JOHN DOWSON is president of the Fremantle Society and a former deputy mayor of the city. He reckons Fremantle council has wrecked the city over the last decade and voters should be asking their candidates some of the REALLY tough questions.
THIS week, White House Correspondents’ Association president Steven Portnoy filed a formal complaint over president Joe Biden’s refusal to answer questions. Portnoy’s complaint is similar to frustrations felt by those trying to get answers from Fremantle council.
Questions such as these:
1. When will the scandal of council’s proposed new depot site be investigated? In 2014 council tried to buy a Carrington Street site for $14m for depot and land speculation but missed out, spending $7.8m on 2 Jones Street instead. When the business plan was advertised, the fact that the site was contaminated with asbestos was not mentioned. In 2018 councillors instructed officers to sell the site, but that hasn’t happened, and the site is now valued at only $3.7m.
2. What will councillors do to restore heritage to its proper place in Fremantle following council’s abolition of the heritage grants policy this month, abolition of the heritage fund (1.25 per cent of council rates), abolition of the heritage committee and abolition of the heritage and local history awards?
3. Why does council refuse to give the true total cost of the new administration building, which is millions of dollars over budget already?
4. A massive 10.4 per cent rate rise 10 years ago, a rise we still pay every single year now, was to pay for asset management reports and maintenance, but the dirty streets and damaged tourist signs all over Fremantle from Samson Park to North Fremantle are evidence of a failure to do basic maintenance. Why has council allowed that to happen?
5. Fremantle has enormous character and charm, but the issue of anti-social behaviour has not been tackled. The fire bombing of police vehicles in the middle of town was a stark reminder of how much work there is to do. What will councillors do to address this issue?
6. The Tent City debacle involved several councillors using the homelessness issue for their personal political advantage. It was a shocking episode in our history which led to the state government taking the whole of Pioneer Park away from Fremantle Council. Will candidates make sure a full enquiry is held into those events?
7. Why has Fremantle council had close to the worst government FHI (Financial Health Index) score of any metropolitan council in recent years?
8. Council sold over $40m worth of income producing assets to Sirona for $29.5 m, and so many other income producing assets, that there is only around $22m worth of income producing assets now compared with $87m in 1997. Why did incumbent councillors like Crs Sullivan, Thompson,
Lang, and Fitzhardinge support this shocking sell off of assets under former mayor Brad Pettitt?
9. Council is selling one of the last large land holdings in the middle of town (7-14 Quarry Street) after refusing to use a local agent or even putting a For Sale sign on the property and revaluing the property down by $5 million to make it easier for a developer to buy it. Why?
10. Shouldn’t council be following the 2012 Robson report into local government, which recommended councillors should not stay on council longer than 8 or 12 years, given Fremantle has a couple well beyond that deadline?
11. Fremantle has the second worst tree canopy cover in WA but council refuses to allocate enough funds to make a real difference to get to their target of 20% cover. Why?
12. Fremantle Markets: Fremantle Council and the tenant there FMPL have badly neglected the Fremantle Markets in the past 10 years. Why hasn’t the Conservation Plan been implemented and why has there been such neglect? Why is council considering a new lease instead of putting it out for tender, when FMPL have earned $20 million over the past 10 years, enough to wipe out much of Fremantle Council’s debt?
13. Why are key documents such as council’s 10 year plan and the MOU with Notre Dame years late in being written? When will council negotiate for Notre Dame to pay a reasonable sum each year instead of the current voluntary small payment?
14. A key element of Fremantle’s world famous charm and fame is its human scale, but councillors are not defending that, instead embracing large unattractive boxes. Few people like what has happened in and around King’s Square. Another example is the proposed privatisation of Victoria Quay for film studios, large non-architectural boxes contrary to council’s own policy for the area. Why are current councillors so eager for any sort of development, instead of good quality development that fits in?