Friday, August 17, 2018

Local Government No Place For Party Politics


It has been a much spruiked mantra that Local Govt and party politics do not belong together. A lot of candidates will tell you that they "do not belong to the party" yet they demonstrate their party allegiances in so, so many unsubtle ways. Also, at a local level over time everyone through their actions and alliances give the game away.

The GREENS were among the first to overtly announce their candidates unambiguously as party members  when it was a local government candidacy. Other parties have been less up front and the 'rumour mills' rumble with background noise when their members and 'fellow travellers' put their hands up for election in local government. These things get to be the worst kept secrets in town – and especially so when the favours start to be handed out. 

The apparently increasing number of 'Closed Council' meetings is cause for serious concern when all this starts to come together in worrying sways. The alderpeople/councillors who bring these meetings on should be ringing alarm bells when they slink off to make decisions away from the public gaze.

The deep problem is that once elected by the community as 'community representatives' the party aligned alderpeople/councillors tend to represent their party rather than their community – and all too often. Additionally, these alderpeople's/councillor's propensity to curry favour with their State and Federal party colleagues, mates even, does not always work out well for a lot of ratepayers and residents. When the development imperatives shifts  focus  alarm bells should start to ring.
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All of this is a contentious issue and it is about time that ratepayers and residents challenged candidates and incumbent representatives more fulsomely. This should not only be at election time but also throughout their now rather longish term. If they manage to wangle themselves past the issue and find themselves in office it is almost open slather for up to four years. 

Politics is sometimes a rather nasty business and there is no place for 'the nasty stuff' at the close quarters local governance needs to operate in.

None of this is really new or even an serious issue if aldermen/councillors hold themselves 'accountable' and if they're 'transparent' in their decision making.  Sadly, currently with the smell of party politics in the air, what's put out as 'accountability' is far from it. Transparency likewise falls victim to 'party political' imperatives way too often.

Be alert because when things start to to go wrong it all gets to be rather alarming.

Ray Norman
August 2018

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