Bureaucracy-like car salesmen, lawyers, politicians, Dutchmen, journalists, and Roel Loopers, to name just a few-has a bad reputation.
I know one should never generalise so let me declare that I have often dealt with excellent public servants at the City of Fremantle and all levels of government.
Why am I writing this? Because I thought there must be some reason and order within City of Fremantle madness I do not understand. It’s probably not the fault of an officer but of the system and lack of rules.
Yesterday the two new fire extinguishers in the Roundhouse were tested and the contractor told me the only other devise he needed to test at Arthur Head for CoF was the one in the Gunners Cottage, which is the office of the Roundhouse volunteers.
This means that none of the artist’s studios at Captain’s and Mrs Trivett lanes have fire extinguishers installed although some of them have highly flammable goods in them. I don’t know a painter who would not have turpentine in their studio.
It seems illogical to me that the Roundhouse, that is highly unlikely to ever catch fire, needs to have two fire extinguishers, but highly flammable artist’s studios in tiny residential cottages that are also open to the public don’t have any.
If a fire broke out in one of the cottages it could very easily and rapidly spread to the others along the lane and all that heritage would be gone.
It’s a kind of Christmas or even life question. What would I do if I had $ 100,000 to spent to support art in Fremantle? It’s a question the Strategic Planning Committee will have to answer on Wednesday and the suggestion by the Director in charge of the department is to get another officer, an Arts Co-ordinator and Liaison Officer.
Extensive consultation was done with artists and arts organisations, so I have to assume that it was their preference to spend money on an administrator instead on something more tangible. With more tangible I mean for example intense promotion of the new Bathers Beach Art Precinct, where new operators are struggling to survive and make enough money to pay their gallery rent. Promised new signage in the area has still not been installed, although the Saturday sunset food markets attract large numbers of people, so it would be the opportune time to promote the area as an art destination then.
There would also have been an opportunity for the City to get involved and financially support and promote the markets as a way of promoting the art precinct, e.g. pay for live music. Only one electronic sign at the beach is all the City of Fremantle has invested so far, why not some at the entries to Freo to make visitors aware something special is going on at Bathers Beach. The most logical one would be an electronic sign at the end of High Street. That together with the all lit-up Whalers Tunnel should entice people to wander down the West End and discover the Glen Cowans, Wild Things and Mutima Arthouse galleries next to the Round House.
A recent City of Fremantle place-making workshop with David Engwicht made me wonder again why it is the City needs so many consultants. I have nothing at all against Engwicht and quite enjoy place-making, but why does the City have around 550 staff and still needs expert consultants for so many things? Is the City employing people not qualified to work at those levels, or is it reluctant to let ist own staff shine and take ownership of major projects?
I will probably not know them all, but there are David Shetliffe and David West advising the Economic Development Department, there is CODA consulting on Cantonment Hill and Kings Square, the Design Advisory Council doing the work the Planning Department should be doing, etc. and all that at pretty high costs to the City. At last night’s council meeting it was going to be discussed to start another consultancy committee on Kings Square.
Why is it professional and qualified CoF staff are being pushed sideways so that expensive consultants can give credibility to major projects. Why does the City constantly fly in people from the Eastern states to do what their own staff is paid to do, or is anyone at the City of Fremantle suggesting they employ substandard lemons who can only perform basic tasks and when the need for greatness arises we have no one and need to hire consultants.
It is a worry that there appears to be little leadership at the top of the administration and very little coordination between departments.
I am also seriously concerned about how the Arthur Head project is developing. There is a stakeholder group for Bathers Beach, another one for Arthur Head, then there was the Engwicht workshop on it, a separate group looks at signage and connectivity for the area, while there is also a public toilet committee. None of them are communicating with each other, is my impression. Why not?
Why are we doubling up on effort and on paying staff and consultants to do the same job? Bureaucracy, it will forever remain a mystery to me.