Local, Opinion/Comment

A ratepayer ‘vents his spleen’ about the CCC to our representatives

I’m fed up with all of the bullshit surrounding Knight’s Palace, so much so that I’ve decided to step up my correspondence to the powers that be.

By Julian May (Reprodued here at CCO with the author’s permission)

I’ve copied a couple of my most recent emails below, along with some comments and explanations:

Email to Gurmesh Singh:

I write to thank you for your support of the ratepayers of Coffs Harbour. Although your letters regarding a suspension of progress on the flawed Civic Centre proposal, to the Ministers for Local Government, and for Planning, may achieve nothing of substance, you have, at least, done something for us.

Gurmesh Singh

Comment:

I am “apolitical” in the sense that I regard political parties as just that – opportunities for pollies to get together at our expense and have fun – and most politicians as parasites. No matter which party is in power, the public get screwed in the interests of promoting the welfare of that party.

For several years I refused to lodge a formal vote in state and federal elections, unless I could find someone worthy of my vote. There were very few.

Then I decided that my vote would be better serving the community, if I voted against the least preferred candidate, rather than in favour of any other. It became a matter of choosing the lesser of several evils.

In my opinion, it matters not for whom you vote, you still end up electing a politician.

I feel some sympathy for Gurmesh Singh. It is just possible that he is one of those rare pollies – one who takes his job, and its social implications, seriously, but I will vote against him in the next election, in a vain and pathetic attempt to punish the State Government for its inaction on the Coffs council debacle.

Email to Denise Knight:

Although you chose to ignore my last email to you, and will likely do the same with this communication, I feel compelled to express my disgust at your on-going behaviour, with respect to the proposed construction of new administrative offices and attached cultural spaces.

Last evening, you chose to reject the opportunity to behave appropriately with respect to your plan to construct what may eventually, if your apparent obsession is realised, became known as Knight’s folly.

Had you not, again, used your casting vote – an undemocratic, reprehensible, irresponsible and unconscionable, although technically legal, act – you might have saved face, and been able to withdraw with dignity from the suicidal position in which you have place your political career.

The excuse had been provided for you. You might have been seen as acting responsibly, with due regard for the economic welfare of Coffs Harbour. Instead, your behaviour in using your unfair advantage to pursue your own ends, in my opinion, borders on the megalomanic.

Whilst your few sycophantic supporters, and those with a vested interest in seeing your plan succeed, may pat you on the back and admire “your courage in the face of adversity”, many thousands of Coffs ratepayers will be immensely grateful for the opportunity, which you will give us, to impose a resounding defeat and public humiliation upon you, at the next council election.

Cr Denise Knight, Mayor of Coffs Harbour

Comment:

There are none so deaf, as those who will not hear. This person’s behaviour is beyond contempt.

Email to Sally Townley:

In our recent telephone conversation, you, in part, justified your stance on Knight’s plan by describing council’s current excellent financial position, and suggesting that the project was easily affordable. This would indicate that you are aware of the probable economic impact of the mayor’s plan, upon Coffs’ ratepayers.

Without your knowledge and expertise in large scale financial management, I cannot argue this issue with you.

However, I would ask whether the fact that the project may be affordable, is sufficient reason for it to go ahead, in the face of large scale opposition from the people will pay the bills.

In other words, is it fair and reasonable to force upon people, something which they do not want, and then to add insult to injury by making them pay for it?

In my first email to you, I suggested that a straw poll could be conducted by using email contacts with all residents who receive rates notices electronically. I hope that you can tell me why it would not be possible to conduct such a poll, using this plan:

Step One – identify all ratepayers who can be contacted by email.

Step Two – send to those people an email containing unambiguous questions, such as:

·      Do you support the proposal to spend at least $76 000 000 to build a joint administrative office and cultural precinct in Gordon Street?

·      Do you support the proposal to spend at least $76 000 000 to build a joint administrative office and cultural precinct in another location?

·      Do you support the proposal to build a cultural precinct, without included administrative offices, in Gordon Street?

·      Do you support the proposal to build a cultural precinct, without included administrative offices, in another location?

The email should ask for yes or no responses, to be forwarded by a specific date.

Step Three – Collate the results and determine the proportion of respondents as a percentage. This will enable council to determine whether or not the response can be taken as representative.

Step Four – Calculate the number of affirmative and negative responses to each question and express these as percentages of the total number of responses.

Step Five – Regardless of the outcome of the poll, publish a report, via all available avenues, which provides data in an easily readable and comprehensible form, to state the ratio of respondents to ratepayers, and to reflect the views as a percentage of the respondents to each question. It should be possible to say, for example:

XX% of ratepayers were contacted by email.

XX% of those contacted responded.

The number of respondents represents XX% of Coffs Harbour ratepayers.

To question one, XX% answered yes and XX% answered no. (Repeat for each question’s data.)

I suggest that, by doing this, you and your fellow councillors may obtain an impartial view of the community’s attitudes to the mayor’s plan, and that you may then act accordingly, as those who represent the wishes of the people.

Of the four councillors who support the mayor’s plan, only you and Michael Adendorff provided any response to my previous communication.

It would be pointless for me to contact Mr Adendorff again, given that he has so much to gain from the plan’s implementation. Therefore, I will not waste my time communicating with those councillors who will, most likely, ignore me.

Cr Sally Townley

Comment:

Gai Anderson sums up the situation with Sally Townley quite brilliantly –

“Good grief! Are there two identical twin Sally Townleys!? Subbing on for each other during meetings……
Sally is flip flopping more than a caught fish in the bottom of a tinny!

I continue to be amazed, and very disappointed.

I voted for Sally, and I … .. until mid last year, and not just about the CCS Project …. have always found her before then to be rational, logical and usually on the same page as the community majority…. but now …. not so except for two occasions: when she put the motion to get the financial Peer Reviews into CHCC’s Long Term Financial Plan. And in first part of debate on the suspend motion at last Thursday’s meeting.

She has contradicted herself and been inconsistent during this interview too!

Gobsmacked. Totally gobsmacked. But Sally has always remained approachable and I will ask to talk.to her early this week. ……”

Emails to Keith Rhoades, Tegan Swan, John Arkan, Paul Amos;

I wish to applaud your persistence in the matter of Knight’s Palace. In the face of such bloody-minded, entrenched and immoral opposition by Knight and her coterie, it would be understandable if you threw your hands in the air and gave up the fight.

Please do not. I am sure that you have the support of the vast majority of Coffs ratepayers.

For your information, I have included below a copy of my communication today, with Sally Townley.

The eight current CHCC Councillors. From left Cr Rhoades, Cr Townley, Cr Adendorf, Cr Knight (Mayor), Cr Ceccato, Cr Swan, Cr Arkan and Cr Amos.

Comment:

These people deserve a medal – no, make that one each!

I have again contacted the “Big Guns In Macquarie Street” – a pointless and futile exercise – again asking both Ministers For Local Government and for Planning, to do something constructive about the farce which is our local council. I’ll get the same meaningless and banal pro forma reply as before, but I’ve very deliberately made the point that I’ll actively (but reluctantly) campaign against Gurmesh at the next state election, in the hope of seeing them losing power.

So, on we go. If I can summon the energy during the next couple of days, I might look into making contact with the ABC, in the hope of getting something like a Four Corners programme initiated.

10 Comments

  1. John Christie

    A great article, Julian, your experiences with the State Government and frustrations with our bad 4 and Council is shared with many of us.
    However, I wouldn’t agree with your reasons not to vote for Gurmesh. So far, he has done a great job representing our town and the only politician that cares.
    With regard to council elections, as long as we have compulsory voting, no wards, groups and voter apathy we will always will have the Knights, Adendorffs and Townleys getting elected.

    • Thanks, John. It would go against the grain to vote against Gurmesh, given his performance to date, but his government must be held to account for their inaction, so far, on the Coffs council issue. It may be that I would be cutting off my nose, to spite my face, to punish Gurmesh for the sins of his superiors. Hopefully something positive will be forthcoming from that quarter.

  2. Gai Anderson

    Excellent, a totally spot on expression of how I
    AND I have absolutely no doubt also many others – thousands, if not tens of thousands, of others –
    feel about the aspects put forward by you Julian.

    Well done. Please keep us informed of any responses you receive.

    As a result of yet more time and effort of mine that’s had to be invested in “all things CHCC” over the last two weeks, I too find myself feeling quite devoid of energy, and very drained. No doubt more others than just you and I feel this way.

    I had to force myself, this morning, to continue on from where I got up to yesterday with writing to Gurmesh, Ministers Hancock and Stokes, the OLG, the Premier, Moffee, Ray Hadley, our GenMgr and all the councillors – a term that does include the Mayor, and that helps me refrain from using my usual “KnightMayor”.

    I routinely also blind carbon copy in quite a cohort of those community members very actively leading the fight of the 80% majority of people in Coffs’ LGA.

    The statistic of 4 to 1, (IE the 80%), came about via a pair of online petitions, as to for and against, last year, prior to the hardcopy petition, that basically saw 1 in every 3 voters go out if their way to sign it over a period of only 2 or 3 weeks!

    The 80% statistic was borne out as still applying now by a poll the Advocate ran very recently.

    And when I do BLIND copy people in I make the fact that I have done so clearly known to all the other recipients.

    I do that, and send to ALL of the Council, and the General Manager, in the interests of exercising total TRANSPARENCY!

    Something that is sadly and disappointingly not ALWAYS facilitated by CHCC – IE the Council and the council …… lower case being the staff and executive. Despite it being a published stated goal and achievement.

    Over the weekend I plan on supplying CCO’s Editor with a document that proves Cr Adendorff has a SIGNIFICANT non-pecuniary interest he’s not been declaring, in addition to not declaring his interest due to CBD properties he owns.

    This other interest is due to his involvement in the Coffs Hbr Chamber of Commerce, in which – according to what is published on it’s website – he holds the board positions of Secretary and PUBLICITY OFFICER. IE he is responsible for the Chamber publishing a news item last winter that states economic benefit WILL result from building the Gordon St complex.

    I have repeatedly tried to get it through to him, the Mayor and General Manager – particularly – that this is an expressly specified, in appropriate Regulations and the Code of Conduct, type of SIGNIFICANT non-pecuniary interest that MUST be declared. To no avail.

    The critical part of this is that SIGNIFICANT non-pecuniary interests have to.be “managed” in exactly the same way as pecuniary ones!!!

    Yep …that’s right …… to be managed by him being excluded from participating in this matter. An issue for which he can’t “have it both ways”.

    IE: He can’t claim no pecuniary benefit on the one hand, and also be responsible for a business body publishing that there will be economic benefits on the other!!!

    Supplying that proof to the same “all and sundry” list of people I sent correspondence to yesterday, in support of those emails, is what I had to force myself to do today.

    Next thing is to phone the Minister’s office, and hope that this time it doesn’t just go to voicemail. It never used to, COVID-19 making it impossible for both the Minister’s and the Premier’s office staff to take calls.

    If the agenda for next Thursday’s meeting has any items of business to do with the CCS Project, or the selling off of OUR assets it becomes even more desperately needed that Minister Hancock intervenes BEFORE then – as to her on-air undertaking to take action about Cr Adendorff’s failures to do the right, and MANDATORY thing.

    Besides the issues regarding our Mayor, the – hugely negative – impact Cr Adendorff has had is almost inestimable: masses of people have invested and donated their time and effort to fight what his vote has allowed ….. that being to give our Mayor the means to repeatedly take the step of using a casting vote that, sure, is legal but is unconscionable, and not in keeping with governmental convention.

    The meeting agendas are usually uploaded by the close of business on the Friday prior, IE today. I suggest … ask … that you consider perusing the list of items being dealt with.

    I truly hope we don’t see an item of business putting forward Expressions of Interest tendered in regard to purchasing any/some/all of our, OUR, CHCC owned properties. The tender period closed some time ago…….

    Thanks for listening. I will see if this can also be published on the FaceAche group “Coffs Coast News and Views” …. please visit and request to join that fairly new independent media outlet.

    The administration of the group have set it up largely in response to the deterioration of our local paper since it went to being Murdoch owned.

    If you like what I have written feel free to share it from there, or copy and paste from here. The more locals who know what’s really going on the better!

  3. Bronwyn Scott

    Coffs council need a thorough financial investigation. Hopefully 4 Corners will soon expose the rot from the top down. How are 15,000 ratepayers totally ignored and the Mayor’s casting vote carries the final say.
    This is absolutely outrageous. Unfit to govern.

  4. I can certainly understand your frustration, it seems to me that no one other than Ray Hadley is even interested in the way the CHCC. treat the residents that voted for them, believing they would do what they were elected to do. SERVE THE COMMUNITY. My Dad was born here in 1912 and there have been a lot of Shire Presidents and Mayor’s come and go,some great, some not so great.But this current Mayor is the worst of all because she cares nothing for anyone other than herself.BUT this too will pass,and she will be remembered in my opinion as the Mayor that divided a city and broke it.

  5. Deborah Hawkes

    Don’t give up the fight! And thank You for trying to give overpriced rate payers a voice

  6. I’ve been following the CHCC debacle for some time now, and I’m amazed by the energy and dedication of people like Gai. They do all of the leg work, the hard work, which enables me to sit back and make comments.
    For many years, in the interests of maintaining my mental health (not, in any way, a facetious comment) I’ve avoided any engagement in politics at any level. It has taken the behaviour of Knight’s Party to force me into some relatively minor involvement, but I’ll certainly be following up on Gai’s request.

  7. 40cmPedestalFan

    Bit cliche, for sure, but why not: “Tell us how you really think!”

    What comes through, though, Julian, is the terrible frustration and actual pain of a person who tried, in the first instance, to seek information and express a legitimate view … only to have that crumpled up and chucked in the bin. It is reprehensible. Do look after your mental health. This CCC situation is fraught and screaming and something is going to break – take your breather and enjoy the days and make sure it isn’t you.

    I’d like some help if anyone would like to contribute. In looking over this issue and seeing so much wrong with it, it seems however that one part of it is top of the horrible heap. And by a stinking long way. It’s this: Council consulted with the public and ignored the response.

    That’s as far as I can get with it. I don’t understand the nuance there; the ins and outs. What is particularly troubling if that distillation above is accurate, and not rendered inaccurate by some codifed clause, is that the mere requesting of public input is sufficient, thereby satisfying some law or statute and rendering the Minister impotent.

    What am I missing? I mean that genuinely, I don’t have a grasp of the process. The reason I ask is twofold: the first is that most other people I know have merely trusted the process (of community consultation by Council) and like me looked no further into it, for which I’ll admit ignorance though it worries me latterly that if there are loopholes or extenuating or qualifying legal clauses in that process it should be more widely known; common knowledge, in fact.

    The second reason is the kicker: unless any such clause exists and everyone does know about it, and it’s my entire ignorance bringing a moot point to light, then it’s this part of the process that could lift this Coffs Coast issue to national prominence in a quality media investigation. (I’ve expressed elsewhere on these pages the harm that can come when this issue gets put through the meatgrinder that is the shockjock machine, a process that has already begun, being at the audience aggravation stage, but may yet be stopped by stopping the project.) Put simply, if any Council can ‘consult’ and then do what they like, it deseres quality media focus and to be fixed. If that consultation process is unclear, and has been exploited by this Council, then that is definitely the key component by which to contact quality media programs and get it brought to light, with minimal personal harm to those involved, and get it dealt with.

    And maybe someone can shed some light on whether it has happened anywhere else. If it’s just us, we could turn the ugly media attention (that I believe is sure to come) and have the name Coffs Coast seen in a good and welcome light by the wider nation and not the ugly one we’re currently headed for.

    I get the casting vote thing, I get the economic crisis context, the personalities and so on, so much wrong with it, but that – Council ignoring public response – is the killer for me.

  8. Following my criticism of their journalistic standards, we don’t often get a copy of “The Advocate” any more, but I got hold of today’s edition and was pleased to see some additional voices being given the opportunity to speak about the alleged civic centre, and some associated issues.

    The letters in “Your say” reflect both naivety and frustration. Denise’s claim that construction of her new office, with attached cultural precincts, will create jobs and growth, has been shown to be misleading. Local jobs for local people would come from smaller and more plentiful public works. The builders of a monolith such as she proposes, will almost certainly be from out of town, bringing their own labour force with them.

    This would be in keeping with council’s out-sourcing of several other allied ventures recently.

    Criticism of Gurmesh Singh for representing the people of his electorate would seem to be somewhat facile. Surely it is the function of a local member to speak out in the interests of his/her electorate, especially when faced with an intransigent block of councillors which insists on ignoring the wishes of the majority of ratepayers.

    Common sense rears its head once again, in the call for the election of a new council member to fill the existing vacancy which gives Denise Knight the power to dictate her terms to the community. Needles to say, such a sensible and practical suggestion will almost certainly be ignored.

    However, we may perhaps be encouraged to some extent, to see some editorial balance in the local paper, and to witness the expression of considered views from more contributors.

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