The Beagle Editor, What’s up, Doc? Or what bugs you about council?
Doctor Catherine Dale, Council General Manger is moving to remove recording and webcasting of Public Forum that is presently in place allowing presentations to be streamed and archived for those in the community interested in their local council and unable to watch live.
As a "council watcher" for many years, I reckon well over 99% of council work is done very well. In particular staff seem helpful, skilled and competent, our streets are generally quite clean, garbage is collected on time, our town water supplies are of relatively high quality, and so on in a myriad of ways over the very wide range of activities we enjoy. Looking back over the past couple of decades, though, public perception of council’s direction seems to have changed and not for the better. This could be leadership related by either council or staff. Previous general managers were visible and participated quite often and actively in discussions of issues affecting the shire either in the media, especially the press, or in public meetings but not nearly so much nowadays, though. Senior managers each have their own unique style and we are seeing many more corporate CEO's making statements and comments in the media, responding to the need for having an informed public, hopefully confident in the open and transparent governance on offer by their organisation. If the CEO's of today aren't out there being seen to do the right thing by their organizations, internally as well as in public, their boards will usually take action. Maybe our past mayors and councillors were a bit more savvy, seeming to be interested in what their constituents had to say. Rarely today do we see “questions on notice” being tabled at meetings in response to a community concern. Certainly there were many more opportunities, it seems for such representation to be seen to be done and there were many more sincere and frank debates during council and committee meetings open to the public to see and hear. Public council meetings were more frequent in past years (32 in 2010 vs 18 this year!) and a much wider range of issues seem to have been publicly debated and then reported in the media. How things have changed! Think back to some of the aftermath of the banking enquiries and the kerfuffle in the ABC for examples of what to do or not to do. In many instances, the troubles of an organisation could be attributed to board sanctioned arrogance - not to mention greed - believing they were the chosen ones who knew best and were able to get away with (not quite) murder! It's not being suggested that there were no criticisms of council in the past but it seems that issues raised by members of the community were more sympathetically accepted and handled and not all that long ago. I can remember many instances when previous mayors and GM's have said during council meetings "Come and see me after the meeting and we'll sort it out". Again, not any more, though! Recently, our council seems to be heading down a path likened to one of a community's mushroom farmer, taking away avenues for communication and imposing draconian measures to exclude critics or criticisms rather than implementing and enhancing programmes to ensure ever improving engagement of, and communication with the community. The result, as echoed in many articles in this and other media, is a declining respect of council in the community. Councillors would be well advised to remember that respect is earned not a divine right and to keep in mind that the best way to earn respect is to show it. Councillors, please consider how you should be involving and communicating with your constituents - how you can improve council's standing and position with ratepayers and residents in the community ………. and not how you can cut them out! Jeff de Jager Coila