Friday, March 28, 2008

City Council in denial

John So avoids public review

A case of a plague on both your houses.

The Herald Sun has reported on the growing unrest amongst Melbourne's residents which comes as no surprise. BUT...

There is more to say about this issue and so little time. The fact is the City Council has only itself to blame and could have and should have done much more.

There was nothing stopping the City Councillors from calling on the State Government to subject the Council to a proper review. We have on many occasions raised this issue. It is not necessary to have John So blessing and the State Government should have and could have acted independently from the Council.

The fact that the City Council is not subjected to a regular review is an indictment against teh State Governments and a blot on Richard Wynne's leadership. Richard more the anyone knows Melbourne ad the issues involved. Instead of addressing these issues the State government opted for a head in the sand turn a blind eye approach.

The Councillors suppoorting the review should also share some of the blame. They had three years in which to raise these issues, they choose not to, leaving it to teh last minute and allowing John So to scuttle ay hope for a meaningful review.

The Council could have also opened up0 the committee structure and provided more local input and expertise. The Council has failed in all respects to deliver much needed reform, they must share responsibility equally with John So who continues to pander to the popular at the expense of responsible good governance.

Residents put city council on notice

Ian Royall, Herald Sun, March 28, 2008 12:00am

AN alliance of 10 city residents' groups has fired the first salvo in what it calls the battle for democracy in Melbourne.

The Coalition of Residents Associations has described the voting system for the Melbourne City Council as dysfunctional and undemocratic.

The group wants Local Government Minister Richard Wynne, who was mayor between 1990 and 1991, to intervene.

The push comes after the latest move for an electoral review was defeated by Lord Mayor John So Melbourne Living team at council on Tuesday.

The alliance wants:

POSTAL voting scrapped in favour of attendance voting;

REINTRODUCTION of the wards system;

REVIEW of the popular vote to elect the mayor. It claims the current method favours the richest candidate;

REVIEW of provisions allowing company directors and landlords to vote;

ALL candidates to have been on the electoral roll for at least two years before the election.

Former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said Melbourne was exempt from periodic reviews that applied to all other councils in Victoria.

"Melbourne could go for 50 years without a review under the current legislation."

Cr Fiona Snedden said the city needed a return to one vote one value principles.

She called on the lord mayor to act.

Cr So said he had had fruitful talks with the residents' groups.

"But six months before the election is not the appropriate time for a review," Cr So said.

Melbourne is growing by more than 9000 people because of the boundary changes that rope Docklands, North Melbourne and Kensington into the municipality.

The lord mayor said he had worked with the government over the boundary changes and was confident the current system was effective.

Mr Wynne's spokesman, Dan Ward, said: "The Government does not intend to change the council structure or the voting processes."

CORA member Jackie Watts said residents hoped transparency could be restored at Town Hall.

Mr Chamberlin said the case for a review was overwhelming.

"There is a lack of transparency and a lack of democracy," he said.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Melbourne's new CEO

Not John's first choice could be a good sign

Melbourne City Council has a new CEO.

The Age Newspaper reports that Kathy Alexander, former head of Victoria's Women's and Children's Health has secured one of Australia's Highest paid public service jobs.

The Age reports that Kathy Alexander was not John So's first choice with claims that John preferred to have appointed insider "Jobs for the boys" Geoff Lawler. Information provided via the City Elf (hidden way in the Council Governance department) tells a different story. It appears that Garry Singer was driving the show and that John So's comments were a way of passing the buck in order to ease Mr Lawler's pain and pride. Personally we think it is good that the Council has looked outside the City Council for its leadership. The CEO needs to remain at a distance and not get too cosy in propping up the "design me a job" senior management team. Mr Lawler would have been the least of our considerations for the top job, his handling of Melbourne's strategic development plan was one of the worst in Melbourne's history not to mention many of the policies he has pursued.

Melbourne needs a hard headed business person to drive the council, reduce costs and improve the City Council's efficiency.

It is way to early to make a judgement on the chosen candidate but hopefully she will not be a social development of the designer job set. There is a lot that needs to be done to restore the City Council to the top of the tree. The City Council is way too small and inbred. Ideally the new CEO should be looking at expanding the City boundaries and establishing a greater City of Melbourne.

The other issue that needs review is the Council's representative mandate.

The community is crying out for effective represetation and falsely placing the blame on lack of local representation on the current representative model. The problem is not so much the syructiure of the elected Council but more the issue of related to the direct election Lord Mayor and the policies, or more to the point lack of policies and the ability of the current City Councillors.

The City Council has virtually wasted the last three years and achieved very little under the stewardship of the former CEO, David Pitchford and John so. The Council needs to open up its committee structure and invite experts and local representatives to sit on the Council's statutory advisory committees. The current situation where all committees have Councilors only on them MUST be addressed.

Melbourne has not had an effective CEO since Elizabeth Proust and Andy Friend vacated the Council chambers.

Time will tell whether the City Council has made the right choice and if they new appointment is worth the high salary and generous bonuses paid.