Quite often, sitting in the gallery and watching council meetings I am reminded of Gullivers Travels and the intra-Lilliputian quarrel over the practice of breaking eggs. The story goes that traditionally, Lilliputians broke boiled eggs on the larger end. However we learn that a few generations ago, an Emperor of Lilliput, the Present Emperor's great-grandfather, had decreed that all eggs be broken on the smaller end after his son cut himself breaking the egg on the larger end. The differences between Big-Endians (those who broke their eggs at the larger end) and Little-Endians had given rise to "six rebellions... wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown". Observing the councillors it is easy to see their big team colours of Liberal BLUE, Tenacious GREEN and an Indistinguishable CARNIVAL that is a meld of them all. The underlying and important question is what end do our Councillors crack their eggs as an all important vote is looming where they all get to vote for the new Deputy Mayor. Some time ago we all apparently agreed that it was a great idea to vote for a popularly elected Mayor for a four year term. Bugger if he/she turns out to be a dud leaving ratepayers to just ride it out until the next election. The position of Deputy Mayor is voted on as a yearly term and presently Councillor Anthony Mayne is in the robes. The first time around it was a neck-to-neck between Mayne and Constable with Mayne winning out by one vote. The second time Mayne was unopposed. Whilst being a Deputy Mayor doesn't bring any financial benefit it does bring the benefit of gaining confidence in chairing meetings, honing skills of thinking on your feet and also being the default go-to for comment as has been the case with Councillor Mayne being interviewed by the media. But the Deputy Mayoral election looms once again and already the rumbles are being heard behind closed doors and whispers are softly echoing along council corridors that Councillor Mayne will be ousted. Not because he is a poor performer because he isn't. No, more than likely he will be ousted because he is a good performer and is starting to gain the inner strength and the temerity to actually challenge the Mayor, the General Manager and the Executive staff of Council on a variety of matters. Most recently he has been publicly asking some very pointed questions around the Rural LEP on behalf of community members who continue to advise that there is something stinky going on that is worth a good look. And he is having a good look in nooks and crannies and turning over rocks and the more he looks the more disquiet is bubbling to the surface. And staff don't like that and they do not appreciate having to explain themselves. After all they are in charge and are the constant with councillors coming in with great aspirations to bring change and then disappearing after a term realising there was little if any hope of "opening the hatches and turning the ship around". Recently, on the matter of the $750,000 grant by Andrew Constance Councillor Mayne was advised, during a council meeting that the Member for Bega had placed a clear condition on the money stipulating that it could only be used specifically for one option only and that no other (cheaper) alternate route or method of construction was to be considered. Much to the surprise of all Councillor Mayne has shown an audacity in asking the Director of Infrastructure for the said document and the wording of the condition Following a recent cycleway committee meeting he is now seeking further confirmation that Council is in fact NOT using the grant money to construct kerb and guttering adjacent to the path route as being "part and parcel" of the path project. Councillor Mayne has a strong voice and is often the only councillor who asks public speakers, presenting their issues to a meeting, meaningful and empathetic questions. For that he is considered a pariah by many of his councillor peers and staff who clearly indicate, with their visible displeasure, that they crack their eggs at the other end. Coming in close behind Councillor Mayne as being "on the outer" are Councillors McGinlay and Constable who also often openly demonstrate their independent thought questioning the rhetoric of council briefings and reports. Both councillors, like Mayne, spend a good degree of effort in talking to the community and try to best inform themselves of the cross section of concerns and opinions rather than simply relying on the opinion of staff and rubber stamping reports as delivered. Council is a numbers game and the side with the most numbers wins.
Representing the Big Enders of Gullivers Travels are Innes, Brown, Pollock, Tait and Nathan with James Thomson no doubt being groomed to be the next shining light as he climbs the political ladder. Coincidental the Executive staff of Council also happen to crack their eggs at the Big End (and for that matter so do most of the NSW State Government bureaucrats). Combined they represent a formidable team. Challenging the Big Enders are our three forthright Little Enders attempting to do what Councillors should which is to best represent the community in an inclusive, open and transparent way.
Above: Will the Big Enders of Council reveal their preference when they vote for their "champion" as Deputy Mayor in September or will Little Ender Anthony Mayne see a few votes cross the floor.
So the vote for Deputy Mayor fast approaches and the bets are being laid with pundits saying it will be the shining light of James Thompson voted in as Deputy Mayor by his Big Ender peers. Basically Brown has had his day and continues to irritate Innes with his oft-reminders of when he was Mayor. Next Big Ender is Jack Tait who has little in the way of the skill set required to step up to the Mayoral Seat and take over when the Mayor is away on kingdom visits. This leaves Big Ender Maureen Nathan who would equally find the position of Deputy Mayor more than difficult. Then there is Rob Pollock who does have the skills and the capacity to be Deputy Mayor and for that matter Mayor as well however he might not have the inclination to throw his hat in the ring for a leading role in what is building to be one of the most ridiculed Eurobodalla Council terms seen since the Great Eurobodalla Council Dismissal of the 1980's. So the only option left as a contender from the Big Ender team is James Thomson. Though green it is suggested by keen Council observers that he will be strongly encouraged by his Big Ender peers to throw his Akubra into the ring as "he will have it in the bag with numbers" and will be supported and groomed into the role. There is little doubt that Anthony Mayne will want to continue as Deputy Mayor. He likes the role, he is good at it and he has proven himself to be able to manage a Council meeting, speak clearly and to be at best, generally informed of issues or indicate genuinely that he will pursue matters. But he is only one of three Little Enders and the numbers don't look good.
In fact the odds of Big Enders voting for a Little Ender is Buckleys however there is a brewing disquiet building around the Mayor's recent very public castigation of councillors for their having dared to criticise the "absolutely disgraceful" public library spending of the NSW Government. Councillors are also known to be annoyed by the Mayor's recent public announcement over the Narooma NAB issue that saw her deliver her own opinion without consulting with Councillors to formulate a Council opinion. For her to reveal that Council had investments of $15m was irresponsible. Whilst the media suggested a "veiled threat" it was of interest that the total loan debt with NAB is greater than their investments by several million dollars. Rather than attacking NAB and suggesting that they were deserting the town it would have been far better to do as Anthony Mayne suggested (via a source) to Business Chamber presidents on Tuesday that Council thank the NAB for their commitment and contribution to date, respect that it is a considered business decision and then, on vacating the premises invite other banks, both corporate or community to step in, offering, as they would to any enterprise, support and advice to assist with applications and administration. The recent loss of her Mayoral Report, with a vote of eight against one, also showed that all the councillors are collectively standing up to her and no longer allowing her to run her own race. So what will happen when the Deputy Mayoral vote comes around in September? Many wish that it was a vote for the Mayor and not Deputy Mayor but they will have to wait another two years for that...