Plenty to be positive about

ROY LEWISSON is a long-term member of the White Gum Valley precinct. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he takes a look at Freo council following last month’s elections.

SO, where are we now? Now the dust has settled on the recent local government elections and the new council sworn in, it’s a good time to reflect on the current state of play.

Four out of the six wards returned the incumbent councillor; in Hilton Jeff McDonald took over from retiring Bob Massie, and in north ward, former councillor Bryn Jones was the only candidate to defeat a sitting elected member.

So apart from first-term Simon Naber in city ward and the two new councillors, every other councillor (and the mayor) is either at the start of, or halfway through, their second term — with the notable exception of Doug Thompson in north ward, who is the longest serving councillor in the City of Fremantle and possibly in WA. It should be noted that Andrew Sullivan and Jon Strachan in south ward also previously served before their current terms.

Effective and collaborative

This current high rate of re-elected councillors suggests an effective and collaborative council; it certainly comprises one of the highest collective levels of “grassroots” representation of any council in recent times. By this I am referring to the lack of personal agenda, politics and personal gain to which local government in general, has not had a clean slate.

“I am standing for council to represent the constituents in my ward,” is a common catch-cry across all democracies, however I believe you would be hard-pressed to find 13 local government representatives to whom this principle is more applicable, than the current Fremantle councillors and mayor.

The other stand-out attribute of the current council – and I am sure this will continue to include the two new councillors – is the respect and acknowledgement shown between councillors, particularly during debate time on contentious issues.

Although attending and observing council meetings cannot always be described as pleasurable – depending on your reason for being there – it is reassuring to witness the lack of in-fighting and personal bickering, which is so stifling in state and federal parliaments, and which has occurred in the Fremantle chambers with previous councils.

We all want good, cohesive debates and councillors voting independently based on the views of their ward; it is the ultimate sign of good governance and representation.

Unfortunately, such respect was not evident amongst some of the unsuccessful candidates. I witnessed verbal abuse and personal accusations thrown at a number of incumbent candidates, which was completely unnecessary and only confirmed why these candidates were unsuccessful.

I am not that naïve to presume politics is a “clean sport” – and especially at local government level – however some of the comments were seriously offensive.

For the past couple of years there seems to have been an element of accusations and personal attacks against councillors and what the council is doing, amongst certain social media / blog sites, etc.

Having robust, open discussion and strong opinions about the issues concerning our community is obviously encouraged and welcomed; however when these discussions, in their frustration to gain momentum, turn to unsubstantiated personal claims, unfounded accusations of factionism and impropriety or even corruption – everyone gets a little tired.

We currently have one of the most balanced, open and transparent councils in recent history – and the election results prove the community is smart enough to see through the smoke and mirrors, and vote accordingly.

At 30-plus per cent, Fremantle’s voters are more active in local government elections than the state average (27.5 per cent) showing they are, arguably, more politically aware.

Hotly contested

City ward, east ward and south ward were very hotly contested with a number of unsuccessful candidates being very vocal about their dissatisfaction of the council. However with more than half the votes in these wards going to the incumbents, it is clear the majority of voters support what the current council is doing.

For those who didn’t vote, perhaps it was because they also are happy with the status quo and had no issues or concerns strong enough, to warrant a change in the sitting councillor.

Thomas Jefferson said: “The government you elect is the government you deserve”. Let’s hope that as we head towards a mayoral election in 2017, the ongoing community discussions remain respectful and issue-based, and not be reduced to personalities, disrespect or unfounded accusations.

15. City of Cockburn 20x4

2 responses to “Plenty to be positive about

  1. I think Roy should at least declare that he was part of the Mayor Brad Pettitt 2013 election team.
    That he endorsed Brads Election material
    Not that I expect transparency in these situations with local council, far from it.
    Bias seem to very strong in this area.
    Failed to mention it was the worst voter turn out in decades if not ever.
    The highest turnout of candidates running for election, in like 8 years, shows the concern of the community right there I guess.
    As I have read on some of the local blogs that Roy brushes with his disdain, that the council had more people voted against it than for it, over 55% I recall, not exactly the same picture Roy has painted.
    Eye of the beholder I guess, I can see why council supporters don’t like some of the local blogs, an inconvenient source of facts they would rather people not see or hear off.
    It must have been a poor week for choices for thinking allowed pieces, as this one seems to state you can only think allowed if you agree with the Mayor and cronies. so everyone better fall in line or,,,,,,,,,,,NOT?

    Should make for an exciting Mayoral election, if anyone is bothered to turn up and vote?
    I love the local blogs all those little bits of info they come up with keep it up its a great read.

  2. Shameful oversight to not disclose the author’s alliance with the very man he applauds, eh what old chap?
    Being popular is only a measure of spin. Hitler was very popular and won landslide elections. That only 2 of the councillors read the 190 approx submissions is a certain measure of detachment and moribund sleeping whilst on the job. That fact alone proves that Barnett was correct to try to eliminate small fiefdoms.

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