Our esteemed collection of Local Councillors met this morning in full session. This was the first time that they all been present at a Council meeting since … well, for a long time. Pat McGinlay had been absent for good reasons that he was completely open about. Maureen Nathan had been absent for reasons; I cannot say if they were good or not but apparently she has been in France. They have probably had more rain there than we have had and that may be a good reason for her Gallic absence. Councillor Nathan made a couple of contributions that related to the wrong agenda item causing the Mayor to chide her gently and suggest that it might take a little time for her to get back in the swing of things. I wasn’t altogether sure whether the remark was tongue in cheek or not. This was almost the most exciting thing that happened in a meeting that was over almost before it started; 45 minutes. I am sure that this is not a record but it must be pretty close.
The highlight of the meeting was, of course, the election of the Deputy Mayor. I was dozing peacefully when I heard the Mayor hand the meeting over to the General Manager whose mighty and possibly Sisyphean task was to act as the returning officer in what I was sure would be a tight run race. In the event it was a damp squib. There was one candidate and he was duly elected, or more properly re-elected for Anthony Mayne is to serve another 12 months as Deputy Mayor. The Mayor invited him to say a few words probably to fill up the time and he spoke eloquently and with commendable brevity about transparency and engagement. He will no doubt serve with distinction and our lives may be the richer for his service. Cr Mayne is an actor of some distinction and delivers a song with a fine baritone. That is as good a set of qualifications for a Deputy Mayor as I can think of. You will be able to satisfy yourself of these qualifications at the next Red Door Theatre production.
The rest of the meeting passed without much excitement. At the extraordinary meeting I had attended on 29 August 2017 there were interruptions from the gallery and much excitement. This time I was one of about half a dozen spectators each of whom was relatively well-behaved save for one incident which called for the Mayor to suggest that spectators wishing to have a conversation should repair outside. Her rebuke had the desired effect and we were all on our best behaviour as a result. One matter that could have caused much public interest was the adoption of a policy on town signs. The newly-elected Deputy Mayor was surprised that no concerned citizen of the Shire had protested about the style and design of the signs that proclaim the principal conurbations. These are without a doubt the dullest and most unmemorable and unattractive, not to say illegible, excrescences that ever greeted the traveller. But apparently neither I nor anyone else was moved enough to make any representation.
Possibly the item of the most significance in an otherwise pretty insignificant meeting was an item entitled “Draft Recreation and Open Space Strategy”. No documentation was published on the website about why this agenda item was there. Could it be that it was to be approved? As it happened the item was there because people are about to be consulted on this strategy. The purpose of this strategy is to “assist Council” in understanding the community’s recreation needs, ensuring that public spaces are properly managed, and to protect access to and scenic values of the ocean, foreshores and rural areas. This document is 190 pages long and is full of pictures so you can leaf through, electronically of course, as you drift off to sleep. Our Councillors had a good time talking about how the consultation around this document would be managed betraying a tendency to remain in the 20th century when it comes to distributing large documents.
Among the spectators was one Chris Vardon who is a former Mayor. Our Councillors were somewhat in awe of this man. I had not heard of him but I am sure many readers have. He is clearly a sensible fellow; I found one piece about him where he said that “politics as a whole has changed for the worst since his time”. In this, as in other things, I am sure he is right. He was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2003.
As I left the meeting I remarked to a fellow spectator that the meeting had been as interesting as I expected which was not very. He remarked, “Well, it was an ordinary meeting”. He was right.