An open letter to our elected and executive council officials.

A Call for Housekeeping

By Evelyn Burger

Dear Councillors and Council Officialdom,

Thank you for taking the time and care to read through this. I will begin by thanking you, also, for your public service, a thank you which is genuine.

You have stepped aside from other paths in life, easier paths you could have taken, for a life that is swamped by demands far beyond what your roles on paper prescribe.

Thank you, sincerely.

Unfortunately, too, what I have to now say is mostly unpleasant.

Worst Council in our history?

Let’s be frank. It has to be said. As a grouping, as Coffs Harbour City Council, you have proven yourselves to me to be demonstrably the worst council in our entire history, and I am far, far from being alone in that opinion.

You obviously didn’t intend for that, but I’ve spoken my truth of it: yours is the worst we’ve ever had. 

Even if someone agrees with your projects, he or she is ensnared by the damage you have done in the way you’ve gone about them – it is damage and harm that affects us all.

Think back, please, to the beginning.  Decade after decade, citizens have lived peaceably in Coffs Harbour or its surrounds.  Decade after decade, for all but our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, citizens did so within a kindly social fabric that was our communal natural right.  

We expect, quite rightly, to live in reasonable peace and communion with our fellow people. Except for our fellow Aboriginal people, that is how our local region’s citizenry have lived under the consequences of local government since 1906.

Then everything changed with you.

The fabric of our community has undergone an assassination in my opinion.

Mr Gurmesh Singh, MP, of a higher government, has made something like this statement: “Friends of thirty years won’t even talk to each other.” He said something like that, anyway.

It’s hard to keep track, with so much social destruction going on, continually. Communal assassination. That is what you have caused, if not from your ideas and projects and decisions themselves, then from the way you’ve gone about it. Not your intention, but that’s what you’ve done.

This is no normal everyday to-ing and fro-ing, or even political rough and tumble, with which as a community we have engaged, or had put upon us, over each of those decades. We can handle that. It’s beyond what even big projects cause in other LGAs that are well-run and attempts at big project implementation are well-managed.

Instead, what you have done is attacked our right to harmonious communal living. We don’t have “a community” to which you all refer when in your roles in public or in chambers. We now in my opinion have shreds of what it should be, of what it has always been; because of you it’s now ripped, blazed, inflamed, confused, even scared, hurt. There’s even some thing going on.

Destroying our sense of community?

That’s not a community.

Let’s also be frank on this: you have, individually, been in our critical spotlight for a long time now. Some of you already have inscribed against your names the decision that ensures you will be voted out.

That is set in stone, and grew solid just as your social destructiveness grew.

Because the local election date is set, your official days in this current council are accurately numbered.  Now is the time to realise that, please.

For some of you, it’s over. For the rest I’d argue your positions are hanging by a thread and you may be lucky to make it into the next council.

Please take note of a very important discussion happening throughout the community. This discussion has arisen from your inability to manage local governing without assassinating our community well-being.

That talk now points directly to removing all of you as a whole. It’s talk that carries a sharp, serious consequence.

Sweeping change afoot?

A new Council, representing all of us, no matter our individual stance on contentiousness issues, is looking more and more likely in particular in putting the GM, Steve McGrath (below), under re-assessment.

It is looking more and more likely of delving deeper, into the executive.

It is looking towards a complete reboot.

That so much social damage has been done is cause enough for this discussion to take place. Will it result in such severe action as for you all to go? We don’t know, yet. We may well know sooner than later.

So far, on the one hand, citizens feel this is the time to flush the entire system and re-envisage a representative council that will respect the healthy communal fabric to which we are entitled, upon which our growth and well-being rests, and make that positive change to set us up for a very challenging future as it is.

A considerate council, and a properly functioning council, can put in place big issues without this destruction.

On the other hand, citizens may feel that some of you, individually, have done an acceptable job and wish for those of you to remain, even if it is for a sense of stability ongoing. However that looks like a very spare sprinkling.

But whatever happens, to the aware mind it is an absolute given that the current arrangement of councillors will change.

How this election works out, as I said, will also determine whether Council management will change. Councillors: gone. Management: uncertain.

Those two factors, alone, are enough to warrant this request, and the humble suggestion I provide that follows: Please, stop a moment, and pause for reflection.

Those big issues on the table are as uncertain as your personal positions. This is no time, now, to push forward with them. If you do, you will, with absolute surety in my mind, be the cause of the most divisive, vicious election in our history.

Think on that.

Is that what you want to do? Is that what you want to cause? And are you aware of the damage you’re doing to us outside of the LGA? Your most recent response to this communal assassination as given through Denise Knight is that  your current decision is to address the assassination of our communal fabric with “more marketing.”

Please, the kindest thing I can say about that is it will not work. All but a handful of us have made our decisions on your big issues. “More marketing” will only make it even worse for all of us. All you will be doing is firing up a blow torch and blazing to further hell what you have already done.

So much more damage to maybe persuade, what, a handful of people? In any case, to say that “more marketing” will solve the problems you’ve caused shows incomprehension and insensitivity beyond belief.

“More marketing” has to be an act of social bastardry, doesn’t it? This citizenry has had enough of your pushing and promoting and selling, okay? I listen to Moffee on the radio and read the comments under his and numerous other media sites.  The outrage does not strike one as confected or non-representative.

Decisions about your big projects were made long ago. If you haven’t persuaded anyone, accept the fact you’ve had your chance and blown it.

The new council ahead has a big enough task as it is in repairing the harm you have caused.  The last tendrils of my hopes are that you are better than giving us more of the damaging blow torch.

No more marketing, no more of what you reckon would be “better marketing.” For godsakes!

Time for some basic housekeeping to be done?

So what to do? Remember how I said some citizens want to have some stability after a new council is elected? Then why not, now, do some housekeeping?

Image result for housekeeping quotes

I know, it’s boring. It’s not grandiose. It won’t make you feel like you’re wielding or holding power – power which is only morally borrowed, now, anyway, since last September.

Let’s face it. The next council will have to clean up matters in the LGA.

Why not you do it now? Look over the LGA, look for jobs that need doing, tidying, clearing up; smaller matters to address, but important local government matters.

If you are short on tasks, having been so occupied with big issues as you all have been, please be assured that people from all viewpoints will provide you with a list of them. You’ll be given no shortage of necessary tasks. It’s actually, I should say, your job.

Now I would like you to try this. Try imagining being a private citizen who wants to put in a DA or deal with Coffs Harbour City Council on a significant matter. Imagine how they feel right now, and have done.

They’ve seen other citizen’s matters flapped around, seen others’ turn into the subject of debates and discussions and torments in an environment where the appropriateness of what you call your ‘plans’ and ‘masterplans’ is queried by you yourselves!

Or those so-called plans and masterplans are over-ruled, or completely disregarded! What kind of a ‘Masterplan’ or even ‘plan’ is that?

Doesn’t sound very good at all.

Why not also set about fixing that? With the big issues set aside, you can be inspired to clean that up. Get that straight, so people can perhaps get some confidence for the next few months and maybe take their own (actual, proper, real) plans off hold to submit them. That would really help. And then for seven months stick to them????

People have worked long and hard on their own matters and don’t have confidence to send them to you.

Can you see how fixing that would benefit everyone?

Get some more local projects moving. Nothing dramatic, no need to try to overhaul what you have – the next council will do that (new councils do) – just tidy up what you already have, make things definite, so a constituent may regain a little confidence in dealing with you.

That would be brilliant.

Get some consistency into the next seven months.

Please also imagine how choosing to do housekeeping will change us. We all be able to take a breath. We would thank you for “acknowledging” the torment you’ve caused and the damage you’ve done, and that you no longer want to do that to us.

We will be grateful beyond words for not having to deal with the alternative. If you push ahead with any of your costly ideas and projects, as I said, I expect you will cause the most vicious and divisive election in our region’s governmental history, since its inception in 1906.

So it’s simple, really. Your big projects are uncertain. A new council may stop them; continuing just adds to the financial costs, notwithstanding the social costs. Each of your positions are at utter best uncertain.

A new council may see the riddance of all of you. You can now change only a handful of minds.

Face the music, please. You’ve run your race. The game is over.

You have been made aware of the consequences I see for us all if you continue.

By getting onto housekeeping matters you’ll be laying at least a somewhat-smoother way forward for the new council to take shape and take over the bigger matters with a proper mandate. Along the way, the process of candidates publicly making their case will also occur in a much better environment, without you forcing whatever you want upon us.

Let’s get some clear air. Can you see the inestimable value in taking the wise option? The better option? The decent action?

Move a motion or whatever you have to do. Give us something binding which shows us you’re ‘fair dinkum’ and that you’ll stick to it, and that provides us something we can at least try to trust for the next seven months.

You have all been on borrowed time, anyway, since last September. How about it?

Become a wise, sensible, housekeeping council and in the last months enjoy some wholesome gratitude from the people for whom you made those sacrifices and chose to serve.

Imagine what good that will achieve for the seven remaining months until September.

We as citizens will officially take it from there.

Thank you,

Evelyn Burger

______________

The viewpoints herein are those of the author and, as with all opinion pieces we publish, don’t necessarily represent in total those of CCO.

17 thoughts on “An open letter to our elected and executive council officials.

  1. Thanks from me too Evelyn. It seems the ‘fake majority’ of Coucillors are holding the entire city to ransom, content to bumble along all whole spending millions of OUR money on legal cases, waste management and of course unwanted grandiose building proposals. Commonsense has flown out the window and headed far, far away.

  2. Evelyn that is an inspirational letter to us the citizens of Coffs Harbour. You have covered everything I believe was needed and I truly hope & pray that the councillors take note, read it and hopefully act upon the suggestions you have pointed out clearly for them. You too are the sort of person, that is someone who really cares about the community and it’s people, that should run to be a councillor at the next election I believe you would certainly get my vote

  3. To me, as in this letter, the true tragedy occurring is the damage and division within the “Community” of Coffs Harbour.

    So much of this could have been avoided or minimalised if Council had had true communication with all residents in Coffs Harbour LGA and workshops had not been restricted by rigid parameters that ensured a desired outcome.

    The residents’ discontent is about the Gordon Street project but not restricted to this. I spent three weekends at the Plaza on the protest table and was astounded at the comments made against the Council over many issues within our community and the age range for those giving these comments ranged from 20’s to 90’s.

    At a workshop a facilitator spoke about a major project undertaken in Sydney. The Mayor apparently presented the information to the community and conducted a poll of the LGA prior to commencing any activity on the project.

    The facilitator said that project in Sydney went through with community support as they had also been involved in the decision making processes.

    Our Council rejected undertaking a poll while they have been consistent in saying that whole community supported them. Why? Would it not have stopped people claiming the 15,000 signature petition did not exist or was invalid neither of which is correct? Would it not have stopped people protesting if it verified that the majority of residents did support the project and as such by democratic rule had to be accepted?

    Why no forthcoming information about the $200,000 fence around the community centre? What is that fence to achieve? It has been said that the organisations within the Centre did not support it being erected. And if there are valid reasons as to the placement of the fence what provision has Council made for the homeless residing in the tents behind the Centre?

    Why did Council take two years to finalise the Woolgoolga Town Plan and residents not know until developers started putting in DA’s exceeding the agreed height?

    And how much power does the GM and Execs hold in decision making processes? Is the information provided to councillors accurate?

    For example giving councillors an estimate based on a 2 point something percent interest rate over 30 years – appears unbelievable. Even the RBA are only saying that the rates will only be held down for two or so years not 30.

    We have been told that a comparison report stated it was not economical to update current council chambers compared to placing in the Gordon St project and as such removing access to federal and state grants for the building?

    Why when Council was aware that zoning of city hill has been changed to allow residential development why did this not come up in discussions? What are their real plans for City Hill?

    How was it to our benefit that the airport was leased in an “in confidence” deal?

    I am pretty disheartened at the moment after living in and loving the Coffs area for over 40 years. I am also hesitant to join some community groups as I am aware that some pro council residents would probably not welcome me.

    Yes we are divided and the gap is growing bigger and blame lies squarely on the Council and it’s ‘processes’.

    ________

    Originally published in the Coffs Coast Independent News Facebook page where Evelyn’s letter from CCO was linked and reproduced.

  4. Well said Evelyn. You speak for many of us with your wise words. Listen Council and hear the people’s wishes, PLEASE

  5. Well I have read through all of that. I must say I am not sure what any of it meant.
    You have not named one thing that you want done.
    How about some positive suggestions? Then maybe I could understand and perhaps even agree with you.
    You may be right with your criticism but it is a very poorly presented argument.

    1. I think that I may have found references to a couple of things which Evelyn would like done:

      “Please take note of a very important discussion happening throughout the community. This discussion has arisen from your inability to manage local governing without assassinating our community well-being.”

      “How this election works out, as I said, will also determine whether Council management will change. Councillors: gone. Management: uncertain.
      Those two factors, alone, are enough to warrant this request, and the humble suggestion I provide that follows: Please, stop a moment, and pause for reflection.”

      “Let’s face it. The next council will have to clean up matters in the LGA.
      Why not you do it now? Look over the LGA, look for jobs that need doing, tidying, clearing up; smaller matters to address, but important local government matters.
      If you are short on tasks, having been so occupied with big issues as you all have been, please be assured that people from all viewpoints will provide you with a list of them. You’ll be given no shortage of necessary tasks. It’s actually, I should say, your job.”

      “Why not also set about fixing that? With the big issues set aside, you can be inspired to clean that up. Get that straight, so people can perhaps get some confidence for the next few months and maybe take their own (actual, proper, real) plans off hold to submit them. That would really help. And then for seven months stick to them????
      People have worked long and hard on their own matters and don’t have confidence to send them to you.
      Can you see how fixing that would benefit everyone?
      Get some more local projects moving. Nothing dramatic, no need to try to overhaul what you have – the next council will do that (new councils do) – just tidy up what you already have, make things definite, so a constituent may regain a little confidence in dealing with you.
      That would be brilliant.
      Get some consistency into the next seven months.
      Please also imagine how choosing to do housekeeping will change us. We all be able to take a breath. We would thank you for “acknowledging” the torment you’ve caused and the damage you’ve done, and that you no longer want to do that to us.
      We will be grateful beyond words for not having to deal with the alternative. If you push ahead with any of your costly ideas and projects, as I said, I expect you will cause the most vicious and divisive election in our region’s governmental history, since its inception in 1906.”

    2. A few deep breaths might blow oxygen in to the brain and open up the perception receptors, Laurie. Or perhaps someone can draw Laurie a picture.

  6. Sorry Laurie,I find your reply rather confusing you seem to say you do not understand what Evelyn is trying to say, then you finish by saying that you (Evelyn) may be right.
    What the Hell are you trying to say?

  7. Considering they have had time to do the right thing, they will not change, the bastardry behaviour is entrenched in their ways.

  8. I’m saddened to say it, but this sharply-worded piece of truthfulness will have about as much effect on Coffs Harbour City Council as Alexei Navalny’s protests have on Vladimir Putin.

    But great representative effort.

  9. Be assured the boxes are all ticked! Community consultation does take place – but only with a selected few who are known to support the proposal. In the same way, the Consultants engaged to advise Council (at a significant cost to us the ratepayers) are keenly aware that future business depends on a sympathetic report, consistent with private briefings. The principle being, don’t allow a question to be asked unless you can control the outcome.

  10. When passion is tempered with common sense, we are treated to the privilege of reading a document such as this. I’ve read some excellent statements regarding the issues of The Glass Castle, and council’s woeful overall performance, and this beautifully balanced, expressive and coherent assessment is yet another.

    Evelyn has identified the fundamental problems with council and delineated them in a purposeful fashion, refraining from the use of bombastic statements, such as we have seen from the less intelligent and more militaristic arm of council’s supporters.

    Evelyn’s writing has refocussed our attention upon the real issue.

  11. Its time for the rules of candidates to serve on the council is changed. My Idea is –Because Coffs has grown over the years to a reginal center of NSW. It is now ready to be split up into wards.
    This means that North -South – East – and West Coffs should have a representative to stand for that area, no matter how many apply for that council position. The voters will decide. This in my opinion will represent a democratic outcome for the people of Coffs.

  12. To CHCC Councillors and Executive.
    The citizens of the Coffs Harbour LGA need a clear demonstration that CHCC is not headed to where Central Coast now find themselves – hopelessly in debt.
    Clr. Sally Townley successfully called for a review of our financial status mid 2020. A crucial question for the future of our LGA – and what was the outcome? Zero!
    Accountability and transparency is our democratic right, and it is time to deliver.

  13. I looked at the fly-through of the CCS-idea just now presented in ‘The Advocate’ with Evelyn’s letter in mind.

    The video is very sad. So much destruction, for that. Thought it might be useful to get back to a couple of matters that are raised by it.

    As citizens we sometimes lose sight of who owns what. It is always healthy to remind ourselves of some simple inalienable ownership rights.

    I used to think that a government is a big, immovable kind of fortress. It’s not. It wants to look like that, and often does, and it often relies on appearing big and immovable and capable and important. But the truth is: you own it all. At least, that’s how I’ve come to see it, in researching our shocker of a situation. Let me know if I’ve got it wrong. Thus, here are a few things as I see, like that:

    Firstly, let’s hear what some of the laws say. It’s interesting and easy, but the fun stuff is below. This is from The Director General’s GUIDELINES FOR THE APPOINTMENT & OVERSIGHT OF GENERAL MANAGERS (2011). And yes, you own all this too, through Mr Gurmesh Singh, MP.

    https://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/Guidelines-for-the-Appointment-and-Oversight-of-General-Managers.pdf

    * It says: “The purpose of these Guidelines is to assist councillors to be aware of their obligations under the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) and the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 (the Regulation) when recruiting, appointing, reappointing and overseeing general managers.”

    * It also says: “The position of general manager is pivotal in a council. It is the interface between the governing body comprised of elected councillors, which sets the strategy and monitors the performance of the council, and the administrative body of the council, headed by the general manager, which implements the decisions of the governing body. The relationship between the general manager and the councillors is of utmost importance for good governance and a well functioning council.”

    * And this: “The only staff position that is appointed by the governing body of council is that of the general manager. The position of general manager is a senior staff position (s334). The general manager is responsible for the appointment of all other staff (including senior staff) in accordance with the organisation structure and resources approved by the council’s governing body (s335(2)). However, the general manager may only appoint or dismiss senior staff after consultation with the governing body of council (s337)”

    * This: “The performance of the general manager must be reviewed at least annually against the agreed performance criteria for the position. Council may also choose to undertake more frequent interim reviews of the general manager’s performance.”

    Thus, the General Manager answers to the governing body. That is, he answers to the councillors. It is not the other way round. (I might comment more on this at a later date. I’ve followed meetings and I feel the situation is not good. By the way, check ’em out in chambers for best behaviour now, for a couple of meetings, after Evelyn’s letter.) However, for the running of local government on day-to-day matters the Mayor ‘oversees’ the General Manager; and pretty much the mechanism for disciplining the GM is at the Mayor’s discretion.

    * Under the actual legislation, this element is relevent:
    Section 226 Role of mayor is as follows: (b) to advance community cohesion.

    https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1993-030#sec.226

    Our mayor’s argument, as gathered from an abundance of Volume 10 budgerigarble, is that if the CCS-idea is built our region will be cohesively agreeing how fabulous it is.

    * The obvious lesson from other LGAs where ideas and projects have also been disastrous, being under a toothless Minister, is that the only effective corrective mechanism is for citizens to take action.

    Now the fun stuff.

    * You – you, the voter – choose the General Manager. At least, that’s your right and the power you hold. As I understand it, the choosing of our current GM underwent a non-traditional process – a procedure we need to investigate and set straight. So we have to reclaim that selection process.

    So the process usually follows this path: You choose the councillors >> the councillors represent you as they choose the GM.

    The General Manager chooses the executive. Thus, you choose the Executive through your choice of General Manager.

    So it goes like this. You choose the councillors>>Your councillors choose the GM>>GM chooses the executive.

    * That also means the General Manager and Executive, and indeed the Councillors, all with big capital letters looking very important and all-powerful, are in effect acting in their positions on loan from you!

    * This point is, I feel, extremely important to bear in mind. When the system boils down, You own the use of the Coffs Habour City Council letterhead. You own the use of the Coffs Harbour City Council logo. You own the use of the Coffs Harbour City Council regalia. You own the abbreviation CHCC. Everything that is sent to you from Coffs Harbour City Council, in emails, through the post, through media, in signage, in public displays – all of that is packaging and at the end of the day you own the use of it.

    Every time you see things like that coming from Council it is sending it out on packaging you own.

    * Using that letterhead and all of that regalia, until September, I assure you this council will time and again push onto you it’s notion of how well it has done, how much it has achieved, and how fantastic your future will be. It will sound very important and look very official. I expect you’ll get a lot of it.

    * When I get stuff like that, or read it in media, or on the TV, I find it helpful to ask myself: “What has it actually done, and how has it done it.” I find that helpful, rather than simply accepting what it says about itself. I also ask: “What is it not telling me.” I also find it helpful to talk about this with my friends, and compare it to what Council is saying about itself. Especially because we’ll get so much of it this year.

    For new candidates who are thinking of running, and for what it’s worth, I think that if you say you will be “Assessing the General Manager’s methods and performance” you will definitely have a strong platform for this year’s election. It is extremely healthy and expresses all citizen’s rights. People will enjoy the fact a new candidate is recapturing and expressing the truths above. It can only do citizens good. You cannot be fairly (or effectively) criticised for speaking every voter’s right. Power to you.

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