Welcome to this week’s editorial,
This week saw a victory for the community. Not a small victory but a substantial one. It was a victory for the Eurobodalla, for ratepayers, residents and for the small, but dedicated group of Council watchers who read agendas, plough through policies and basically attempt to keep Council on track and accountable.
The Council openly don’t like this rag-tag league of scrutineers and labels them the ‘Usual Suspects’ in their attempt to belittle its members and to diminish and devalue what they might bring to the chamber with what many councillors consider as ‘whining and whingeing’ and ‘time wasters’. It was Council’s attempts to close down the Usual Suspects that they plotted to remove Live Streaming of Public presentations.
Council really do not care for this band of well informed, eloquent, well researched observers who actually enjoy reading agendas and looking for what is hidden between the lines. Council also do not like being brought to account by this ‘mob of opinionated know-it alls’ and they certainly do not like being proved wrong when the Usual Suspects reveal, very publicly, that Council has failed in its duties.
This week we saw three of the ‘Usual Suspects’ address Councillors during the Public Forum session to give Council, its General Manager and councillors a justifiable dressing down for having once again failed to communicate with their community.
Why all the fuss? The Council staff, under delegated authority from the Councillors took it upon themselves to prepare a submission to the NSW Government in regards to a new system of determining rates that moved from unimproved value of land to the value of your home. Why? It gives them more money. But rather than asking the community their opinion, which was the expectation of the government, our council kept it all secret behind closed doors. It wasn’t until the eleventh hour when staff revealed their submission for councillors to endorse (three days before the deadline) that the Usual Suspects learnt of what was happening.
With less than one week to absorb the proposal the Usual Suspects took to the councillors and dressed them down for failing to do their duty and inform their community. What was revealed, however, is that they were sworn to secrecy and unable to reveal anything that they had been briefed on.
During Tuesday’s Council meeting both Councillor McGinlay and Mayne offered genuine apologies to the community but it wasn’t for them to apologise. It was for the General Manager, who knowingly kept the community in the dark by not advising them of the call for submissions. But was an apology forthcoming from the General Manager. NO. She sat po-faced while the councillors were being castigated and let them take the flak. Even after their apology for failing to “include the community on the journey” she said nothing.
In the end the Mayor, in a quick re-write of her own, without consultation with her fellow Councillors, moved to advise the State Government that her community had not been consulted by saying “At this time this Council does not support the introduction of CIV. Council has not engaged with the community on this issue “. This no doubt came from the lead of the more civic aware Mayor of Bega who had just days before had done likewise saying “Council will not determine its support for the Capital Improved Value (CIV) methodology without further consultation with our community.” It was a good win for the Usual Suspects who, with Councillors Mayne and McGinlay appear to be, most often, the Opposition to the Gang of Six voting block of Brown, Thomson, Nathan, Tait, Pollock and Innes with Clr Constable vacillating on the fence. This time however the vote against the Staff recommendation to endorse their submission was unanimous. Councillors had over delegated their authority to the staff and last Tuesday, under considerable pressure and scrutiny with the Council’s failure to communicate widely known, our Councillors finally took back some of their authority, much to the shock of the staff, and much to the pleasure of the Usual Suspects representing the silent majority until next Lei