In a report to be presented to next Tuesday's Dec 13th Council meeting by the Citizens’ Jury they will be advising Council that they expect that their recommendations will help shape the future decisions and directions of Council. They also indicate the report conveys a majority view that Council is broadly meeting the needs of the community and therefore is generally spending ratepayers money on the right things. They state however, that they want this to continue, and identify a number of areas where they see opportunities for improvement or refinement and have made specific and detailed recommendations in their report. They believe the formation of a Citizens’ Jury is a good indication that Council wants to hear from the community on a variety of issues. In the report they suggest this is a positive first step towards developing a culture of openness and consultation and shows how important it is for Council to continue efforts to communicate widely and through a variety of means to ensure that people really know and understand what is being done in their community. The Jury have suggested that there is an opportunity to establish an ongoing role for those members of the Jury who are able, to act as a resource panel or sounding board for Council as they consider the potential application of what the Jury now recommends. The report also identifies a number of areas where they see opportunities for improvement or refinement and have provided Council specific recommendations.
These areas are in:
·Employment, Economic and Business Development
·Aboriginal and Broader Community Involvement
·Environment and Rural Lands
·Long Term Vision and Innovation
·Advocacy and Facilitation
·Roads, Rates and Rubbish and
·Arts Development You can read the full Eurobodalla Citizen Jury report here: What is the Eurobodalla Citizens' Jury?
The Citizens’ Jury was an idea that the previous Eurobodalla Council came up with to try involving residents in the process of government decision-making.
These randomly selected members of a community were bought together to consider a given topic and provide a response or recommendation to Council.
The idea is based on the premise that if the public know that their fellow citizens have reached agreement around a decision, they will then trust in the decision rather than if it were made solely by Council staff or Councillors. Those against the idea suggest that the Jury will be given the same information that Councillors are given and therefore be encouraged to a predetermined outcome.
To many in the community it appears that random selection of members from the community and seek their opinion is better than the current model where Council hears from the noisiest voices in the community who insist on being heard. It was noted during discussions about the endorsing of a Citizens Jury, by those opposed to the Jury idea, that the noisiest voices are often the most well informed and the most passionate who take time to research and then to submit or present challenges to Council on behalf of the quieter majority who are most often less informed or dis-engaged by choice.
Previous councillors believed that the process gets beyond the “enraged and the articulate”. It was considered by those opposing the $100,000 Citizen Jury idea that the notion of an apparent “bias” by the noisy minority probably explains why Council rarely bother to listen to Public Forum speakers who challenge them nor rarely acknowledge petitions or demonstrations.
The policy problems that came before the Jury were complex topics, so jury members needed time, advice and guidance, usually from Council staff, to educate and immerse themselves in the topic.
At the time of the proposed formation of the Jury commentators said “This is what is required of the Mayor and Councillors we elect and pay salaries to. But now the Citizen Jury members will also have to fast-track and educate themselves to understand fully the issues put before them and make their recommendations, obviously because Councillors can’t be trusted to make a correct and informed decision”.
Those against a Citizens Jury were asking “Why bother having Councillors if we are going to pay $100,000 for the Citizen Jury to do the work and put up their recommendation to Councillors”. And what happens if the Councillors choose to ignore the recommendation of the Citizen Jury
which is basically “the Voice of the People”. It appears that the Jury have no mandate and as such their recommendations are simply that; recommendations. This might go contrary to the advice to prospective Citizen Jurors that said: “To get everyday people in the room making a considerable time commitment, they need to know that the recommendations they reach mean something and won’t be consumed within the bureaucracy.” The purpose of this GM’s report to Council on December 13th, 2016 is to present the Eurobodalla Citizens’ Jury Report to Council and acknowledge the significant time and commitment of the community member jurors who participated.
The GM's recommendation will be THAT Council:
1.receives the Eurobodalla Citizens’ Jury Report;
2. provides a response to the Eurobodalla Citizens’ Jury recommendations in March 2017;
3.thanks the jury members for their time and contribution.