Here are some more developments taking place in our municipality. Whilst councillors have sat on their hands doing bugger all about an inept planning scheme and blaming VCAT for all their ills, developers have been having a field day. This is the inevitable result – 5 developments alone providing what the planning scheme says is the ‘average’ number of new dwellings per year! Please also note that some of these are not even in what is euphemistically called our ‘Urban Villages’ (Bentleigh, Elsternwick, Carnegie) but in the now defunct Neighbourhood Centres, which are supposed to have only ‘medium density development’.

If this is not the Glen Eira you want, then make your views heard at the current Planning Scheme Review. Insist on real change and a real commitment to protecting residential amenity. Do not be satisfied with a mere tinkering of the current scheme that in the end achieves very little.

We have already outlined what residents at the first forum thought should be done. We repeat some of these:

  • structure plans
  • parking precinct plans
  • developer levies on car parking waivers and on drainage
  • stringent review of the zones and the schedules
  • tree protection and greater emphasis on environmental sustainability
  • full and comprehensive heritage review

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Why is it that Glen Eira is so out of kilter with every other council, especially when it comes to providing information to residents on vital issues, or even providing decent, informative answers to public questions.

On Tuesday night, several questions were asked in relation to meetings with the Minister (Jacinta Allen) on Skyrail. Here is one question and the response –

“Jacinta Allan met with the Kingston City Council on Thursday 21 April to discuss level crossing removals through their area. Has Ms Allan or the LXRA met with GlenEira Council to discuss crossing removals through Glen Eira, and if so what was the outcome of those discussions?

The Mayor read Council’s response. He said:

“At the invitation of the Minister for Public Transport the Mayor and the Chief Executive Officer met with her on 8 March 2016. Councillors and Council Officers have met with representatives of the LXRA on many occasions. Such meetings have involved the exchange of information and views. Council has, on each occasion, taken the opportunity to strongly advocate for community consultation on the grade separation projects.”

What is staggering about this reply is:

  • The failure to answer the most crucial part of the question (ie outcomes of discussion)
  • Why it should take a formal public question for council to even acknowledge that a meeting has taken place

Thankfully, not all councils are as secretive as Glen Eira. Kingston put out a Media Release within days of their meeting with the Minister. Here is what they had to say –

Kingston Council meets with Transport Minister to pass on community concerns

26 April 2016

Kingston Council met with Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan last week to raise community concerns about the Level Crossing Removals project.

Minister Allan, Mordialloc MP Tim Richardson and LXRA representatives visited Council’s Cheltenham offices to hear directly from the Mayor and councillors and discuss upcoming community consultation on the project.

“The meeting was incredibly productive and we were able to pass on community concerns and advocate for a well-planned strategic approach that makes the most of this once-in-a-generation infrastructure project to deliver great long-lasting results for our community,” Mayor Tamsin Bearsley said.

The Minister confirmed in principle that the next stage of community consultation, due to take around the middle of this year, would include detailed information on different options available at each individual site including environmental impacts, engineering analysis, acoustic reports and estimated costs so our community can make an informed decision and have their opinion clearly heard and taken into account,” Cr Bearsley said.

The Minister’s visit followed recent calls from Kingston Council for improved community consultation by the Level Crossing Removal Authority before any decisions are made about level crossing removals in the area.

“We presented a short video from the Chelsea and Bonbeach Train Station Group to show positive approaches and ideas being generated by our community that are alternatives to a skyrail,” Cr Bearsley said.  

“Minister Allan had also been briefed by local MP Tim Richardson on the heritage issues surrounding the Mentone station and the unique sensitivities along the Frankston line due to the close proximity of Port Phillip Bay.”

Mayor Tamsin Bearsley said councillors had received strong community feedback opposing a skyrail option for the Frankston line and criticism of recent public consultation sessions held by the Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA).

“Kingston Council will continue to work closely with our community, the LXRA, local MPs and the Minister to ensure our community is kept well-informed and actively involved in this project.”

The Victorian Government’s list of 50 level crossings for removal includes seven in the City of Kingston – Centre Road Clayton on the Dandenong line and six level crossings on the Frankston line.

Source: http://www.kingston.vic.gov.au/About-Us/Media/Media-Releases/Transport-Minister-visit

Another public question asked on Tuesday night was this –

A group of around 20 residents met Jacinta Allan last Thursday 21/11/16 at 10.40
am outside Kingston City Council following a meeting regarding Skyrail for the
Frankston line. The Kingston city Council CEO John Nevins, Mayor Cr Tamsin
Bearsley, Mayor Cr John Ronke and MP Tim Richardson can also attest to
Jacinta’s promise to meet and finally meet and respond to unanswered
correspondence and questions with our community. She indicated she was happy
to meet and to organise a meeting through Tim Richardson (or presumably our local
member). Will the Gleneira Council please follow up on this invitation and cite this promise?

And Council’s woeful response?

“If, as you say, the Minister for Public Transport has said that she is happy to
organise a meeting through the Member for Mordialloc then it would be best for
you to contact either the Minister or the Member for Mordialloc directly. You may also wish to direct your request through either the Member for Bentleigh or the Member for Oakleigh who are other members of the Government with grade separations happening in their electorates.”

PS: it is also worth pointing out that the 100 or so public questions which were taken on notice from the previous council meeting are not included in the minutes – as required by the Local Law!!!!!

PS: here’s a photo we received in conjuction with a comment. It shows a trailer parked (in a No Standing Zone) as part of the LXRA operations and presumably without a permit. Yet, council in its responses to public questions claimed that only 5 permits had been granted for ground works. The trailer has been there for well over a week! Thus, how much faith, credibility, can residents place in any response they receive from council?

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Once again the faction of Lipshutz, Hyams, Esakoff, Pilling and their newest recruit, Kelvin Ho, have successfully undermined open democratic processes in Glen Eira. In the following ‘debate’, we urge all readers to carefully consider the tenuousness, if not inanity of their arguments, the deliberate misleading and misrepresentation of the facts and what can only be seen as the self-serving motivation of their position. Years and years of appalling anti-community decisions are alive and well in Glen Eira!

ITEM 9.6 – LOCAL LAW AMENDMENT (MEETING PROCEDURES)

Lipshutz moved motion to accept recommendation. Seconded by Hyams.

LIPSHUTZ: began by saying that he chaired the Local Laws Committee and that they had met several times over the past year. Said that the motion is only to go out to public consultation. Said that the proposed amendment on Urgent Business was to facilitate councillors raising an issue that occurred between meetings. Conceded that the ‘most controversial’ proposal concerned public questions. Claimed that public questions ‘had become anachronistic’ because technology (ie webpages, email). Said that he spends many hours answering emails and getting ‘numerous phonecalls’. So ‘if you want to ask a question’ people can via their councillors. In his view ‘public questions have been abused’. ‘We have seen question after question from the same sort of people’ who ask ‘multiple questions on the same things simply to embarrass the council’.  Said that ‘the question could have been asked of a councillor’ and they would ‘have been given an answer’. So the amendment wants to move back the time for submission of public questions to 12 pm of the day preceding the council meeting. Also changing ‘should not exceed 150 words’ to ‘must not exceed 150 words’. He doesn’t want the situation ‘where one person dominates’ so they are limiting this to 2 questions. If people ask more then they won’t be read out. Further, ‘if you really want to know what the answer is, come to the council meeting’. ‘If you’re not here at the council meeting’ they will not be read out but will be answered but ‘will not be part of the minutes’. This is ‘important’ because people just want things in the minutes and ‘have no interest in coming to council meetings’.  ‘If you want it in the minutes, come here and hear us’. On right of reply, the amendment proposes to remove the clause about it having to be in writing. ‘As long as councillors have notice’ a reply can be made. They don’t want to be ‘caught by surprise. We know when someone is going to say something’.  Was sure that there would be ‘some people who do not agree’ with these changes but they can have their say and ‘we will consider’ the views.

HYAMS: said that he was ‘reasonably sure’ that in the past public questions were submitted under aliases. Currently questions come in on the day so can be taken on notice which means that people come to council meetings to hear the answers only to find that they have been taken on notice and no answer given on the night – ‘so having it a day earlier there is a better chance’ that the questions won’t be taken on notice. Also when questions come in on the day there are officers and councillors ‘running around trying to do the research’ to answer the questions.

DELAHUNTY: said she doesn’t agree with all the proposed amendments but will not oppose the motion because it is basically setting up the process for ‘further input’. Thought that the changes ‘limit the ability to participate’ for residents and it ‘almost distances’ council from ‘ratepayers’ by attempting to put in ‘more controls, less talking, less engagement, less interaction’. ‘Local government is about being the closest to the people’. Lipshutz talked about emails and phone calls from residents asking questions, so putting in these conditions is in fact ‘making it more inconsistent’ by making it harder for residents to communicate with council. When people write emails to councillors ‘we don’t say that’s enough’, you’ve asked your two questions, so why should this apply here? Wanted ‘consistent principles’ applied. Council ‘should embrace’ being more ‘interactive with the public’. Didn’t think that the proposed changes ‘embrace best practice’.

HO: said he was ‘happy to listen to any issues’ that residents raised and that he would be every second Tuesday of the month in the Carnegie shopping centre and people could talk to him between 10-12.

SOUNNESS: supported the motion to let people have their say on the amendments. Said that people had told him they were dissatisfied with the local law and one of the previous issues was about ‘frisbee’ was ‘an issue of the local law’ as well as how the ‘meeting procedure works’. He has had ‘strong conversations’ with people on this as well.

LOBO: said that ‘we need uniformity’ with other councils. There should be one law for all councils and ‘not let’ councillors ‘twist and turn what is good’. ‘The local law has to be spoken by the people’. They should be able to ‘speak in the gallery’ and not be restricted to 150 words. ‘Residents should get an opportunity to stand up and ask questions’.

MAGEE: said that councillors are available 365 days a year to the community and 24 hours on the phone, via email. They are ‘available at any stage’. Claimed that in his 8 years there have only been ‘a handful’ of questions that needed to ‘be asked at a council meeting’. He understood the part about 150 words, but he also gets emails of ‘3 to 4 pages’ and he answers. When letters come in to the mayor and councillors, then the mayor answers on ‘behalf of all councillors’.  Said that you ‘can’t have one local law’ because they cover ‘everything from dogs to footpaths’ and every council is different. Also silly to say that people should come to council meetings to ‘voice their opinion’. People have ‘voiced their opinion for hundreds of years’ and if this was permitted with the skyrail issue then the meeting would have ‘gone to 2 or 3 or maybe 4 o’clock’ in the morning. It ‘is easier if questions are taken on notice because the answer’ is mostly the same. There is plenty of opportunity for residents to ‘speak’ with councillors ‘one on one’ or via email.  Coming to a council meeting and asking a question so that it goes into the minutes you ‘have to wonder why those questions are being asked’. Said that ‘every question’ will be answered but ‘it is not up to council to sit here and have 3 or 4 hundred’ questions answered ‘one by one’.  Like Hyams said, councillors are ‘chasing answers’ to sometimes 7 very ‘detailed’ questions. ‘Those questions could have come in 3 weeks earlier’ but ‘they come in at the last minute and expect an answer’. Said that ‘we would never ever try to stifle debate or the opportunity for questions’ but ‘it’s got to be reasonable’. Said that public questions ‘tend to be about a range of things’ and he believes that they should be ‘about the agenda’. Everything ‘else can come through as a question, a letter, as an email’ to councillors.  He ‘never shirks’ his responsibility in answering questions.

ESAKOFF: agreed with speakers. Said that ‘public questions have been abused’ and that some years ago a question came in from an empty ‘block of land’ as the address, so ‘it does happen’. ‘We are available pretty much 24/7’.  Said that on some days she gets lots of calls and on other days it might only be one. As for questions on the agenda, well people could have rung councillors ‘right up to 7.30 and asked us’ rather than waiting until the end of the meeting to get the answer.

DELAHUNTY: moved a very long amendment which included: NOTICE OF MOTION; PUBLIC PARTICIPATION; PUBLIC ADDRESSING COUNCIL; QUESTIONS FROM PUBLIC WITHOUT NOTICE. Lobo seconded.

DELAHUNTY: said that there had been a report prepared on ‘best practice’ in September 2013. Said that Glen Eira was ‘the only council in Victoria not to have the ability to raise a notice of motion’. Her motion isn’t about changing the local law ‘immediately’ but is seeking public input. A notice of motion doesn’t ‘take away the ability’ in any shape or form for a request for a report. It doesn’t stop councillors from researching whatever they want, but it does give ‘your elected representatives’ what other councillors have got. Said that ‘you may hear arguments’ about political motivations. She is ‘seeking standards’ and giving residents the opportunity to bring issues ‘to the fore’. ‘It gives us the ability to put something on the agenda without the faint ability to put something on the agenda’ where ‘we have to actually wait for 2 meeting cycles’. Now they have to call for a report, have a discussion, ‘use officers’ time’ when ‘we know what it is that we’ve researched anyway’. ‘we’re all adults, we’re all capable of getting a grasp on issues’.  Officers’ time means ‘ratepayers’ money’. This doesn’t happen in other councils and ‘the sky has not fallen in’. Arguments about political purposes is totally wrong – ‘it has nothing to do with political purposes’. ‘It shows a complete disrespect for your elected representatives and disrespect for the public’.  Wanted more public participation since ‘local government should be engaging, should be closest to the people’. Questions without notice from the public is like what Esakoff said about receiving phone calls and emails everyday, ‘so why shouldn’t this be another forum where those questions can be answered?’ Said that with questions without notice from the public this would ‘echo’ what other councils are doing and also what Glen Eira keeps saying to government about ‘wanting to be the closest to the community’.  Said she remembered the resolution about skyrail where council said ‘it is not fair that residents do not get to voice their opinion to their elected representatives in a group forum’ and this is ‘the exact same thing that happens here’. ‘It is not fair that residents come into this chamber’ and can’t voice their opinion or ask questions in the same way that they can on the phone and via email. ‘It is inconsistent’ that you can do this via phone and not in chamber.

LOBO: said that ‘local laws can be created as a web’ by ‘spiders’ and when ‘the spider is the author of the local law it doesn’t apply to the people’. ‘our local law has been represented by the same councillors every year’. In a democracy there should be ‘sharing’ amongst councillors and to a ‘lay person’ so ‘we don’t have clauses that can be taken against someone who is not liked’. Was not sure if this is ‘democracy’ and people should check over the last ten years how voting has been taken in council. ‘The power should be with the gallery and not with us’. ‘we are here to represent the grassroots’ and if ‘we can’t do this then councils should be closed’.

LIPSHUTZ: said that Delahunty ‘sees the world through rose coloured glasses’. Asked the CEO if what Delahunty said about Glen Eira being the only council without a notice of motion whether this is ‘true or false’.

CEO: said that ‘I need to check for absolute accuracy’ but she understands that ‘there are other councils who do not have notice of motion’ or if they do have this, then ‘they have particular rules around how and when those particular notices of motion can be used’.

LIPSHUTZ: in ‘theory’ notice of motion is good and ‘in theory every councillor should be able to raise notice of motion’. ‘In practice it doesn’t work’. People do use it for ‘political purposes’. Councillors are Liberal, Labor and others and people have political views and that’s ‘all right’.

DELAHUNTY: point of order on relevance.

LIPSHUTZ: said it was ‘relevant’.

Delahunty again raised the point of order and asked Pilling to ‘rule on the point of order’ and that Lipshutz should be ‘silent’ until the point of order is ruled upon.

PILLING: asked Lipshutz ‘to stay on the subject’.

LIPSHUTZ: ‘it is a political issue and the fact is’ that ‘any councillor’ can use this for ‘personal reasons one after the other and hijack the meeting’. In Kingston and Monash there were notices of motion ‘one after the other’ and they ‘stayed up to 3am in the morning’.It can be used to hijack meetings’ and even though ‘we might like to think’ it won’t happen, ‘it does happen’. Also when people raise the notice of motion there is ‘no background to it’ and ‘without real research’. He brought up the issue of a ‘councillor wanting to close the mulch heap’ and he ‘came along with his own data’. ‘It was false but he did convince the majority of councillors at the time that he was correct’ but only ‘later was it discovered that it was false’. If they had had ‘guidance and a report from the officers’ and ‘had the research we would have made the right decision’.  Requests for a report are a ‘better way forward’ because ‘we then get the research’.  Lobo talks about ‘democracy’ and ‘we have what’s called an election’ and ‘councillors are elected to make decisions’. ‘That doesn’t mean we make decisions without consulting’. What ‘we don’t want’ is for councillors to ‘sit around this table and the meeting is hijacked by questions from the public or by councillors’.  Delahunty laughed and Lipshutz then said ‘I don’t think it is very funny and I ask’ the mayor to tell her to ‘behave herself’.  More laughter from Delahunty and the gallery. Councillors make decisions on planning and other things that ‘affect people’s lives’ and they have to ‘make those decisions fairly and squarely’. They can’t do that because a ‘councillor or councillors decide they want to have a personal agenda’ and they want to ‘move something which is in their party political or personal interests’.  On public questions the ‘same people invariably are asking the same questions’. You don’t see large numbers of people coming along to ask questions. Every councillor is available. ‘It is very easy to get a group of people to come together to hijack a meeting and make sure this council is not workable’.

HYAMS: accepted Delahunty saying that she wasn’t against the motion but that that was a ‘pre-emptive’ move for her motion.

DELAHUNTY: point of order that ‘that is improper’.

PILLING: asked Hyams to speak to the topic

HYAMS: public consultation is ‘reasonable’ but ‘when you think something is not going to definitely work’ then you shouldn’t put it out to public consultation and Delahunty’s amendment ‘is in that category’.  ‘We don’t need notice of motion. We have better ways of doing things’ like requests for reports. It’s better that officer reports come to council even if we ‘don’t follow officer advice’ as with the example from Lipshutz’s mulch heap where ‘we didn’t follow officer advice and possibly we should have’.  All very well for Delahunty to say that ‘we’re all adults’ but sometimes ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ so officer reports are important.  Repeated the example of Marrickville council who voted to boycott Israeli products and then had to rescind the motion when they realised their computer systems were reliant on Israeli products. There’s always room for improvement but ‘the way we have it now’ is better because other councils that have notice of motion don’t have requests for reports. In the past people had to write their public questions down before the meeting started and the vast majority were then taken on notice for answers. So this means ‘how do you unask a question’ or stop someone from asking a question if ‘they’ve got the microphone?’ People would get ‘frustrated’ because they’ve sat there throughout the meeting only to ask a question that wouldn’t be allowed or get it on notice of motion later. The amendments are ‘trying to make sure’ that unless there is a ‘massive deluge all questions get answered’. Said that this issue isn’t ‘anywhere near’ what skyrail is. Also all recommendations from the Local Laws advisory committee ‘had to come to a council meeting’.

SOUNNESS: ‘My name is Thomas and I’m here to represent you!!!!’.  Said the motion is about ‘how you and us communicate’. On notice of motion he ‘hadn’t made up’ his mind as yet because that could be a case of making up his mind before due process. Couldn’t see why notice of motion couldn’t sit alongside request for a report. Strong opinion from community and this is what council should be ‘considering or not considering’ so this is an ‘opportunity’ to get feedback and ‘see what the community wants’ then council can ‘debate’ the issue. ‘Until we have the evidence in front of us’ he didn’t think that they can make the decision about whether something is right or wrong. Even if the motion fails people can ‘still write in’ and say they want notice of motion and the other things. And ‘councillors are encouraged not to have a closed mind on things that are put forward’. Originally he was ‘mildly against’ notice of motion and now ‘I am mildly for it’. Thought that the ‘community should be given the opportunity to consider another way of communicating’ with council.

HYAMS: asked the CEO for her understanding of Winky-pop and whether this applied to things like the local law

CEO: said that her ‘understanding’ is that the Winky-pop decisions ‘relates to actions in terms of administrative decisions’ and delegations and ‘powers of the council rather than the types of discussions we are contemplating this evening’.

DELAHUNTY: wanted clarification from Pilling as to whether or not Lipshutz said that a meeting is ‘hijacked’ if a councillor uses notice of motion

PILLING: said his ‘recollection’ was that ‘issues can be raised by councillors’ to ‘score points’.

DELAHUNTY: asked Hyams whether he ‘was aware’ that her amendment allows for notice of motion’ must be given 6 business days before the meeting’ so that discussion can take place in assemblies. Also asked asked Hyams if something goes out for consultation that he doesn’t think is a good idea and people say it is a good idea whether he would ‘reject that’?

HYAMS: said he didn’t think ‘I said’ that there wouldn’t be time to discuss the notice of motion. On Delahunty’s second question ‘I can’t answer that’ because it is ‘hypothetical’.

MAGEE: on public questions said that this isn’t something that he would ‘probably support’ because if there were 150 people wanting to ask questions then ‘that would make our council unworkable’. But he would support a ‘time frame before council meeting’ which was informal and direct questions from the gallery. Thought that ‘during a council meeting is very problematic’. He will ‘reserve’ judgement until he hears ‘from the public’ but he thinks that if the ‘majority ‘ want to ask questions at a council meeting ‘I may still vote against that’. ‘I can only do what I believe is right’. The ‘business of council is very important’. They run a $150 million dollar business and ‘operates 24 hours a day’ and the council meetings are to ‘conduct the business of council’. ‘Answering questions from the public, that happens 365 days a year’. However, ‘I would welcome that interaction before a council meeting’. On notice of motion that has ‘raised it head’ countless times and there are good reasons for it as well as ‘opposition’ and ‘it can be misused’. ‘If you think that’s a way of getting things through without all the information coming out, why wouldn’t you do that?’ With an officer’s report you ‘get all the pros and cons, the costs’.

AMENDMENT PUT TO VOTE AND LOST

VOTING FOR AMENDMENT – DELAHUNTY, LOBO, SOUNNESS, MAGEE

VOTING AGAINST – LIPSHUTZ, HYAMS, ESAKOFF, PILLING, HO

Council’s record with GESAC, Caulfield Park pavilion, and countless other major works has one thing in common – the doubling of costs! GESAC was supposed to be roughly around $28m. We estimate that it is in the realm of $50 to $60m. The same with other projects. Now we have the Booran Road Reservoir.

In 2008, the estimated cost was ‘over $5m’. (Minutes of 1st July, 2008). Admittedly costs have gone up over time and there are always unexpected expenses. However, should this mean a doubling of expenditure? What does this say about ‘business plans’ and sound management and oversight?

Given the way in which council provides data it is extremely difficult to come up with figures for how much this development is actually costing ratepayers. What we do know is what is contained in the minutes and to put it simply – these figures do not add up!

In 2011 the budget stated – Booran Road Reservoir – The SRP allows for the reinstatement and redevelopment of the Booran Road Reservoir Site – $4m in 2017-2018 and $3.5m in 2018-2019. (minutes of 27th April 2011) That’s $7.5 million.

In 2013 the figures became – reinstatement and redevelopment of the Booran Road Reservoir Site as Public Open space – $5m in 2015-2016 and $4.5m in 2016-2017 (minutes of June 25, 2013) – $9.5million

In 2015 this became – Booran Reserve – reinstatement and redevelopment of the former Glen Huntly Reservoir Site as Public Open Space $4.84m in 2015- 2016 and $3.93m in 2016-17 (includes State Government funding of $585k). (Minutes of 23rd June 2015)

In the meantime of course, there has been massive expenditure on a variety of tenders and other ‘expenses’. Here are some – all taken from the minutes.

  • Booran Road Reservoir site – allow $50k for site investigation works. (Minutes of 1st July 2008)
  • Booran Road Reservoir Consultation and Master Plan Development $60k AND Feasibility Study – Booran Reservoir – $15K (minutes of 28th June 2011)
  • BOORAN RESERVOIR SOIL CONTAMINATION $60,000 (minutes of 30th August 2011)
  • BOORAN ROAD RESERVOIR COMMUNITY CONSULTATION AND MASTER PLAN DEVELOPMENT – $200,000 (minutes of  2nd September 2014)

Tenders are also interesting – especially toilets:

  • Toilets – ($473,000.00 including GST (1st September 2015)
  • electricity station – $50,215 (Inc. GST) (MINUTES 21ST September 2015)
  • The result of this tender was not published in the minutes – Supply and Installation of two double Automated Toilets – $400,000  (MINUTES OF JUNE 30TH, 2015)
  • Demolition of Sections of Existing Concrete Walls, Floor Slabs, Earth Embankments andAssociated Works for an amount of $838,504.32 exclusive of GST ($922,354.75 including GST). (23rd September 2014)
  • More toilets – $359,693.40
  • Playgrounds – ($1,886,475.80 including GST) – 11th August 2015
  • The Water Play Feature – $1.9 m24th November 2015

But the best is what’s in the current agenda – an estimated $4.01 million for ‘lighting and landscape works’ with only 3 selection criteria!!!! Please note that other councils often have 6 or 7 selection criteria.

Adding up these figures, the grand total is well and truly above $9 million ($7m alone for 2015/6) and we expect plenty more to be spent.  Yes, there might be ‘carry forwards’ but this still does not equate with what the budget figures state. Thus, the question of ‘how much is this really costing’ is worth asking – especially in an era of supposed ‘cost cutting’ and ratecapping!

PS: Not for the first time has Lipshutz and his cronies attempted to thwart what most reasonable people would consider to be open and transparent government. Below is an image from the 2013 minutes where the groundwork for the current agenda item was laid. Please note:

  • The mover and seconder of the motion
  • How the current proposed changes to the Local Law contradicts the council resolution from that time (ie all questions answered shall be minuted. The current version implies that only those ‘read’ out will be minuted!)
  • Since this September 2013 meeting, the Local Laws Advisory committee has only met on 3 occasions – 9th April 2014; 3rd December 2014; 18th May 2015. The 2015 members of this committee were – Lipshutz, Hyams, Okotel and Lobo! Need we say more? Thus 3 meetings in two and a half years to come up with this nonsense!
  • We refer readers to our post of the time in order to assess councillors’ comments – see: https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/public-questions-whittling-away/

Pages from September03-2013-MINUTES

After years and years of promising to amend the Local Law there is finally an agenda item that proposes to further erode residents’ democratic rights and to make it even harder to get answers out of council. Submissions will be called for so we urge all residents to take particular notice of what is proposed and to think carefully what this will mean for transparency and accountability in Glen Eira.

Most of the changes focus on the right to ask public questions. Here is what the arch conservatives want –

  • Agenda items are posted online on Friday after 12pm. Public questions can currently be emailed to council by 12pm of the day of the council meeting (ie Tuesday). The proposal is to reduce this deadline by 24 hours (ie Monday 12pm). Even if the argument is that officers require more time to answer questions, surely this impediment can be overcome simply by publishing the agenda well before Friday afternoon so that residents can read the agenda and get their questions in earlier? Plenty of other councils publish their agenda a week prior to the formal council meeting –(Bayside, Stonnington for example).
  • Any question that is now over 150 words WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. Previously the wording was ‘should be 150 words’ and to the best of our knowledge, no question was rejected which contained more than 150 words. Whilst some may argue that good questions should be able to be submitted below this number, there surely are occasions when detail is required and questions exceed 150 words? What this also means is that questions over 150 words will NOT BE RECORDED IN THE MINUTES. Another blow to accountability!
  • No more than 2 questions will be accepted from a single resident and they HAVE TO BE PRESENT IN THE CHAMBER FOR THEIR QUESTIONS TO BE READ OUT! Again, we are not sure whether this means that if the person is not present their questions will be recorded in the minutes. All we’re told is that the question will be answered by ‘mail or email’. We suspect that they won’t become part of the official record since another part of the proposals states that ‘The minutes will record questions read…’
  • Even the quarterly report will now only record those question read out and not the number asked!

What is extraordinary about this report is that not a single word of justification for any of the recommended changes is provided.  Why council (or rather the stacked Local Laws committee) considers any of these changes necessary and beneficial is anyone’s guess. We have no doubt that these changes are to the detriment of open and accountable government – rather ironic we feel when the state government is currently reviewing the Local Government Act with the stated intention of improving governance! We also remind readers that Delahunty is on this advisory committee!

Thus for all the promises of amending the Local Law in terms of the ‘unauthorised sporting groups’ (aka the Frisbee affair) and basic questions of Notice of Motion, that this is all that the Local Laws committee could come up with after years and years of ‘consideration’ is a disgrace. It is even more disgraceful that not a single word of justification is provided in the Corporate Counsel’s report as to why such changes are deemed to be necessary and why the new CEO has permitted such a report to even go out as the official record! All this means is the further erosion of good governance in Glen Eira and the resolve to diminish public participation even further.

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PS: Here are some of the latest designs

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