James Harling, opposing Councillor Lance Hewlett in Division 4, is the candidate we had to have.
The Mayor’s supporters would never have allowed Mr. Hewlett, one of her real pains in the neck, to scoot back into his chair in the chamber unopposed.
Whether they chose Mr. Harling, or he chose them, hardly matters. This election will produce eleven councillors – and the main difference between them will be whether they are – or are not – on the Mayor’s Team.
The Williams Team
Mr. Harling appears to have already gained the Williams seal of approval (yellow belt) with his warm welcome to the campaign from one of the Mayor’s hardest-hitting keyboard warriors, Paul Gleeson, the councillor for Capalaba. Mr. Gleeson posted a pic of a Vote Harling tee-shirt, with the commendation ‘Victoria Point gets an upgrade.’ Whether Hewlett to Harling counts as an upgrade remains to be debated.
But Mr. Gleeson has at least revealed one more candidate’s alliance. And what about the rest? Surely we have a right to know all candidates’ political, personal and business affiliations, well before the election, especially the new faces standing for the first time.
We’ll get a better idea if Karen Williams repeats the tactic she used in her sweep to power in 2012. She declared that she led a team, who’d been identified as agreeing with her Back To Basics policies. Candidates whom she named and famed on this highly-publicised team gained immediate electoral kudos. Several won their Divisions.
But those councillors Williams wanted out – needed out, if she was to control the Council – found themselves staring out of billboards and flyers with crosses stamped on their faces and demands they be exterminated at the polling booths. Enough were, to deliver the Mayor the majority she needed. Ugly, but effective.
It ain’t easy being independent
This time around the same scenario will likely unfold. Already, some of the wannabes are trying to straddle the impossible divide – presenting themselves as genuine neighbourhood independents, untouched by bias or favouritism – oh, except they can’t wait to help the Mayor give her opponents in the chamber a good kicking, by being there for her whenever there’s a vote.
Division 3 hopeful, Karyn Owen (above) appears to have belly-flopped at her first attempt to hurdle this contradiction.
Ms Owen is proudly independent- aren’t they all – but on her Facebook page she eagerly on-posts the Mayor’s blogs and comments, Paul Gleeson is finding a lot to Like, and Ms. Owen has promised to fight what she describes as the “strong block of five councillors” who regularly oppose the Mayor. It’s hard to imagine a clearer undertaking to support Karen Williams and her team in the Council chamber.
But when Redland City Bulletin journalist, Judith Kerr, followed the logic and described her as a Karen William’s supporter, she was lashed by a very cross Ms. Owen for “sensationalistic unprofessional journalism”. Whew! I guess that’s shorthand for ‘how dare you accuse me of being a Williams supporter, when all the evidence suggests I am?”
Ms. Owen blazed on to show she was no slouch in the “sensationalistic” stakes herself, by demanding Ms. Kerr be sacked from her newspaper job, and/or banished from the council chambers. It was a dumb call on several levels.
It was never going to happen. Judith Kerr is a savvy, professional reporter of politics in this city. No one else has her combination of local knowledge and contacts, and the access to the major players her influence commands. One paragraph in The Bulletin has more reach and impact than a hundred pages of Facebook invective. It’s trusted as an independent source, but to keep that reputation through an election cycle, Ms. Kerr must seen to be given the editorial support she needs to tell us what the hell is going on.
Murky media matters
If Ms Owen is really looking for something in the media to worry about, with a lower degree of difficulty, she should check out a Redlands online news startup that’s hit town just in time to weigh in on election issues. A complete coincidence, of course.
It’s called RedlandPlusMore and it’s a joint venture between TouchPoint Media and the Redland City Chamber of Commerce. So what? Well, the president of the Chamber, Garry Hargrave, is a truly great friend of Mayor Williams, and a very public supporter of her political career. This is not a photo of two people who loath each other ……
We must hope that the journalism on RedlandPlusMore is not influenced by the Hargrave-Williams connection. How will RedlandPlusMore handle divisive issues like the huge Shoreline housing development on Redland Bay? Mayor Williams is Shoreline’s champion in Council. Garry Hargrave is Principal of Shoreline Redlands Pty Ltd.
There are faintly ominous signs that the gang at TouchPoint Media, who, let’s be fair, need to make a buck out of what they publish, may already see things much as the Chamber president, and the Mayor, would want them to be seen. Mark Millar seems to do the journalism and PR, and Laurie Ward handles the web marketing. Laurie is deeply impressed by Mark’s skills, and recounts how Mark cleverly neutralised a situation with echoes of Shoreline – pesky locals dumping on Council and business.
Ungrateful residents at Mt. Cotton were trying to stop a super-furnace being built near their homes, to burn chicken waste for electricity. Not only did the residents fail to see what a wondrous plus the furnace would be, writes Laurie, they “were creating issues that were slowing down the process and endangering the successful launch of the project. The information that they were issuing was patently false and misleading but in the absence of any positive PR, it was the only voice and the scare campaign was working.
Mark set about planning an intensive campaign (that)… resulted in the project being approved by the courts, and was signed off by all government departments, with letters of endorsement from federal and local ministers. Just as importantly, the campaign informed the local community about the truth of the project and gave them peace of mind.
That’s a great result and one that Mark and everyone in Redland City can be proud of.
Except, it wasn’t a great result. No government has signed off on anything. That the courts approved the project is nonsense, and suggesting that Mark’s prowess won over the judges, is probably contemptuous of the court. After 10 years of legal wrangling, hundreds of citizen objections, negative council reports, and extension after extension, the bio-mass power plant remains over the horizon. It runs out of options, again, on 20th September this year. And no, the protestors haven’t retreated an inch.
TouchPoint is free to go about its business and write what it wants, but if you read RedlandPlusMore, bear in mind that its written by a PR business that worked hard to discredit a group of Redlands citizens who were trying to protect their patch of the city.
And it’s published in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce, lead by a President who, we can be pretty sure, is just as enthusiastic about a Karen Williams victory this time round as he was in 2012.
Peter Wear – 21st January 2016
First published on Coochiemudlo Decides. Peter Wear is a resident of Coochiemudlo in Division 4.