By Michael Giles
LAST week’s South Gippsland Shire Council meeting was an utter schmozzle.
If you’ve got nothing better to do, you might like to listen to the podcast from the meeting, available on You Tube through the council’s website, and count the number of times councillors raise ‘Points of Order’ during the five-hour session.
It might also give you an insight into the dysfunctional nature of the council at present.
And if this is how they behave in public, what must it be like behind closed doors?
What it basically means is that most, if not all of the councillors don’t know their meeting rules, that there’s not enough goodwill between councillors to cover those deficiencies during debate and that the Mayor Cr Ray Argento doesn’t know enough about meeting procedure to give them any guidance or to pull them quickly into line.
At the very least it results in hours of wasted effort, at the worst though, it threatens the proper democratic processes of the council to the detriment of the community.
Of most concern to some of the councillors last week, and you can see them reacting on the podcast of the meeting, was the “grandstanding” by Cr Meg Edwards, who chose to speak her mind on the subject of committing $3.8 million to the refurbishment of the Mirboo North Swimming Pool.
Mind you, that’s not the end of it.
The shire is proposing to spend considerably more than that on adding other aspects outside the scope of the $3.8 million refurb, including a fully enclosed swim/spa area and gym/dry program room.
But oh dear, Cr Edwards should have briefed the other councillors first, they say, behind closed doors, of her intention to raise this sacred cow issue in public debate.
And this is a council that wanted to be more open and transparent than the previous council!
Some of those critical of Cr Edwards, including Crs Hill and McEwen, have been exactly the same people “grandstanding” populist positions themselves in the past.
It’s the pot calling the kettle black.
But what’s it going to hurt for a councillor to use his or her five minutes at a meeting to get an issue of concern off their chest?
Ultimately it still comes down to a vote.
It might actually open up some of these previously closeted issues to the fresh air. Of course they should be allowed to do it.
The first thing the Mayor Cr Argento needs to do is take his council back to school, to learn proper meeting procedure and proper respect, and along the way ne might learn enough himself to keep the meetings in order.