There has been much said over the past week around Eurobodalla Council's decision to remove video recording of members of the public presenting to Council In essence the justification by Eurobodalla's Mayor was that the community can not be trusted when presenting and they might use the occasion to defame, grandstand or reveal something that breaches the Privacy Act such as dropping the name of a neighbour who is a co-complainant in a dog barking complaint.
Whatever the 'justification' Council's decision has now seen 40% of non-resident ratepayers left in the dark unable to watch their fellow community members raise issues around such critical matters as Council's determination to sell of public reserves, their attempts to sell a town park in Batemans Bay only to be told by the public that Council didn't own it. Added to this are the thousands of local community members either housebound, infirmed, working or simply time poor and unable to attend a council meeting at 10am on a second Tuesday. Council, under the leadership of Mayor Liz Innes, have removed any future video streaming of presentations that might reveal further protests by community members to the sale of community owned land in Narooma, Tuross, Broulee and Sth Durras. Also gone will be video evidence of the protests around the fact that Council have spent over $45,000 in legal fees trying to block the community from access to information under freedom of Information. The list goes on and on of the many presentations by very well informed community members who will challenge the council on their compliance with the Local Government Act, who will reveal councillors and senior staff being found in breach of Acts and Policies, who will provide councillors with facts that have been withheld by staff, thereby disabling councillors to make informed decisions based on ALL the facts. The Mayor has created a monster by removing Public Forum recording (video or audio) and Live Streaming thinking it will hide a host of sins from public view. What has resulted is that she and her cohorts have set in place a domino effect that will now be very public. The new Version 2.0 of Public Forum via social media will instead reveal by video what was said in Public Forum sessions but will now be broadcast without constraint using social media for the whole of community to watch and comment on. Once Council had control by keeping the video on their website hoping no one saw it - now they have forced it to come randomly into the public arena and already we are seeing the Mayor under extreme pressure with media questioning and she appears to be quickly losing ground across the shire with just fourteen months out from the next election. Adding to her burden is the long promised Rural Land Strategy that she has still failed to deliver. On top of this is any offering of justification for the $2.7m acquisition of the old Batemans Bay Bowling club that has been exposed for its lack of consultation with Council providing any evidence of intention of using it for a community purpose other than by seeking token submissions that they ignored. The $51m Mackay Park project is in a mess with councillors continuing to quote a business case so flawed that it has become an embarrassment. Meanwhile the Spine Road intersection project has been downgraded to a token widening and paintjob while the chief engineer now forecasts very little traffic will be using the bypass thereby justifying his intention to widen Beach Road even further and set in place an already unpopular dividing concrete barrier and doing little to fix the summer traffic jams. Meanwhile more and more shops are shutting in Batemans Bay and Council has admitted that it does not have a CBD plan in place accepting that there has been no CBD Traffic Plan to measure the potential impact of the new bridge on the CBD. The relationship between the Mayor and the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism remains toxic with the Mayor not wishing to go into any mediation until the current President stands down. On top of that Council has spent $1.1m on tourism with the net results indicating that we have spent the last three quarters in recession and that tourism numbers have dropped due to a lack of any marketing campaigns. Adding to this woe is that Gippsland beat the Eurobodalla to the post over a "wonderful" slogan campaign that sent Eurobodalla back to the drawing board $70,000 the poorer.
Meanwhile the Batemans Bay Foreshore Committee and the Mackay Park Sunset Committee have had enough with secrecy and the disrespect they have endured and are beginning to tell it as it is while it is revealed that little, if any of the recommendations of either group have been considered while Council ticks off a box that says the community have been consulted. Right across the shire the warp and weft of the Mayor's influence is fast becoming frayed and it will now take considerable effort if she hopes to claw back votes for the Mayoral role in September 2020. For her standard cohort of six councillors, who appear to unquestionably stand behind her in voting whatever the General Manager puts in front of them, the days ahead will see them tarred with the same brush. No doubt they might soon begin to appear less 'shoulder to shoulder' with her as she falls further from grace over so many issues around lack of delivery. The backlog of approved motions that have not yet been actions mounts with concern that time is running out for their delivery by this council. As the only Mayor in the South East NSW to move to remove Public Forum video it will be interesting to see what her Mayoral peers think about her decision to close down this area of community engagement and to remove it from Council webcast while all the others from Wollongong to the Snowy's have openly adopted and engaged video recording of Public Forum to improve their community inclusion. There is now movement building in the Eurobodalla for new teams, new candidates, new players in the political arena to replace those who have failed to perform in this round. What we do know is that the many who supported the current Mayor in her 2016 have disappeared into the woodwork. It has been speculated that the real reason for removing video of Public Forum is so that the Mayor can remove the opportunity for her opponents to gain any leverage by way of "grandstanding" as she refers to many of the presentations to be, by those who question or challenge. Though we are still fourteen months out the games have begun so keep those kissable babies locked up and watch out for dead-fish vote-for-me handshakes.