Toledo’s 10-point transparency plan

TONY TOLEDO is a long-time South Fremantle resident and was an unsuccessful candidate in October’s council elections. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED he calls for Fremantle council to adopt additional measures to increase transparency.

COUNCIL transparency is on the agenda, with recent changes being implemented in state parliament requiring all local government councillors having “to disclose gifts or travel within 10 days and the details would then be placed on an online register”.

While I doubt very much if any mining company will be wining or dining our councillors or mayor, these changes are nonetheless a small step forward.

At the election one of my key focus areas was transparency. As a ratepayer and a resident I wanted to feel comfortable that our council, mayor and councillors were indeed working for our great city, and that decisions made had our great city at heart.

Let’s face it — for me and most of us, council rates are one of the largest household expenditures, with no sign of slowing down. It’s not like we have the opportunity to shop around for a better deal.

The changes announced last week are not due to be implemented until mid-2016 and I urge the council to take my advice and implement these changes now — don’t wait until the last minute.

Be brave

Be brave, be progressive, show leadership and don’t leave it to mayor John Carey at the City of Vincent to lead the way. There is nothing to be afraid of. I also urge the council to go beyond implementing a city-wide ban on plastic bags, go the whole hog.

Let’s look at:

• travel and gift register;

• transparency around travel claims including relevance (eg, attendance at climate change conferences);

• public register for all meetings between council, councillors and mayor with external parties such as developers, interest groups and political parties;

• full disclosure on council rate rises and future rises, with a breakdown of expenditure;

• a caretaker mode while a council election is underway;

• access to council organisational chart;

• list of consultants/external contractors working within council, including their cost to ratepayers, terms of engagement and functions;

• full disclosure around political affiliation;

• improved and up-to-date disclosure around councillors’ investments and ownerships;

• clear guidelines and relationships between councillors, political parties and the granting of council-funded grants and loans.

The biggest issues our city is facing are the politicisation of our council and poor voter participation. In October, less than 25 per cent of residents and ratepayers voted. This poor participation opens the door for all sorts of issues!

Council elections are required, there is no way around them. As it stands it’s also a huge waste of money, costing ratepayers well over a million dollars every two years. I ask the council to lobby the government to make local councils a fair playing field and make voting compulsory, in line with state and federal elections.

Adopting my recommendation will put Fremantle at the forefront of reform: a truly progressive council and not just spin. Let’s face it — it is just spin for a council that identifies itself as green when we have the most antiquated rubbish recycling system there is.

Where is my rate rebate for the installation of grey water use, rainwater tanks, solar panels? I guess these all conveniently become state and/or federal government issues.

I’d also like to see the reinstatement of many community-based programs such as youth counselling, elderly and retirees’ groups.

Fremantle was once a progressive council: it was one of the first in Australia to provide free after-school care and free school vacation care. At the Meeting Place and similar facilities local kids could meet and participate in all sorts of activities. I know this for a fact as my mother was its first employee.

It’s time the council puts its focus back on core business.

I have no problem with the council having an environmentally sustainable policy, nor that it strives to lead the way, but we need balance. More than 60 per cent of our councillors have some sort environmental sustainability background. How many have taken advantage of the council’s tuition aid policy? I don’t know and I can’t see where I would find this information, unless I request it at a cost to me via a freedom of information application.

Too many experts

A case of too many experts in one field pining for our mayor’s blessing and support at the next election. They have forgotten what the true core role of a council is, and it’s not playing state or federal politics nor is our city some type of social experiment.

My point is there is way too much secrecy, too little detail to many decisions made on the run, too many of our policies changed to suit a situation without much thought on process, nor changes to policy if they are not suited.

Sadly, like many, my freedom to question our council and to point out issues within the council will relegate me to accusations of being negative and talking the city down. It is much easier to shoot the messenger than to stand up and be accountable and transparent.

Please mayor, adopt my recommendations: let’s have a real debate. Refrain from ghost writing — let’s get this city back on track. I actually think I will have to drag this council, kicking and screaming, down the path of transparency.

16. Elders Central 9x6 16. Every Real Estate 9x6 16. Jacky Ladbrook 9x6 16. Janis Heston 4x3

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