With the election countdown upon us, it’s time for the candidates to sway us over with a cost-analysis of their promises.
Potholes are of course an issue, but how are we going to fund it? Council’s operating budget was fairly tight last year, as is exemplified by the kerbside collection being scrapped.
A festival to replace roadside rubbish collection is also very left field, especially coming from the usually politically astute Paul Spooner.
And turning rail into cycle paths? Apart from the state government’s current rail feasibility study (which is the first sign in years something may actually happen), would there be a huge uptake in cycle use between towns, given the long distance?
The Mullum Woolies legal battle has been kicked around as a waste of public money, along with other legal forays.
However The Echo agrees with standing up to inappropriate development and there is a long history of it in this region.
In Woolies’ case it was totally appropriate and Council was correct in doing what it could to preserve the town’s character.
It’s worth remembering that underdeveloped areas on the planet have real value because they are underdeveloped.
So far, the mayoral campaign ‘brevity’ award goes to Hemp Party member and independent Jack Sugarman, even if some of his policy statements are completely at odds with most constituents. You have to admire the uncompromising underdogs.
But all six contenders have contributed spirited and worthy debate to what is surely the hardest gig in town. No-one has jumped ahead of the pack, to The Echo’s knowledge. Thankfully there’s still more time.
Any message communicated through writing is best served stripped of rhetoric, pandering and pap. It wins debates hands down every time. Trimmed and lean language is vital to democracy and many politicians lack this ability. Bridging the gap between what is often bland bureaucracy and how it affects us is a study in itself.
In addition, negativity towards opponents is a predictable and pointless exercise that only serves the lowest common denominator.
Unfortunately it works in most cases with an uninformed public, but thankfully that has not been a feature of debate so far.
With only weeks to go to the election, The Echo will look closer at the dynamic between councillors and council’s staff, its operating budget and what is possible within our constitutional rights.
Another renegade mayoral candidate, Morgan, assumes reasonable knowledge of constitutional law; however, it can only be described as ‘untested’ at a local level. Still, the theatre of politics is usually limited to tit-for-tat, so any deeper understanding of
our constitution is a welcome relief, especially in light of local government (council) not being recognised constitutionally.
This Shire sets precedents for many other councils across the continent, and that means leadership and vision, which also means being informed and transparent. But the tendering process – for example – is unacceptable in The Echo’s view, in regards to both the long-suffering Byron markets policy and more recently the surf schools. Clarity is yet to be provided by Council on this and on its public/media gag orders, which go against NSW state guidelines.
Even local government MP Don Page’s media advisor is on record as saying (in a convoluted way): ‘Nothing under the Local Government Act or Regulation would prevent a council from putting in place restrictions of the type contained in the Byron [tender] policy.’
Those seeking further information on any candidate or mayoral hopeful can visit The Echo’s online profiles at www.echonetdaily. net.au. Click on the ‘Elections 2012’ tab and then ‘Byron Shire special coverage’. It’s the most comprehensive election coverage of the region ever attempted – Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed are all included. But if mayoral hopeful Jack Sugarman gets his way, it will all b e ‘ carved up ’.
This week’s online mayoral hopeful Q&A can be found at www. echo.net.au/opinion-piece/mayoral-hopefuls-qa. It’s entirely in their own words and is unedited for length. It provides the public with a great way of determining substance over waffle.
With elections heating up, there is no doubt a sharper focus on the councillors’ current performance and past achievements.
And if you were to just take The Echo’s front-page story as an indication of their abilities, it would be an unfair judgment.
The job entails a workload completely at odds with remuneration and it will never live up to the public’s expectations. But the expectation is to get it right, and obviously something went very wrong with the way the surf school tender process was handled. The Echo looks forward to the results being made public in the hope it won’t be repeated in the future.
So what does this mean for councillor hopefuls?
In case they were interested in what happened at the last meeting on Thursday (there was only a handful of them present):
Public access started at 9am, which gave an opportunity for the public to lobby for their DA, for example. But it has also been known as a chance for the public to stand in front of councillors and staff and whinge. That was followed by a short break before a long, long, long day of considering and debating a 380-page agenda.
That’s 380 pages of notice of motions (NOMs), submissions and grants, reports by divisions, committee reports, councillors’ questions with notice and not forgetting confidential reports and late reports. The minutes from this average-sized agenda noted that 67 items were discussed. Yours truly left around 5.30pm and it looked like they were just settling in.
Despite the ideological differences that day (and all others), there appeared enough cohesion to get things done. And the sad fact for ratepayers is that knowledge hard-won over four years is mostly lost, especially on this occasion when all but three Councillors are retiring.
So to all 29 councillor hopefuls: good luck, you’re going to