Tonight is the ‘end game’ for the current council – and certain key items need to be deferred

EDITORIAL

“Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!” Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene 4

For some Councillors, and more than a few residents and ratepayers, the Bard’s words will have a certain degree of resonance as the current council, holding their last scheduled meeting tonight, has been one of the most controversial in the City’s history.

And yet that controversy could get far worse if tonight’s contentious agenda sees certain items passed on casting votes again.

We refer specifically to the proposal to raise a $50.265 million loan with Westpac for the CCS that Executive say needs to be drawn down by 14 August, interest rate and term ‘commercial in confidence, a proposal to sell the current council chambers based on two bids, commercial in confidence again even though one bid was publicised and recommended two weeks ago and a number of notices of motion pertaining to waste management and disposal.

The whole agenda reeks of Council Executive wanting to tie the hands of the next new council.

And that, in a nutshell, is why councillors must vote to at least defer the loan and chamber sale agenda items.

Consider the following;

  • Council Executive intimated strongly a low rate TCorp loan for the CCS was extremely likely. It didn’t eventuate.
  • Council Executive said the combined sale of four buildings would raise $20m. They failed to account for the three years lease and other associated transaction costs as part of that, meaning only around $10m at most would eventuate.
  • Council Executive failed to tell residents the current construction certificate for the CCS runs out on 2 September and only covers ground and foundation works.

There could be many more we could add to this, not the least of which relate to waste management, associated and other legal case cost issues and deferred maintenance practices to mention but a few.

It is obvious to CCO that when everything is taken into account, including increased loan costs, the real cost of the CCS, increasingly a building that is more administrative than cultural, is going to be well north of $100m not the $81.5m that they keep quoting.

And herein is a key reason to defer the key agenda items mentioned above for the new council. Namely Council Executive Management’s obsessive need to hide many seemingly non-controversial matters as ‘commercial in confidence’ or similar.

This is not an Executive that likes scrutiny or being open. If they were senior bureaucrats in Canberra they would have to face up to Senate Estimates hearings.

But here we have apparently even had the GM criticise a Councillor for asking questions of staff at council meetings because supposedly it; ‘questions the professionalism of staff.’ This is in spite of the fact some are on salaries of between $200,000 and $360,000.

Accountability from the resident’s paid employees should be a bedrock of a democracy. Particularly at local government level.

Sadly accountability seems to be something the CHCC senior executive appears averse to.

The new Council needs to address that as a priority.

And in doing so they should also be the council that makes the decision on CCS loans and associated asset sales.

The current council should not bind the hands of the new council on major debt issues in their last scheduled meeting. Especially controversial ones. And also given that in normal times that council would have been voted in a year ago anyway.

And in regards to accountability the words of the great British philosopher, Thomas Paine, are particularly apt in regards to tonights last scheduled council meeting when considering the excess secrecy the executive has shrouded it in;

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.” *

___________

  • Paine, Thomas. (1925) “The Life and Works of Thomas Paine“, ed. William M. Van der Weyde (New Rochelle, NY: Thomas Paine Historical Society), 6:97.

7 thoughts on “Tonight is the ‘end game’ for the current council – and certain key items need to be deferred

  1. They should defer any decision making till after the elections. There should not be any approvals passed tonight

    1. Absolutely no major decisions should have or should be made til after our election !! By rights probably half the councillors would not be on council if we had had our election last September. Should be in caretaker mode !!

  2. Or worked into proceedings somehow, along these lines:

    “That council defers these two items: the sale of chambers and the approval of the loan — and is permitted to draw from the airport lease funds to cover urgent costs for the building contractor until the date of the next term’s first council meeting when these two items may again be put forward.”

  3. Unsurprisingly, I agree with everything stated in this article. Although, as yet, there may be no direct evidence of provable corruption available, it is my opinion, formed due to the almost totally opaque nature of this council’s dealings, that this has been a council that’s about as close to being technically corrupt as it is possible to be.

    If we had a council which could be relied upon to consider the wishes and welfare of the community, before its own wants, this article would not have needed to be written. However, armed with a casting vote, we have the Gang of Four which I am convinced will ignore the need to behave appropriately, and will, in fact, push through the loan agreement and council chambers sale.

    There are several reasons for my pessimistic view. In the first instance, to refrain from ramming through the relevant motions would be to admit defeat, to recognise that the whole process has been flawed from its inception. The GoF needs to remain consistent in its bastardisation of the democratic process, if it is to be remembered as having any credibility at all. The loan and the sale of the council chambers are key issues in pushing the Knight’s Palace project to its ultimate, disgraceful conclusion.

    Consider also, that this is a council which will be dismissed in ignominy, on September 4. The leader of the GoF, our soon-to-be-ex-mayor, has already jumped ship. She expects to avoid being held accountable for the mess which she has helped to create. She must already be aware of the strength of public opinion, that thousands of community members harbour ill feelings towards her, and cognisant of the fact that, except for the support of a few hundred die-hards , her reputation as a councillor is in tatters.

    Two of her gang members will do anything in order to have the project proceed, since, in my opinion, their actions are, and have always been, driven by the prospect of personal gain. I predict that neither will be re-elected, so they have nothing to lose by behaving irresponsibly until the death.

    The final member of the gang, and the one person whom we might have expected to show some courage, and consideration for the community, will refuse to admit any error of judgement, and will vote with the gang, if only to remain consistent.

    If the community at large despises the behaviours which we have witnessed since the saga began, consider also the feelings of those who have been targeted by the community for such intense criticism, those who have used and abused their privileges as councillors – the Gang of Four.

    Each will know that they have a snowball’s chance in hell of being re-elected. (Did I mention that Knight has already seen the writing on the wall?) I suspect that feelings of anger and resentment, at what they may view as the “grossly unfair” treatment meted out to them by the community, may have engendered a need for revenge, and what better way to secure that revenge than by creating the greatest possible mess for their replacements to deal with.

    So, with the control of the council resting in the hands of four individuals, none of whom has anything to lose, I am convinced that the Gang of Four will exact their revenge upon the community by voting for both of the motions which common decency demands be held over for the incoming council to decide.

    How I would love to be proven wrong.

  4. Be careful what you wish for.

    New councillors who are unfamiliar with local government and state legislation and regulations will have a steep learning curve to discover what they can and can’t do and how many limitations there are. It is a whole new level of frustration for people trying to help their communities.

    Local Gov’t is a branch of the State Gov’t, not really separate from it. It’s just a handy way for the State to get someone else to manage local problems, and no matter how much we complain, it’s hard to get them to disband (or sack) a council.

    I don’t remember the statistics, but as I recall, most council activities are funded not by rates but by grants – repairs to roads, bridges, and infrastructure. So you really don’t want to get the State or Feds offside.

    Be careful of candidates who promise anything specific. Give preference to candidates who are honest, who pay attention, who know how to read business papers and budgets, and who are articulate. They don’t need to be good speakers (although it helps), but they do need to be able to communicate clearly to us.

    We want people who are collaborative and who know how to talk to fellow councillors and bureaucrats as well as the public.

    It’s all very well to have chatty meetings with residents and promise to look into things, (or worse, fix things), but mostly that’s so much hot air. Every part of Coffs will tell you it’s the “forgotten corner”, which makes it easy to make them promises to get a few votes.

    Honesty, transparency, intelligence. Less politics, more community concern. Coffs does have a big pool of talent, if only we didn’t spend so much time shooting people down instead of working with them.

    Happy campaigning and voting!

  5. I find the image and vailed phrasing of Shakespeare very offensive. I see the direction this local election is going and I hope this is not an Indication.

  6. Listening to the meeting last night, particularly in relation to the waste issues just proved how incredibly incompetent executive management are. Their inability to answer direct questions relating to millions of dollars in costs is appalling. You would think with the heavily publicised waste issues that executive would at least brush up on the issues prior to the meeting. Tegan Swan clearly caught the Director lying about costs that could impact the community for many many years. Lets hope a new Council sweeps up this executive mess and we get some positive action on these disastrous legal proceedings that have got so out of hand.

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