Paulines’ Comments – July & August Council Meetings.

Pauline Rowe

Pauline Rowe

Well where do I start with the last 2 months of Council? It has been a busy time and a very controversial couple of months with “Alarm Gate”, “Pork Gate”, Council Strikes, Political unrest, faction fighting and if it wasn’t all at our expense (the ratepayer) it would be downright funny. So rather than detail all the items on the agenda I may just cover off on some issues:

So let us start with the print media over the last 2 months it has been in overdrive with articles on not just the Mayor but also some of the Councillors. There seems to be a bit of a pattern here with the Sydney Morning Herald targeting the Mayor and The Daily Telegraph favouring the Mayor and targeting some Councillors. As for our local print media they seem to be just reporting the facts as they know it. Not to go into too much detail but can I say I think we are looking pretty stupid to the outside world at the moment.

July 2015 Council Meeting Highlights;
The mood before the meeting was very strained and there seemed to be some dissension in the ranks.
There were 6 speakers prior to the meeting espousing how wonderful they thought the Macquarie Mall Revitilisation was going to be (reeked of a set up to me), however, the final speaker then asked for compensation to business’s for the disruption it was going to cause.

Speaking of the revitilisation, a Motion was raised to increase the project a further $3 million dollars to cover paving costs, this brings the total project including Bigge Park upgrade to $20 million dollars. Just to clarify this amount is not coming out of ratepayers pockets, it is coming out of the City Improvement Fund (primarily collected form business operators in the CBD) and via State Low Interest Loans and let’s hope it brings more enterprises to the CBD.

Surprisingly the Mayor only had 1 Mayoral Minute and it was a worthwhile one; recognising Women in the Police Force and waiving the bond of Bigge Park for upcoming Baton relay event. – Well done (but still don’t know why it was not on the agenda beforehand, it didn’t seem too urgent to me).

Clr Anne Stanley also raised a similar magnanimous Notice of Motion to waive costs of storage fees for Not for Profit Groups in Council Venues. Small price for Council but a big saving for NFP’s well done.

There were (13) Notice of Motions raised by Councillors on the night, some great, some good, and some just down right political point scoring:

The Deputy Mayors Notice of Motions (4) in total and rather lengthy pre-prepared written explanations to each of them (election time coming soon do I hear you say?) took almost an hour and a bit to get through. There were also 3 IHAP matters that had to wait until all the NOM’s had been dealt with. Do some Councillors not realise or understand that most participants at Council are there to hear their own matters not political posturing.

  1. Affordable Housing in Liverpool (State Issue)– the DM (Deputy Mayor) feels that there is a loophole in the State Governments Policy and wants Council to write to them and advise them of this fact. I was not sure what this NOM was meant to achieve but I think a little bit more investigation would have helped.
  1. Increasing circulation of Mayor and DM’s Columns to more Foreign Newspapers. Currently there are 6 ethnic newspapers that run the Mayor and Deputy Mayors Column at a cost of $36,000 per year and the DM would like to add 4 additional papers.   Peter foreshadowed the motion with the argument that we should only publish in Australian/English (not multiple languages) to encourage residents to learn English and be part of the community as he had done when he migrated to Australia at age 9. He also believes that Council should “kill off” the Deputy Mayor columns as they are usually only “feel good” statements and replace them with a Councillor Column to allow ALL Councillors the opportunity to have their say in a public forum. – Peter’s foreshadowed motion was defeated (5:6) and the Motion to increase publication in ethnic papers was approved taking the cost of publishing in these papers to $38,000 per year.
  1. Youth Unemployment in Liverpool (State Issue) – DM wants to set up yet another committee to investigate why the high youth unemployment – While commendable, where has he been for past 10 to 15 years on this topic? And is this not an insult to all those organisations local, State and Federal who have been working on this problem for many years.  Peter also spoke to the Motion stating that during his previous term at Council he made a recommendation for Council to look at hiring more apprentices to help with youth unemployment.

And now my all-time favourite of the night;

  1. Baby Boomers and Modern Day Technology – The DM believes “there are lots of Baby Boomers in the Liverpool area who are not equipped to work in the modern-day workplaces due to lack of skills with computers, therefore, making them less employable” and he wants Council to help them. The CEO’s response to this NOM was to list all the current services already provided for seniors by Council.

As a “Baby Boomer” myself I took great offense at this condescending NOM as I am very adept at modern technology and have more devices than people ½ my age. A lot of the so-called “Baby Boomers” I know are also tech savvy so I would like to know where he comes up with these hair brained NOM’s and I am pretty certain I have more technological skills than he actually does so maybe he should take up some of his own suggestions.

I would also like to add that over the past 5 years many organisations and employers are realising the benefit of employing “Grey Army” workers as they are more reliable, have more experience and are more willing to learn than younger workers. So I don’t know where he gets his information from.

Whilst I commend the Deputy Mayor for his much espoused “passion for Liverpool’s so called down trodden unemployed, homeless and old coots” could he please focus his attention on Local issues such as the state of our roads, the cleanliness of the CBD and the residents’ concerns re inappropriate developments and stop grandstanding. Council staff are already overloaded with day-to-day duties and while he may think this is a great idea, I can guarantee there is Council staff right now saying “not another report for Councillors” I might add as a side note his passion for Liverpool can’t be that great as he does not even live in the Liverpool LGA and his business is located in Penrith.

Clr Hadchiti actually raised a NOM that affects local residents with a provision to be included in our local DCP’s to ensure that not just new roads are provided for at the time of development but also upgrades of surrounding roads accessing the development and not “after the horse has bolted” –this is an issue that most locals understand that if there is going to major developments all road access and road conditions need to be looked at. – Well done Tony

Again donations listed on the agenda are debated in Council and for some reason (unbeknownst to all of us) it appears that whatever Council staff suggests is never enough for Councillors and these get increased on the night.

To finalise July’s meetings there were actually a lot of positives towards the end of the meeting, however, by that stage I am usually tired of the posturing and I miss them. I must say in the defence of some Councillors who are actually looking after their residents’ concerns there were some good Questions with Notice at the end of the agenda and I urge all to read Councillors questions.

Also congratulations to our own Ian Bailey and Robert Storey with their appointment to Community Representatives Environment Advisory Committee along with Signe Westerberg and Stephen Dobell-Brown, I am sure they will all do a great job.

Where do I start with this one? When we arrived at Council there were approx. 200 Council workers chanting with placards picketing the front and rear entrance to Council Chambers, made for an interesting start to the night. Local police came and had a “look see” and realised it was all very peaceful and left soon after. I spoke with many workers and they were very disillusioned with both the CEO and the Mayor and fearful of losing their jobs to either outsourcing or Propels management of Customer Service.

Once the Chambers opened there were approx. 250 people in there and it was standing room only for a few.

There were 9 speakers before the meeting. Several Council staff spoke and there was much cheering from the crowd, mostly all were well-behaved.

Mayoral Minutes and Notices of Motions
What can I say, he did it again, there were (5) rather lengthy Mayoral minutes taking approx. an hour to get through. These minutes ranged from “feel good” statements to condemnations of racism within the community, combating homelessness, Council transparency and Cleaning Tender (which was almost verbatim to Cllr Stanley’s NOM). As these Mayoral Minutes are not included in the agenda prior to the meeting,  the Mayor reads all of them and during this time the crowd was silent for the major part, however, there was a little name calling during the Cleaning Tender NOM. The Mayor was a little rattled but the crowd quietened and proceedings continued.

Then we come to the Notice of Motion section – There were (15) NOM’s and again we always seem to start with the Deputy Mayors that seem to take the longest. Again he did not disappoint solving the problems of the Country at local level without doing his research.

  1. Small Business Workshops and how Council can help small business owners get started in Liverpool.   Peter responded to his NOM advising that if he googled Small Business there are over 200 sites that direct Small Business Owners to Local, State and Federal organisations that assist Small Business – Peter also highlighted that Council is not a “bottomless pit of money” to hold endless committees and workshops.
  1. Domestic Violence in Liverpool – and how Council can play a more active role. The CEO highlighted all the Council initiatives already in place. I was also advised by Rotary members that the Local Police also do a wonderful job informing and supporting domestic violence victims.

For all of the Deputy Mayors exuberance and naivety he has now highlighted “on record” that Liverpool has the highest youth unemployment along with mature age unemployment, not enough affordable housing, insufficient Small Business opportunities and the 4th highest Domestic Chronic Violence in the State.

I urge the Deputy Mayor please stop or no one will ever come to Liverpool. If he wants to raise some positive NOM’s to encourage people to our city I am all for it.

Congratulations to Clr Sabrina Mamone and Clr Peter Ristevski who managed to raise some very pro-active and positive NOM’s that dealt with day-to-day issues residents encounter such as Homelessness, extra Recycling Bins and Animal Management Policy – Sabrina’s NOM to rename the Mayoral Ball to the Mayoral and Councillors Charity Ball is also a step in the right direction.

The Council is not just run by the Mayor, many of the Councillors dedicate a lot of their time and effort in serving their community and should be recognised – I know Peter spoke to this motion and was passionate that Councillors also get recognised for their contributions. – Peter also raised that a group photos of the Mayor and the Councillors should be used on all Council notices as it used to be in the previous Council term.

Clr Peter Harle took up the cause of increasing Pensioner Rebates on rates to a more realistic %.

Anne Stanley raised a NOM to make Council more transparent in their staffing roles and responsibilities and more access to these staff for all Councillors. – I can’t wait to see that report and see how many staff the Mayor actually does have.

This is what started the “Pork Gate” and has been controversial from the very beginning. Firstly, the cost blew out to be what is estimated to be around $60,000 as more than 600 people turned up and additional private security was hired. Peter has raised a NOM for a report to be tabled in respect to the costs, why additional security was required and many other questions.

Let me first state I did not attend nor was I invited to this event, however, from what I have been told by several attendees it was a tense situation and the presence of private security, police dressed in riot gear made the event anything but harmonious. The intention of these interfaith lunches and dinners was to create harmony between different religions and cultures, and for all of the great planning and good intentions I think this failed, it seems to have created a bigger divide than ever between two particular faiths as has been evidenced by some very racist comments on Facebook, that will not heal quickly. I am not in favour of these events and never have been, by all means have community events but take the religious component out of them and just call them Liverpool Annual or Bi-Annual Community Events. How Council justify the amount of money spent on these events to residents living day-to-day with roads/parks/creeks in urgent need of repairs and maintenance is beyond me.

Eric Kontos, local media guru had these comments posted on his website:

Again very contentious issues – The Shell which was demolished last Monday is a sad event that so much history was just discarded, surely there could have been a better option perhaps relocation. The demolition of the Bowling Club – I know these matters had been previously discussed in Council Meetings and in Committees but the way it has and is being handled leaves a lot to be desired.
As I am not fully conversant with these topics I thought I would include our local media guru Eric Kontos’s comments from his website. Eric has been around “the traps” for a very long time and he seems to sum up the feel of the meeting.

And finally the highlight of the night at least for me was Councillor Shelton’s urgent Notice of Motion – Notice of Dissent in the Mayor using Mayoral Minutes as his personal press media. The intent under the Local Government Act was that Mayoral Minutes were to be used for Condolence Motions, urgent Notice of Motions and that Councillors receive copies of them in the agenda prior to Council meeting.
As Eric mentions in his post it was almost an embarrassing moment for the Mayor, however, either due to inexperience or fear of reprisal of the 2 Liberal Councillors who failed to vote or stand against the Mayor, the Motion was lost. Let us just hope that the Mayor got the message that not just the Councillors are sick and tired of his using these Mayoral Minutes for his own personal platform so are the public who attend every Council meeting.
There were many other positives in the August meeting; however, they were overshadowed by controversy and political grandstanding. We can only hope that things will return to normal soon and Council will go back to looking after the community and stakeholders concerns first and foremost.

Well that’s it for now until the next installment.

31st August 2015
Please note: The comments and opinions expressed above are expressly mine and not that of any other party.

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