We’re stuck with the mayor council chooses

Seems sanity flew out the window and hypocrisy prevailed at the Taree Council Chamber on 14 August as MidCoast Councillors voted 7 to 3 to reject a motion sponsored by Cr Katheryn Bell and seconded by Cr Peter Epov which would have given the community the right to have a say on how our Mayor should be elected. 

Cr Bell’s proposal was to have a referendum on the question of who should elect the Mayor –  the People, or the Councillors.

You may recall that back in September 2017 the Mayor was not elected by popular vote, but by Councillors through a clumsy process where the current Mayor was left as the last man standing, somewhat like Steven Bradbury at the 2002 Winter Olympics, as mayoral candidates were drawn out of a hat and progressively eliminated one by one.

The Local Government Act requires the method of electing the Mayor should be determined by the local community. When the new MidCoast Council was established, the Proclamation stated that for the first election the Mayor should be elected by the Councillors. 

The Bell / Epov motion was attempting to secure the opportunity for the community to determine the method of electing the Mayor by a referendum question at the 2020 Council Elections. This was rejected by Councillors West, Smith, Hutchinson, Pontin, Keegan, Fowler and Roberts.

Included within the Council Report, was a reference by the General Manager that the addition of this one referendum question could cost as much as $58,000. Cr Epov countered this by pointing out that Council had received $15 Million in amalgamation funding and this cost should be paid from those funds.

What was particularly astonishing from the debate was Labor Councillor Pontin’s assertion that the independent election of a Mayor would bring in party politics. Hello? Was  not Cr Pontin elected to Council on the Labor Party ticket as the Number 2 candidate, some may say on Cr David Keegan’s coat tails. 

At the 2017 Council Election the Labor Party ticket secured the most number of votes, if this was transferred across to a Mayoral Election, Cr Keegan may have been the Mayor, one can only be wondering what the luminaries within the local Labor Party must be thinking right now?

We Are Grown Ups

On a more pragmatic level, history has shown that the electorate is more than capable of determining who they want to have as the Mayor and often in circumstances of “party politics”, it is the Independent that comes through and is elected Mayor. 

Prior to the amalgamation we rarely had people running on political party tickets, this is yet another ill foisted on us with amalgamation. Rather ironically, history has shown that a number of the political party Councillors have not been consistent with the views and beliefs of their party on various issues – perhaps they don’t really understand their party’s principles nor the philosophy? Or do they not agree?

The hypocrisy in all this is that Council wants and needs us to pay the Land and Water Rates which are constantly increasing, but at least seven of our Councillors don’t want us to have the democratic right of determining who should be the Mayor.  

We know that a mayor must be across all the significant protocol rules and regulations especially running Council meetings. A few newbie councillors have had a go, and proved themselves woefully inadequate. The Mayor needs administrational, organisational and management skills. We need someone who can get things done, who can represent us, speaks well and understands how to lobby,  deliver outcomes and results!


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One Response to We’re stuck with the mayor council chooses

  1. Mike Parsons says:

    I can see no reason why the Mayor should not be popularly elected… I am sure the voters can see who is capable of representing the Council publicly and can run a meeting and be a spokesperson on behalf of the team. It is important to stay in touch with the community at large and be a person ( male of female) that has the confidence of the people.There are different opinions (obviously) but it certainly would not be a “disaster” if we were to elect our mayor by popular vote.

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