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Another interesting day for democracy in the Eurobodalla

The toxic under-belly of Eurobodalla Council was once again clearly on display today for those in the gallery attending Council's Public Forum session prior to the less that ordinary Council meeting that followed. Public Forum is a mechanism where members of the community can address Councillors directly on issues coming before them that day in the Council agenda. Originally live-streamed, recorded and archived, the Eurobodalla Public Forum was once championed around NSW council's as a progressive means of engaging and including the wider community enabling those unable to attend the sessions to view it live or by archive. This all came to an abrupt end when the Mayor Innes and her cohorts voted 7 to 2 (Mayne and McGinlay) to close down live streaming with the Mayor publicly stating in the Bay Post "there was a disappointing trend by a small group of presenters who abused the opportunity to engage with councillors and instead used it to "harass, bully, make defamatory comments and continuously promote misinformation, and to also make defamatory and derogatory comments continuously about members of our staff". In voting to close down live-streaming the Mayor told About Regional “My experience is that generally, the members of the public who come and address the public forum are the ones not entirely happy with what’s being put forward. And it can be argued that if members of the wider community are only relying on the live stream that they are not getting the whole picture.” Today's Public Forum did not have any presenters abused the opportunity to engage with councillors or used the occasion to harass, bully, make defamatory comments nor promote misinformation. Nor did any of the speakers make defamatory and derogatory comments continuously about members of our staff. Had the community been able they would have seen, as is the norm, quality presentations delivered clearly that both supported and challenged issues on today's agenda. And had not the media (Bay Post, About Regional and the Beagle) been present along with a full gallery the presentations would only be found in the bowels of Council's website without any evidence of questions, responses, applause or the indifferent body language adopted by Council staff and councillors to anything they did not wish to hear. The first presenter is a noble man indeed with a generosity of spirit and a passion to deliver for the less able in our community. Charles Stewart table a petition for a Splash Pad to be included in submissions for the Corrigans Reserve plan of management. By all means, a presentation that should have been recorded and archived for those less able to attend the Public Forum session. The next was a presentation that challenged the Council on several issues of the agenda asking open questions of the councillors that met mostly glazed and indifferent eyes. When the issue of the Council's Community Engagement Framework came up Councillor Mayne was able to ask a question of the presenter if he felt the loss of live-streaming of Public Forum was considered a regressive step in community engagement. This questioning was immediately nipped in the bud by the chair with primal grunts of dissatisfaction coming from several councilors who may have felt the question, and more so the answer, would reflect poorly on their having voted to censor openness and transparency and to control and manipulate the narrative. Four speakers (Presentations of David Grice, Deborah Stevenson) addressed and challenged councillors on the changes to the DCP with the next from Kathryn Maxwell offering solid suggestions of how Eurobodalla Council might improve its role in joining with the community in bringing practical solutions to offset climate change inevitabilities. Also on the list of Public Forum speakers addressing councillors was Narooma's Captain 'Wazza' Warren Stubbs of Lighthouse Charters Narooma & Montague Island Discovery Tours advising Councillors of his business model and offering an expression of interest in an idea that might assist the running of his business. He spoke passionately, openly and eloquently of the Narooma tourism industry, its highs and lows and requested Council at least consider his expression of interest in taking a licence over a small section of Council land to assist his operations. And had the community had access to live-steaming they would have heard from the second-in-charge of Racing NSW of the positives around the planned purchase of the Moruya Racecourse along with the excellent presentation by Peter Atkinson, the Chair of the Moruya Jockey Club. But none of this was heard by anyone outside of the Council chambers. The local ABC didn't hear it. Nor did Lynette on holiday in Byron. None of the 30% of Non resident ratepayers in the Eurobodalla heard it nor did anyone at home. Certainly no-one at work heard it and no-one will have the opportunity to hear the presentations, the questions asked or the responses given via archives. The Mayor stated as her justification to close live streaming “My experience is that generally, the members of the public who come and address the public forum are the ones not entirely happy with what’s being put forward. And it can be argued that if members of the wider community are only relying on the live stream that they are not getting the whole picture.” Sadly for the community the only picture they now get is the one that Council controls that censors out "the ones not entirely happy with what’s being put forward". But along with those presenters who have the audacity to question Council are the many other presenters such as the driven Charles Stewart, the dedicated Peter Atkinson, the very professional 2nd in charge of Racing NSW, the passionate eleven year old asking Council to recognise a Climate Emergency and the informed reminding councillors of their duties and of the Acts, policies and guidelines that are all too often pushed to their allowable limits by Council staff who care not to be questioned nor be accountable to the ratepayers. Another interesting day for democracy in the Eurobodalla

The mud is beginning to stick around Council's decision to censor Public Forum

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