Freo's View

IS PREFERENTIAL COUNCIL VOTING THE FUTURE?

 

Local Government Minister David Templeman has received 65 recommendations on how to improve local councils, from an expert panel, and some of the suggestions are very interesting.

One of them is that the entire councils will be up for re-election every four years, in between state elections. I think that is a pretty good idea. At present half of the councils get elected every two years, which is a waste of money when one considers the low voting participation.

The recommendation of changing local council elections from first past the post to preferential voting would change the political landscape in Fremantle and many other councils. Some of those on councils now would not have won the election under a preferential voting system, which I believe is the fairer  and more democratic option of the two.

The next council elections are in October next year, so if Minister Templeman agrees we could have a very different election campaign in 2020 and probably a drastically changed council.

Roel Loopers

CAN WE GET CONSENSUS ABOUT NEW NAME FOR KINGS SQUARE?

 

Does Fremantle’s Kings Square need a new name, an Aboriginal name, a dual name? Most Councillors had something to say about it, with Councillor Doug Thompson being quite ambivalent about it. Whatever the outcome it has to be after a long and intense public community consultation process they all agreed.

The name  Midgegooroo, the father of Yagan, had been suggested and some elected members scoffed at the criticism that the Aboriginal elder had been accused of murder, with one Councillor saying we would lose half of Fremantle’s street names if we excluded people who had killed others.

Teachers had asked Councillors how their students could become involved in suggesting a new name for our city square, and it was important to open up the reconciliation conversation and take it outside Council and to the community, where we could expect a large diversity of suggestions.

Councillor Marija Vujcic said the terms of reference for community participation needed to be defined as inclusion was the key principle, while Mayor Brad Pettitt said they needed to make sure to get it right and have a robust debate about it in the community.

The name Walyalup civic centre was approved as the name for the new building at Kings Square as that had been one of the outcomes of the Walyalup Reconciliation Action Plan(WRAP), but Councillor Marija Vujcic said that was not a mandate and questioned the community consultation.

Councillor Hannah Fitzhardinge pointed out that the WRAP working group, of which I was a member, was not just Aboriginal people. She is right. There were about 100 people with different backgrounds and professions, and support agencies, including WA police, St Pat’s, etc and about 35 Aboriginal people at this extensive community process.

Fact is that there will be dozens of suggestions for a new name for Kings Square and many who will want it to remain Kings Square or go back to St John’s Square, after that it will still have to be a Council decision what the new name will be, so is it going to be a lottery, tossing a coin, suggesting a small number of names and let the community vote on it? But the latter would still be controversial as it will be impossible to get community consensus about a new name for our city square, and anything else for that matter.

How many people can councils realistically involve in the community consultation process about anything? Fact is that most people care little about what goes on in local government, as the low voter participation at elections clearly shows, so when do Councillors have a mandate to decide on anything? I thought the outcome of elections was the mandate for elected members. We elect them to make decisions on behalf of the community.

Roel Loopers

 

 

WE DON’T BUILD COMMUNITIES. WE BUILD PLACES OF ISOLATION

 

There was an interesting panel discussion NO FIXED ADDRESS, to discuss the importance of social housing and building diversity in our urban centres, in the lovely courtyard of DADAA in Fremantle’s Princes May Park, last night with Dr. Mariana Atkins, Research Associate Professor, The Centre for Social Impact, University of Western Australia and the UWA Living Lab, Dr Holly Farley, Research Fellow, Fremantle School of Architecture, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Dr. Shane Greive, Urban and Regional Planning, School of Design and Built Environment, Curtin University, Michael Piu (CEO, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre), and  Heather Thompson (Senior Assertive Outreach Worker, 20 Lives 20 Homes Program, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre).  It was facilitated by Lisette Kaleveld, Senior Consultant, The Centre for Social Impact, University of Western Australia.

Changing cityscapes are inevitable with urban infill making places such as Fremantle desirable, especially since most of the services are provided in town, and that attracts a diversity of people, including homeless ones, and those who require social and affordable housing, but we are not designing and building for that diversity and the needs of individuals. Not many local governments have the capacity and desire to change with the times, so how do you design a city for all?

People want to be connected, be in contact with nature and there is a real disconnect there, so we need to bring the community on board because it is about the collective, not individuals. To do that we need to start understanding the history of Australia and the values, and where we want to go. We need to understand the diverse perspective, and need to learn to understand the different realities. Design should not be about excluding people!

Homelessness is nothing new and has been around for decades, so the whole community needs to own the issues and solutions, but there is a lack of value judgement. It is a fallacy that homeless people are in control of their own future! We all are only a few steps away from homelessness and if we come together the solutions are in our own hands. Start a conversation and humanise the issue!

A social worker said she had met some of the most amazing, caring and resilient people one would like to meet.

Architects and developers need to start actively listen to everybody’s stories from a design perspective. Bring the focus of development back to the people! We need a change of mindset there, as the next generation of home buyers can’t afford to buy the homes of the present generation. Inter-generational housing is not available, the housing options are not there.

There is huge value in diversity in a community, and we don’t want people with similar social/financial issues all living together, there needs to be a mix and we need to understand what home means for different people. Public housing often results in people failing because of the wrong set up and location and the lack of support. For some community housing or a boarding house is better because they don’t have to look after paying bills and connect with others. Community housing is more flexible.

There is also an interesting small exhibition in the DADAA gallery, so go and have a look at it!

COMMENT:

We don’t build communities, we build spaces where people are alone, spaces of loneliness, because at the lower end of the apartment market there are no community spaces where people can connect. There are no swimming pools, gyms, roof gardens, etc. We build highrise along transit corridors, instead of building them around green open spaces where people can meet and play.

There are tens of thousands of single middle aged and older women and men who have no social life because they can no longer afford to go to pubs, concerts, festivals, theatres, etc. where they used to connect with friends and meet new people. They don’t meet anyone and get isolated. High density living does not cater for that by providing community spaces. Many single people live in a small box with no communical spaces where they can meet their neighbours and make new friends that way.

Roel Loopers

WILL LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM CREATE BETTER COUNCILLORS?

Posted in city of fremantle, council reform, councils, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on June 28, 2019

 

Landmark local government reforms passed by State Parliament will bring councils into the 21st century as the first reforms resulting from the Local Government Act review. But will the new WA Local Government Reform create better Councillors through inductions and training?

I have been amazed for many years that many of those who nominate for a position on local council do not even bother to do the basic homework of attending Council and Committee meetings, so when elected they come in unprepared and for some of them it takes very long to understand local government process, so let’s hope the reform will improve the level of local governance we are getting.

These reforms target key priority areas identified by the community and local government sector to better prepare council members for their challenging role, strengthen governance, empower councils to communicate with residents using modern technology and expand the amount of information available to the public online.

Commencing at the 2019 ordinary local government elections in October, all candidates will be required to have completed an online induction. This free, online module will be available on the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ website in July.

Building the capacity of council members further, all council members will be required to complete a training program following their election covering key areas such as conflicts of interest, understanding financial reports and budgets, and serving on council.

Reforms will also:

  • Improve standards of behaviour through a mandatory code of conduct for council members and candidates;
  • Introduce new standards for CEO recruitment and performance management to help elected members select a CEO and assess their performance;
  • Provide clarity for elected members to manage real and perceived conflicts of interest related to gifts; and
  • Require local governments to publish information on their website such as local laws, approved council policies and all documents contained within a meeting agenda allowing instant access to council information for everyone 24/7.

 

Roel Loopers

 

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MODEST RATES RISE FOR FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle, councils, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on June 26, 2019

 

Council rates in Fremantle will only rise by 1.8% and that put our local council at number 16 on the list of local government rates rises.

Our neighbours East Fremantle come in at number 9 with a 2.4% rise, Cockburn at number 14 with a 1.9% rise and Melville at number 21 with a 1.1 rates rise.

The top of the list at number 1 is the City of Rockingham with a 3.6% rise, no doubt to reflect the status of being the home of the WA Premier Mark McGowan. 😳

Cottesloe is number 2 with a 3.5% rise and Nedlands comes in at number 3 with a 2.95% rise.

Roel Loopers

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DON’T GAG LOCAL COUNCILLORS FROM BEING TRANSPARENT

 

The alleged attempts to silence local councillors and stop them from commenting on social media raise serious concerns about our democracy, although Fremantle councillors are very-almost too- restraint in their use of social media to publish facts to combat the often ridiculous and uninformed comments made by members of the public.

While I understand that Mayors should be the official spokespeople for local councils, it should not stop the other elected members from participating in social media. They are after all our local parliament, so gagging them is like denying a state or federal minister from commenting, because the PM and Premiers are the official spokespeople.

Our Fremantle councillors comment now and then on Facebook and Freo Massive but rarely here on Freo’s View, unless it is local government election time and they want another four years, so they us this platform to increase their public profile. It might well be Fremantle Council policy that only the Mayor can comment on this blog.

I believe the Fremantle community would welcome more engagement on social media with their councillors, as it helps transparency and to clarify issues people might not understand or are not well enough informed about. One should not just leave that to the Mayor and the City of Fremantle’s media people.

It is definitely not up to our State Government to dictate how the elected local members communicate with their community and sensor or gag our councillors. We elected them to govern our city and they are accountable to explain to us why and how.

Roel Loopers

 

 

Roel Loopers

HAVE YOUR SAY ON NEW LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT

 

WA Local government Minister David Templeman has an article in today’s West Australian in which he encourages the community to get involved in the review of the local government act and make suggestions on how we can improve our local councils and administrations.

Here some information from the government website about it:

Phase one: modernising local government

Phase one of the review focuses on four key areas:

  • Meeting community expectations of standards, ethics and performance
  • Meeting public expectations for accountability, including gift disclosures
  • Electronic availability of information
  • Building capacity through introducing administrative efficiencies

Local governments and the community were invited to have their say throughout the consultation period. The phase one discussion paper was released on 8 November 2017 and public consultation closed on 9 March 2018.

Phase two: delivering for communities

​Commencing in 2018, phase two will ensure local governments are positioned to deliver for the community by examining:

  • Elections
  • Community consultation and engagement
  • Integrated Planning and Reporting
  • Financial management
  • Rates and charges
  • Beneficial organisations (council controlled organisations)
  • Local laws
  • Interventions
  • Administrative efficiencies

What you need to know

What is the Local Government Act review?

The Local Government Act review will introduce changes that will modernise the Act and ensure that local governments are positioned to deliver for the community into the future. The review is being undertaken in two phases. The first consultation paper released on 8 November 2017.

Phase two of the review is now underway.

Local government is real grassroots government so we should all take an active part in trying to improve the performance of our elected members and staff, and get greater transparency and better communication, so have your say!

Roel Loopers

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FREMANTLE LOSES OUT ON $ 2 MILLION IN RATES ANNUALLY

 

When the Western Australian state government complains about the unfairness of the GST distribution, they might want to also have a think about the unfairness to some local governments, like Fremantle, regarding the local council rates exemptions for all kinds of institutions.

It costs the City of Fremantle estimated over $ 2 million annually, which is a big amount for a city with a small ratepayers’ base. We don’t know the exact figures because the Valuer General’s office does not provide councils with property values where there is no need.

But according to City of Fremantle figures we lose out on $ 707,000 from Notre Dame University, $ 210.544 from crown properties, $ 98,992 from places of worship, $ 24,085 from schools/educational, $ 630,819 from charities and $ 54,846 from others/written law/acts.

The above figures are not complete as they do not include the large TAFE site in Beaconsfield and others which are exempt from paying local government rates. The City also does not get rates from Fremantle Ports.

So maybe it is time the State Government compensated affected local councils for state laws that financially disadvantage them considerably.

Roel Loopers

CAN FREMANTLE CITY SAVE ON INSURANCES?

Posted in city of fremantle, councils, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on May 7, 2018

 

I hope that the City of Fremantle beancounters and Councillors did read the article on the front page of the POST community newspaper this weekend.

The article claims that local councils can save a lot of money by shopping for insurance, rather than simply using the Local Government Insurance Scheme-LGIS.

Staff from the City of Nedlands estimate they have saved $ 266,000 in premiums in four years while the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Councils saved $ 400.000 off its yearly LGIS bill after getting cheaper quotes from other insurances.

Cambridge Mayor Keri Shannon told the POST that LGIS member councils could save about 30% off their premiums by leaving the LGIS.

Fremantle is not exactly swimming in money, so if the City could save hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be great.

Roel Loopers

 

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WHAT IS FAIR PAYMENT FOR MAYORS?

Posted in city of fremantle, councils, local government, western australia by freoview on March 19, 2017

The Sunday Times reports today that seven out of the twenty-eight metropolitan mayors are ‘moonlighting’ and have other jobs.

Local government is not intended to be a full-time job for Mayors and Councillors but the workload is significant as I know from observing the huge number of hours Mayor Brad Pettitt and most Councillors spend on looking after Fremantle.

For the Freo Mayor it is a full-time job with additional local government work at the Heritage Council for which he annually receives $ 9,000 in addition to the Mayor’s payment of around $ 140,000. Correct me if I am wrong as I can’t find the exact amount.

But the City of Swan Mayor does only two days full time at council there and received nearly $ 140,000 per year, while Jim O’Neill, the Mayor of East Fremantle gets $ 43,000 for 25 hours a week and works another 45 hours per week as deputy-principal of the Willeton Senior High School.

I believe elected members should get properly paid as many of them spend the equivalent of full-time job hours on serving the community.

Roel Lopers

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