By Michael Giles
CR DON Hill should pull his head in.
Because, if there are two things that can be gleaned from the election results in the South Gippsland Shire, it’s that the voters don’t want to see a repeat of the back-biting they saw from councillors in the last regime, any more than they want to see a ‘$32 million’ Taj Mahal built in Leongatha.
They want to see a council that can work harmoniously together, that can accentuate the positive to drive jobs, growth and tourism; and that can be open and transparent with the community.
They also want a council that can get on with the job of identifying efficiencies within the shire to release funds for improvements in works and services.
But last week, Cr Hill went back to his old ways.
He sent around a nasty email to his fellow councillors, ahead of this Wednesday’s vote for mayor, accusing them of being “duplicitous” and “untruthful”, of being prepared to “horse trade the mayor position for decisions outside of that vote” and of not supporting someone with experience (presumably himself, Andrew McEwen or Lorraine Brunt) for the position of mayor, and the $75,000 allowance that goes with it.
He claimed the new councillors will be setting the shire back two years by choosing Ray Argento as a clean-skin mayor, while accusing them of excluding some council members from the decision-making process and, at the same time, of breaking the spirit of an agreement forged between them at their first meeting, on November 2, to work collaboratively together.
That agreement didn’t last long!
Cr Hill expresses his annoyance at being excluded from the decision to pick a mayor, before there can be an open debate about it and of being excluded from the role of deputy “because I am not female”, while claiming that all “this decision will achieve is a fractured council”.
At the same time, he claims credit for getting the new councillors elected in the first place, after the voters “chose to increase support to Andrew and myself and reduce support to the other councillors that allowed new candidates to emerge and gain election.”
It’s quite a rant.
Notwithstanding the fact that 1263 people in the Tarwin Valley ward gave him their ‘first preference’, more than 6000 people in that ward alone gave their ‘first preference’ to someone else, so you can’t afford to start drinking your own bath water just yet, Don.
The fact is that just because an “experienced” councillor isn’t elected as mayor, his or her experience is not automatically lost to the council. In reality, it can be better to have that experience on the floor of the council, where it can be brought to bear on the direction of a debate and its outcome.
This is not a presidential system, where the leader is directly elected by the people and commands his or her own power. It’s a collegiate system where the mayor is more a facilitator and even when he or she does speak on behalf of the council, is “…at all times representing the Council’s views rather than their own views…”
In theory at least, the council could vote to throw out a mayor who isn’t performing to its expectations.
Anyone who has been in Jaycees, Rotary or Lions, who has attended and chaired proper community meetings, knows enough to step up to the role of mayor and if they have the time, are a quick student and get good support from the rest of the council, can do a good job on behalf of the community.