Plans to reduce the number of Redland City councillors were recently canvassed on radio 612 ABC.
It is understood Council officers have examined options for six, eight and ten Councillors and a number of electoral distribution maps for each of these options. The option favoured by Council’s dominant faction appears to be for eight divisions (known within Council as Option 4).
A map of Option 4 shows the possible new eight divisions with red edging and the letters A to H. The ten existing Divisions are shown with black edging numbered 1 to 10.
The existing divisions are mapped on the Council web site as Elected members and divisions. For ease of reference Divisional Councillors at present are:
Division 1 (Wellington Pt, Ormiston) – Wendy Boglary
Division 2 (Cleveland, North Stradbroke Island) – Craig Ogilvie
Division 3 (Cleveland South, Thornlands) – Kim-Maree Hardman
Division 4 (Victoria Pt, Coochiemudlo Island, Thornlands, Redland Bay) – Lance Hewlett
Division 5 (Redland Bay, Bay Islands) – Mark Edwards
Division 6 (Mt Cotton, Sheldon, Thornlands, Victoria Point, Redland Bay) – Julie Talty
Division 7 (Alexandra Hills South/Capalaba) – Murray Elliott
Deputy Mayor / Division 8 (Alexandra Hills North, Birkdale South) – Alan Beard
Division 9 (Capalaba) – Paul Gleeson
Division 10 (Birkdale North, Thorneside) – Paul Bishop
Accepting there will be new candidates contesting the election and some existing Councillors may not re-contest the election it is still interesting to see how the new arrangements will impact on the incumbents.
The changes to Divisions 4 (see F), 5 (H) and 6 (G) are minimal. Division 9 stays largely aligned to the proposed Division D. So Councillors Talty and Edwards would be well placed and Councillors Hewlett and Gleeson could take some comfort from the mooted “Option 4”. But if North Stradbroke Island is added to Division H, its councillor would be spending a lot of time on ferries.
The changes to the existing Divisions 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10 to create four new Divisions labelled A, B, C and E require “major surgery” to the existing divisions and their associated communities of interest.
This could put incumbent Councillors Boglary, Ogilvie, Bishop, Beard, Elliot and Hardman into 2 or possibly 3 way contests. Coincidently, four of these six councillors have a record of voting independently and questioning the proposals put forward by the dominant faction. Is there any rhyme or reason for such changes to numbers of councillors and division boundaries? If so, this should be made public to allow for informed community discussion before any decision is made.
Will the people have a say?
A safety valve on our Council is understood to be that the “the final decision on boundaries and the number of divisions rested with councillors, who would also need state approval” see Redland City Bulletin 12 November 2014. Before that step, Redlanders should have an opportunity to engage in proper debate about the need for change and ensuring any change is for the better.
The Mayor’s views and those of some Councillors were broadcast on 612 ABC on 19 January. The ABCs Facebook page also told of the Council’s investigations into reducing its own numbers. The current Council has demonstrated often that it is not committed to genuine community consultation. Dribbling out the idea of changes to the number of councillors during the summer holiday “silly season” via superficial coverage on a “friendly” radio station talkback program is not the right way to deal with such issues. Council should publish a discussion paper on its website and invite comments from the community.
Other questions about how democracy at the local government level
Despite the superficial appeal of cutting costs, Redlanders may benefit from a broader reform agenda. What changes will deliver better local government decisions with increased transparency? Ideas should be canvassed as a means of improving our democratic processes . There are other models and we can look elsewhere and learn from the experience of others for ways to improve representation, effectiveness, efficiency, efficacy and community liaison.
If cutting costs is the most important issue for Redland City, what other initiatives might yield larger cost savings?
Tinkering with democratic structures is not something to be rushed with inadequate or highly selective public consultation.
If you are concerned about the City’s democratic processes let the Mayor and your Councillor know how you feel … soon.
You might also ask for a public forum or information sessions so the community can comment on options.
Further, please join the debate by making comment on this on this website or on the Redlands2030 Facebook page.
In a few days Redlands2030 will look at options for the election and number of Councillors and how they might be elected. Any ideas are welcomed. In addition to the comments on the web page or Facebook page send your suggestions (and citations if available) to theReporter@Redlands2030.net
Other posts on this issue
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