Yan also thinks the City Council has been lacking an advocate for the younger generation of Wellingtonians.

“The 18 to 45-year-old age group, I don’t think we have an advocate. No one of our age is standing. I’m 37. I think I’m young enough to understand the 20-something group and I’m old enough to understand the 40-something group. I’ve been around just long enough to see how it all works; I’ve been in business for 22 years.

“All of this says that we’re the future of Wellington, we should be setting the direction—not someone who’s in their fifties and sixties—and what we want. We’re all a very well-travelled bunch, people our age. We’ve gone overseas, we’ve seen free wifi, we’ve seen all these other things, we’ve seen what a cosmopolitan international city is like and there are aspects of Wellington which don’t measure up to that mark.”

Yan wants to see some fresh ideas for Wellington.

“I don’t want to see 20th century ideas yet again; I want to see 21st century ideas. I want to see Wellington for all of us.”

Reflecting the views of Wellingtonians of all ages is important for Yan.

“Really it’s about creating Wellington that’s more representative. If you look at the voting, the biggest voting block for local body elections is 65-plus. The next group is 45 to 65, and then the 18 to 45 block is just—there is a very poor voter turnout. I think the reason for that is that we have no one to vote for.”

One step ahead

Yan has a reputation for being ahead of the pack. It is this reputation that he thinks will see him succeed if he is elected.

“I’ve always been ahead of the curve in everything I’ve done,” he says.

“I think the experience I would bring, in addition to 22 years in business—and I can’t see Alaska from my house, or Russia—is that I’m always a step ahead.”

Yan has been involved in the creative industry from a young age. He started his first company at age 15, and later launched New Zealand’s first commercial online fashion magazine, Lucire.

“If you look right back to when I started my career—I was doing calligraphy and stuff like that—very early on I was doing digital magazines. By 1993 I was designing websites, then in 1997 we launched Lucire of course. In New Zealand, going on to the web to get fashion information hasn’t really been mainstreamed until the last couple of years, so I was easily eight years ahead of the curve there.

“I talked about social responsibility at the turn of the century, I talked about using fashion as a means of promoting environmental causes in 2003, and saying ‘let’s do a carbon neutral magazine’, and people were going ‘what’s carbon netural?’

“I look back through this entire 22-year work history that I’ve had and I’ve always been a few years ahead of everyone. Now if you’re going to be a leader, in anything, if you’re going to be a mayor, you need to have had the vision of being a few steps ahead, so you can say right, here’s where the next big thing is for the world, or for Wellington, this is what we should be heading towards as a city.”

Experience in the fashion and design industries will help him in this respect.

“Having been in the design business and the fashion business, I think you become very keenly aware of trends and where things head. And these things quite often are partly cyclical, mostly sociological. I think maybe that expertise would help the city as well.”

A master plan

Yan has some exciting initiatives in the works, if he’s elected.

“I want to see whether free wifi is possible in this town. The infrastructure is there, we’ve got a fibre loop there. Why are we charging $1.50 in the library? I think this should be a free resource.”

Yan thinks there are many benefits to be reaped from the free wifi idea.

“It’s for the public to use. If we make it free—I don’t know the budgets involved in this yet—but hypothetically, if we make it free, I think the benefits outweigh the detriments. If more Wellington businesses get online and use the web as a resource, as an education resource, as a business resource, we’ll see businesses improve in the city.”

Another of Yan’s initiatives is one that he admits he stole from Europe.

“In Amsterdam and Brussels, they have a car-less day every summer, just one car-less day, they block off the city to everything but the odd bit of public transport, and people can just walk around their city, bike, whatever.

“Why not have one car-less day in the middle of summer? Just think of the CO2 emissions that we’d cut down on just one day. I think that will beef up a bit of civic pride as well.”

Solving the age-old problem of a mid-size music venue is also on Yan’s hit list.

“We don’t have a mid-size music venue in Wellington, nothing between 400 and 2000 seats, unless you want to play at a pub or at the TSB Arena, which has terrible acoustics.

“There are actually some areas in Newtown and also in the city where there’s potential to build something along these lines, and keep Wellington on this event capital idea that Mark [Blumksy] hatched when he was mayor.”

A time to unite?

Division is one of the main weaknesses that Yan sees with the current Wellington City Council.

“It’s very divided. There’s this notion in Wellington politics of ‘let’s vote in people that don’t like Kerry into the Council and we’ll keep her honest’. And New Zealanders, we’ve done this so many times and we’ve done this in general elections as well. The consequences of this, well okay, those who oppose Kerry’s policies kind of get their way, but only to an extent because they’re not getting their own policies forwarded either.

“The weakness there is the mayor is spending all her time in Council meetings, things are not getting done and when you have a divided council, it’s like when you have a divided company. I know that because I have been through employees that have not been right for my own company, and you spend all your time putting out internal fires rather than getting on with things.

“I think this last term for Kerry has been one of those, it’s been one of a divided council. I feel the city has kind of stagnated a little bit over the last three years. I still love it, don’t get me wrong, I think this is still the best city in the country to live in, but it doesn’t have that forward thrust that we had in years gone by.

“Hopefully if I stand we might see other people go, ‘hey if Jack’s standing, I agree with these things he stands for, great I’ll put my hand up as well’. I don’t know who they are, but maybe I just need to stand so other people can put their hands up.”

Engaging engagement

Yan is committed to engaging with young people, and he thinks processes need to be changed so the voices and opinions of younger Wellingtonians can be heard.

“We’re not hearing from our young people. It’s because the processes we’ve got, what are they? Come to a council meeting and sit in this boring council meeting for three hours… We simply need to recognise our—I think I’m young—ways of communicating.

“First thing—let’s do a city blog. Let’s put the ideas on there that we want, the policies on there, in a language which suits the way 18 to 45-year olds think. I’ve already started yourwellington.org. This is sort of my issues site which I started just to get some ideas from Wellington: is it kooky to have free wifi? Is it kooky to be sister cities with San Francisco? Is it kooky for a city itself to start looking at solar energy, which I’m quite fascinated about? Is it kooky for a city to spearhead that and turn into a model city for solar energy?

“I have been putting that stuff on there and people have been feeding back some of their ideas. Now why doesn’t the city do that? It’s the most logical no-brains thing.”

Yan embraces social networking as a means to connect with the people of Wellington.

“I’m on Twitter all the time, people tell me what they think, and at the moment they think it’s a good idea I’m running.”

Engaging in Twitter and Facebook, Yan believes, makes a person—for example, the Mayor—seem more “human”.

“The image is one where it is aloof because there has been less engagement, because the Mayor has not been tweeting or Facebooking. By not doing that in 2009 or 2010, it dehumanises a person, it puts them into an elitist bracket, it puts them into an exclusive bracket.

“If the mayor is tweeting, he has a pulse on what’s happening in the city, he doesn’t need it filtered through advisers and other people, you just know, you just know what the pressing issues are.

“I’d like to engage; it’d be great to be sort of like Stephen Fry having hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. You don’t need polls then, you just look through your tweet streaming and find out if you’re doing a good job or if you’re doing a lousy job. If you’re doing a lousy job, what can you do to make it better? I’d like to see that engagement again.”

Empowering young people and making them feel part of the political process is crucial.

“If young people think this is something [they] can manage, [they] can understand why [I’m] doing this, understand that you could have power by surfing the web, by doing what [you’re] doing now when [you’re] on Twitter or Facebook, and hey you can actually have a say, and can change the direction of the city.

“I think democratising that power, putting it into the hands of the people, certainly encourages young people to have a say on what happens in Wellington.”

Think about it. Who do you want representing your views on the City Council? What are the issues that matter to you in Wellington? Watch this space.

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About the Author ()

Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (7)

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  1. John McCain says:

    He just doesnt understand that first ≠ best.

  2. I am posting the first comment. I am way ahead of the curve. Perhaps I too am qualified to run for mayor!

  3. Roger MacManus says:

    Bloody Americans, always ruining everything…

  4. John Matrix says:

    HOW CAN TWITERERS FIND TIME TO MAYORS?
    TWITTERRS R ONLY GOOD AT TWITTING.
    WHO IS THIS JACK YANNI? MOST LIKY A TWITTER.

  5. Rhys Bardy says:

    “If young [people] think this [is] something [they] can manage, [they] can [understand] why [I’m] doing [this], understand [that] you could [have] power by [surfing] the web, [by] doing what [you’re] doing [now] when [you’re] on [Twitter] or [Facebook], and hey [you] can actually [have] a say, [and] can change [the] direction of the [city].

    Get off your myface and friendbook pages, stop twatterbleeping, and have a good old chinwag!

  6. Guy Williams says:

    You’re a good guy, Jack. Nah, doesn’t have that ring to it eh?

  7. Omega Deville says:

    I like Jacks Yans enthusiasm and business knowledge. Lucire is a stand out online magazine, his eco magazine is terrific too.

    Reasons why people should consider helping & voting Jack Yan for MAyor of Wellington 2010 – in my honest opinion is:

    1. By giving him your “ideal future of wellington” ideas on yourwellington.org – Jack Yan can refine a campaign that is about the future of this city. Meaning the other candidates will have to acknowledge those ideas at least, in the way The Greens stand for the enviroment – so all other major parties have to have a green policy to counteract them.

    2. Jack Yan is 37 and determined to do what is best for Wellington. If he doesn’t become mayor in 2010, he will sooner or later. Why not support him now? I don’t know of any other fresh thinking – self made candidates around that want to share there vision for the capital.

    3.Fashion and design are marvelous industries to come from. Better than mid wifery. (nothing against mid-wifery.)

    I’m behind you Jack, My media networks will be too.

    All the very best in 2010.

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