Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mavrick Stephen Mayne an Embarrassment to City Planning

Maverick City of Melbourne Councillor, Deputy chairman of the Council's Planning committee and MAV presidential candidate, Stephen Mayne was an embarrassment following criticism by State Minister of Planning, Matthew Guy, that Stephen Mayne failed to understand how Melbourne's Planning system works.  Mathew Guy speaking to Radio 774 Jon Faine had to point out to Stephen Mayne that the Minister of Planning is the responsible planning authority for major projects in the city greater than 25,000 sq metres
The City Council rightly had lost planning control over major projects some 20 years ago.  The Council retains the right of review and advocacy but is no longer judge, jury and prosecutor of planning.

The proposal before the Minister is the construction of a high density residential commercial complex in South Bank. The proposed development designed by renowned architects Fender Katsalidis, when constructed at 388 metres will be the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere

Stephen Mayne, who was elected to the Council in November, admitted in his interview earlier with Jon Faine that he had no qualifications or expertise in planning and design. Stephen Mayne is the Council's deputy chairman of planning, the chairman is Cr. Ken Ong

In spite the fact that the City Council has known of the project months before Stephen Mayne's election Cr Mayne criticized the Minister for allowing only 14 days for the Council to respond to the application.

It's not as though the City Council lacks staff skills and expertise. The Council's urban planning and design department has a budget of 10's of millions of dollars and a host of highly paid experts at their disposal. They most certainly should be in a position to respond to the proposed planning application in a timely fashion.
The Minister has extended the time limit allocated to the City Council.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

High Court ruling empowers the Nanny Council

The Australian High Court has enforced the power of Local Councils to impinge on human rights and civil freedoms, opening up the possibility of the establishment of gated municipalities based on ideology.

A majority of the High Court held that the Local Government Acts empowered the Council to make the impugned provisions. The impugned provisions were a valid exercise of the Council's statutory power to make by-laws for the good rule and government of the area, and for the convenience, comfort and safety of its inhabitants

The decision of the high court will encourage ideological Councillors such as Green Councillors Cathy Oake, Rohan Leppert to impose restrictions such as Richard Foster's proposed Citywide smoking ban.

In the absence of greater oversight of local councils we are likely to see the rise of the Nanny Council

Unlike State and Federal Parliaments there are minimal checks and balances on local council's creating local laws designed impose their will over minority communities.

It is now incumbent on State Governments to reign in and limit the right of local Council to impose local laws in isolation with State and Federal laws.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

White Nights - Melbourne Arts Festival

White Nights in Melbourne was successful entertainment yet a disaster in planning and management. It lacked professional organization. Which on one hand added to its appeal and on the other placed considerable risk to public safety.

There is no doubt that Melbourne loves free public events and White nights was no exception.

The weather was good and the event draw a considerable sized crowd. A crowd so big that it was its main concern. There were too many people and the planning of the event, or I should say lack of planning, good design, and management, added to the concern.

Public security was virtually non existent or certainly not up to the task. It was by pure luck, not design, that there was not any major incidents. Had there been the event would have been a catastrophe.

I have had my fair share of organizing Arts Festivals and major events in my time, including a 10,000 attendance at a Crowded House concert the Myer Music Bowl.  One of the things I learned was the need for planning and good security. In a crowd situation things can go wrong and if and when  they do you are looking at potential major problems.

With such a large crowed as there was last night you really need a much bigger police presence.  The intersection of Collins and Swanston Street was the worst problem.  There was not enough consideration given to crowd movement or control . Only 6 police officers and an overstress and ill prepared security team trying to manage the crowd movements as people flowed down Swanston Street expecting there to be more events and entertainment.  With the Trams stopped Swanston Street became a major pedestrian thoroughfare parade.  I know that the event was not supposed to continue along Swanston Street and stopped at  Collins Street but this was part of its problem.  More activities should have been placed along Swantson Street and better management of the festival site security was needed.

I spoke to a senior police office and he also agreed that security and policing was under resourced and public safety, unbeknown to those who attended the event, was at risk.  There should have been much more thought given to supporting events and other such activities. 

There was a lack of toilet facilities and the event should have provided more Street stalls and food vendors.  These could have been placed in Swanston Street which would given that end of the Street some focus.

Putting aside concerns of planning and management the event was a success of soughts, although I still do not know how much it cost.

The event certainly improved later on in the night when the crowds began to thin-out. 

By 2-3AM it was much more enjoyable. there was dancing, live music, light shows and the Art Gallery was open all night.  With a more manageable crowd it was easier to move around and enjoy the activities on offer.

Federation Square was not designed to handle large crowds. In fact it is not suited for them. Police again expressed concern at the lack of planning and emergency access to the Square. If something went wrong then this was not the place to be. It was over packed and I decided to avoid it until the early hours when the crowd numbers dropped.  It did make a good disco techno dance club around 3AM

The main concert stage at Flinders Street Station under the Clocks was another one of those successes that was marred by poor design and planning.

The Stage layout could have been better, wider and providing both audience and entertainer with improved viewing angles.The sound quality was also lacking. But the acts were great. for me the best was the SBS Rock Wiz orchestra. I just love James black's never ending energy and sound. If only a bit more thought went into the design of the stage it would have been a far greater success. I hope to see more use of this site as a public concert venue.

The night time access to the Art Gallery was great as was the cascading soap installation under Leonard French's Stain glass ceiling.  I did not get to see it perform early in the night, again the crowds were to much, but late at night visitors were able to soak up its atmosphere.

I could not help but think that the White Nights Festival would have been better had it been incorporated into  Moomba and was better resourced and planned. But than this also added to its success in its own way but the risk was just too great.

Thankfully there were no major incidents, The intersection of Collins and Swanston Street, the lack of supporting activities such as food vendors, poor security, design and management and the overcrowding need to be addressed.

Had something gone wrong it would have resembled a disaster zone more akin to a Russian meteorite crash than an Arts Festival.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hidden Meetings: City of Melbourne Caught-out

The City of Melbourne has been exposed for breaching article 80A of the Local Government Act.

In accordance with section 80A of the Local Government Act 1989 (the Act), written records of assemblies of Councillors are to be reported at an ordinary meeting of the Council as soon as practicable.

On February 7 Maverick Councillor Stephen Mayne reported in his "Tweet" that he had in fact chaired an undisclosed unadvertised Finance and Governance Committee meeting
The Melbourne City Council holding secret meetings behind closed doors comes as no surprise, as they continue to deny public scrutiny of their actions.

A review of the City of Melbourne published report tabled for next weeks Council meeting fails to list or mention the meeting that Cr Mayne claimed he had chaired on February 7.

The failure of the Council administration to properly report all meetings of Councillors has highlighted the full extent and level of contempt the Council administration will go to to avoid disclosure and accountability.  Either Stephen Mayne has lied or misrepresented the Council in reporting his tweet or the City of Melbourne has been negligent or deliberately seeking to avoid reporting meetings of the Council.

Decisions made behind closed doors and unreported decisions by Council Staff under "delegation" leaves the City of Melbourne wide open to the allegation of ongoing corruption with the current City Council complacent to the deceit. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Team Doyle Disenfranchised: Droop vs Pure Proportional voting

Why do we continue to use the "Droop quota" and in the process disenfranchise a significant percentage of voters?

In the past the adoption of the Droop quota allowed us to reach a conclusion in the count without having to distribute preferences to the Nth degree and count every vote.  However with the use of computer based technology this justification no longer applies.

Droop = x/(y+1)-1
Pure Proportional = x/y

By calculating the quota to be "x(/y+1)-1", as defined by Droop, we are ignoring up to a quota of  voters which results in a large percentage of votes being locked up in what is referred to as the "wasted quota".

The effect of the Droop quota can be  seen clearly by analyzing the 2012 City of Melbourne Council vote.  In this case Team Doyle received around 38% of the vote and elected 3 positions with 8% of voters (Team Doyle's surplus) was ignored. 

If the system was a pure proportional count the quota would have been 11.11% instead of 10% and the outcome of the election would have been more representative.

Under the Droop quota the Greens managed to elect 2 positions with just 14% of the primary vote and community candidate Kevin Chamberlin on 6% miss out being elected. If the count was pure proportional without the distortion of the Droop quota Kevin Chamberlin would have been elected with the support of Team Doyle’s surplus preferences.

Why should Team Doyle’s voters be disenfranchised and ignored by being lockup in the discarded quota, why should not the system be fully proportional and each vote of equal value.  The current system using the Droop Quota at best can only be described as semi proportional.

The system using the Droop quota becomes even more distorted under the Victorian Local Government count-back rules as the vote that has been left on the table is not taken into account when calculating who or which candidate fills the casual vacancy.

The Victorian State Parliament Electoral Matters Committee to date has not scheduled a review of the Local Government elections, it is unclear if they will even though it is within their terms of references and they have an obligation to do so.

Will the Melbourne City Council take up this issue?    Most likely not.  The Greens benefited from the distortion in the proportionality of the count so they will not see any benefit in reform.  The only team that did not was Team Doyle and Kevin Chamberlin. But the principle is clear if you believe in proportional representation then all votes should carry equal weight x/y is the purest means of calculating a quota not x/(y+1)-1

2012 City of Melbourne Primary Preference count (9 Councillors to be elected)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Conceit, delusional or just limiting collateral damage

Politics is politics, but does anyone really think that the State Government's recent announcement on selective statewide smoking bans around schools, kindergartens and playgrounds is in response
to Richard Fosters unworkable proposed CityWide blanket ban on smoking?

Richard Foster thinks so. (Twitter)

One step at a time.

One proposal is constructive and feasible. A Citywide ban is not.

Richard Foster's proposed Citywide smoking ban has failed to receive support from his fellow city Councillors and has not been listed for discussion on the City Council's agenda.

The City Council has the right to impose a selective smoking ban on Council owned property. It could even consider imposing a smoke-free zone as part of the Council's on-street trading permit conditions.

A better approach is to install advisory signs in nominated public areas. "Please consider others and refrain from smoking in this area".

A blanket ban beyond Council owned property should not be within the Council's legislative jurisdiction.

HOWEVER it has highlighted concern for the need to provide State Government oversight and right of veto over Municipal laws.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Myers: The Gift Card from hell

Don't look a gift card in the mouth. Unless it is a Myer's Gift Card

The other day I was given a Myer Gift Card to the value of $100.  The gesture and gift was welcomed but not very useful.  The card cost the buyer $100 (There was no discount on offer - $100 for $100 card only).

Now there is not much I consider to be of interest or of value worth buying in Myers, so the gift card represented a bit of a problem.  I was thinking of giving it away but it got me thinking about gift cards per say and the problems associated with them and why they are not worth purchasing or giving away.

A store restricted card, such as a Myer Card, is of limited benefit to the person who is the receiver of the gift.  You are forced into spending it in Myers. The only one that benefits from the card is Myers.  What's more they are a one time use card that you are just throw away when finished and they add to the rubbish and environmental pollution.

Not even Myer's value it.  I tried to exchange the card for a more friendlier card a Coles/Myer/Office Works gift card. One that could be used in places that I am more likely to spend.  Unfortunately Myers would not accept the card as legal tender to buy the alternative card . Stuck with a Myer gift card, a gift card from hell, a card I could not use or exchange for another gift card sold in their store.

I ended up selling the card outside of Myers at a discounted rate. Some 30 minutes later and a lot of protest at what I consider to be an unfriendly, unhelpful store. I am told they sell on eBay for $85-$90. I was more interested at the time what others thought it was worth.  I did turn down a offer of $20. The $100 card was eventually sold for $50. (Photo of Jack the successful buyer - I hope it gives him more satisfaction then it gave me).

This brings me back to the question of gift cards and what a company, relative or friend can offer as an alternative.  A training voucher, a card that has broader appeal, a petrol voucher or even a Paypal or Myki card would be a better gift.  If you thinking of buying a gift card. Think again. Think about the environment and do not purchase or offer a Myer or store gift card.

Oh if your interested I intend to place the $50 in the church box. A charity gift card, if there is one, would be of more interest. Myers is not a charity.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Mayne caught out holding secret meetings behind closed doors

Do as Stephen says not what he does.

Melbourne City Councillor and self proclaimed advocate for open transparent democracy, Stephen Mayne, has been caught out chairing a secret "behind closed doors" City of Melbourne Finance and Governance Committee Meeting.

Stephen Mayne tweeted today that he had in fact chaired a City Council Finance and Governance Committee Meeting.

No such meeting has been listed on the City Council's web site. The meeting held was not advertised or open to members of the public as required under section 89 of the Victorian Local Government Act.

There is ongoing concern at the legality of City of Melbourne's Council's Secret Meetings and their non compliance with State laws.

Complaints to the Local Government Inspectorate on this issue is still pending review.,

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Doyle's splash of color

Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, sporting a pair of red socks added a splash of color and sartorial elegance and fashion in what was otherwise a boring Council meeting.  (This addition to Robert's attire is solely due to the influence of his wife and should not be seen as a political statement)

There were only three items for public discussion on the Council's agenda, non of which were controversial or contentious.  Richard Foster's Citywide Smoking ban was not listed for discussion.

Do as I say not what I do.

Maverick City Councillor, Stephen Mayne, still has not raised or addressed issues in relation to open transparency and the need for Council meetings to be open to the public.  The Council continues to hold secret behind closed doors Councillor Forum meetings and decisions made under Council delegation are not reported.  Complaints forwarded to the State Local Government Inspectorate in relation to the City Council's non compliance with section 89 of the Local Government Act are still pending review.

City Smokers sigh a sign of relief

Melbourne's Smokers cam rest assured that the City will not impose a blanket outside ban on smoking.  Cr Richard Foster's propsed smoking ban had no support and the issue was not included for discussion on tonight's Council agenda.

Discussion with various Councillors it was made clear that Foster did not have any support. The Council would not be imposing a local law that they can not police or implement.  Instead of the big bother heavy handed approach Council would embark on a more passive educational exercise to try and discourage smokers from lighting up. The Council may extend non-smoking areas to Council managed property, kindergartens, playgounds and the like but smoekers will not be targeted in a blanket city ban.

Richard Foster who is a member of the ALP was not endorsed by the Party and the proposed citywide smoking ban is not ALP policy. Foster has no mandate for his proposal. A proposal, if implemented, that  could cost the ALP two inner city Federal seats at the next Federal election. (Melbourne and Port Melbourne)

So outraged at the push and shove approach of the  City Council there were plans to mobilize city smokers in what would have been a firestorm of protest.  A campaign that would have called on the State Government to remove or subject to legislative oversight the establishment of local laws with the State Government and Governor in Council having the final say and right of veto of any proposed local law that is enacted that compromised state interests  Calls for tighter limitations on Council's right to impose restrictive laws in isolation or with-out a referedum. A proposal that, if adopted, would hamstring all municipalities in passing local laws.

The Foster Smoking ban would have had a negative impact on public health campaigns and made their job that much harder.

Richard Foster having had his citywide ban extinguished is now expected to change tact in order to save face. He will seek to have selective bans imposed instead, but never the less his grandstanding proposal will leave a stain on his reputation.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Richard Foster's Puff of Smoke causes more harm then good

Newby Melbourne City Councillor Richard Foster has come out and advocated a City wide Smoking ban through-out the City of Melbourne.

Whilst Foster gained some limited encouragement from the supporters of the Nanny State his proposed City wide ban is grandstanding at best, at worst it could possible set back the anti-smoking lobby's cause years if not longer.

For the record, I am an non-smoker and hate smoking with a passion BUT I will not support a overbearing dictatorial ill-considered policy such as a blanket smoking ban across the city.   Local Council's should have limited authority in imposing local laws without a referendum. Even then they should be subject to state government oversight. A smoking ban should be at a national or state level. Not a municipality going it alone.  We must oppose any form of gated community be it physical or ideologically.

Richard Forster is unlikley to gain support from his fellow Councillors let alone the State Parliament.  He has no mandate, there was no mention of a Citywide Smoking ban in his election policy documents

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, rightly, has indicated that a citywide ban is unworkable and can not be enforced.  We are not going to have Municipal Bylaws Officers patrolling the street sniffing out smokers and issuing fines to offending persons.  The Council can not police its littering laws let alone begin to enforce a citywide smoking ban in outside public spaces.

An elastic band can only stretch so far and smokers are at breaking point and growing weary of the Nanny State mentality of regulations control and fines.

Foster, who is a member of the Carlton ALP,  does not have the support of the broader Labor Movement.

The notion of imposing a Citywide smoking ban in public places would rebound against the ALP and play into the hands of the Greens and the LNP.  If Foster's brave new world of City control ever gained traction or taken seriously it would place at risk the ALP holding on to the inner city seats of Melbourne and Melbourne Ports (Both of which fall within parts of the City of Melbourne Municipal boundaries).

Smokers are tied of being singled out and pushed around, they will rebel and vote against the ALP Nanny State policy if push comes to shove. Having nowhere else to go but to support the LNP.  Foster's policy, if allowed to develop unchecked, could tip the ALP into third place in Melbourne giving an undeserved advantage to the Greens holding on to the seat with the ALP possibly losing the seat of Melbourne Ports to the LNP as a result.

Foster really had not thought it through, removed from reality. It may have delivered him some headlines in the daily media but it has not won him any constructive support.

Foster's Policy undermines efforts by our health  professionals

The other issue of concern is the impact the policy of enforcement, undermining efforts by our health professionals to limiting the impact of smoking.  An enforced blanket ban does not help it only hinders. It is the old adage what's better  "A carrot or the stick".  Those people that continue to smoke need support not condemnation or vilification.  They should be consulted not dictated to. To ignore their concerns would be political suicide and in the end would work against the broader interests  Foster has already came under criticism for his failure to follow through with issues and his lack of consultation.  This is just another example.
There is no merit or justification for the City of Melbourne to go it alone. A selective ban on certain venues maybe but not a city wide ban as proposed by Cr Foster.  

Any proposed extension of smoking bans should be state or national wide and should bring on board the general community in support.  Imposed smoking bans should not be something that is imposed by City Councillors who find it to their personal disliking or those seeking cheap headlines.  There are many other ills in our society, the use of plastic bags and containers, excessive drinking both within the Council and on the streets, soft drinks and other sugar based products even coffee all of which cause harm.

Education not regulation is the solution.

The best thing Foster can now hope for  is that the Council rejects his proposed Nanny-State Smoking-Ban and the issue is soon forgotten and the wounds caused healed, but it may already be too late as the damage has been done.  Once a bell has rung it can can not un-rung.