The Beagle Editor,
Your provocative commentary included under your recent article “Council Policies under review: you can make a submission or get what you are given”, demands a rebuttal.
But let me first start with a correction. You have said that:
“The policies [on exhibition, for public feedback] are those that were endorsed by the previous term of Council and, as required, are now to be adopted by this term”.
It is not correct to say that “the policies … endorsed by the previous term of Council” are required to be “adopted by this term”, if by “this term” you mean the current council. Council (the governing body) is free to adopt the existing policies, with or without amendment, or to remove, or replace any of the policies, provided of course that any resulting policies do not incorporate any unlawful provisions.
You then go on to provocatively state that:
“Disappointingly the councillors failed to acknowledge or pay respect to two presenters who spoke only an hour before on the subject of the policies to be reviewed”, and that “Rather than return the two policies in question to the General Manager with the comment "Could do Better" scrawled across the document, the Councillors chose to say nothing.“
Is that you there, Lei, or have you employed someone to stand in? This remark is wrong, insulting, and naïve.
In keeping with the genuine bonhomie conduct of our refreshingly new, engaging councillors, the presenters were at all times during Public Forum treated with respect. That their presentations were not discussed during the meeting is perfectly understandable and certainly not disrespectful – though some, brief reference was made to them. The motion before council was to have the bundle of policies, including the two presented on, placed on exhibition. It was not the time to debate the policies themselves.
The two public forum presentations you refer to were in effect preliminary submissions on the policies in question and, hopefully, each will be followed up with a fulsome, formal version to be submitted in the context of the public exhibition of policies. It will be after ALL submissions are received that councillors will be in a position to make changes. It would have been wrong and irresponsible for councillors to decide there and then, at the meeting, that the policies in question should be sent back to staff for review on the basis of just those two presentations and in the absence of the opportunity for the necessary careful consideration of them.
I have heard around the traps that your shot at the new councillors has been added to with, again, naïve and fairly strident criticisms of councillors for having not made sure that the policies placed on exhibition had been reviewed to a standard acceptable to those critics. They can’t be serious!
Councillors do not have personal staff. They do not have anything like the necessary capacity to review the 90 odd policies by themselves. At least six of them are working very long hours on council matters, week in and week out. They need the community to step up and help them to review the staff-produced policies. Council staff are clearly satisfied with the policies as they are and so the only way they will be thoroughly reviewed will be through the efforts of community members having their say. As you mention, Councillor David Grace made this point, very clearly and emphatically, at the meeting. Yet even with this obvious need for community input, I was stunned when one critic, of otherwise seemingly high intelligence, told me that the community should not need to do this work on behalf of councillors, that the staff should be doing it!!
If people want reform, then they will need to get involved, rather than sit back and expect it to happen. It is completely unrealistic to expect a small group of councillors to be able to turn things around by themselves.
Deua River Valley