Greg Underwood is campaigning against Karen Williams for the job of Redland City Mayor.
Many Redlands voters will welcome having a choice at the local government elections on 19 March next year. They will expect the candidates to campaign effectively, each explaining why they deserve the top job for a four year term.
The local media has an important role in the electoral process – providing the community with comprehensive and balanced coverage.
Balanced media coverage
The Redland City Bulletin unveiled Greg Underwood’s mayoral candidacy in mid November. Since then the Bulletin has barely mentioned him and his views.
When the Bulletin reported Shoreline estate approved, the alternative Mayor’s views were not reported. This controversial project, the biggest ever residential development in the Redlands, was only approved by a slim 6-5 majority of councillors. Omitting the views of prospective new Mayor (and the views of other groups opposed to the project) was poor local news reporting.
The announcement headlined Toondah Harbour master plan unveiled also contained no comment from the alternative Mayor. In his previous role with Council, Mr Underwood played a crucial role in the early planning of the upgrade of Toondah Harbour, including the Council’s purchase of the old CSIRO site for $3.4 million. His views on a project which now divides the community should have been reported.
It is important that opinions and commitments of both mayoral candidates are included in local media coverage, from now until the voters have made their decision.
Who is Greg Underwood?
Greg Underwood discussed the issues that made him decide to run for Mayor at a Redlands2030 forum in November. His views resonated with the audience when he committed that:
If I’m elected Mayor, I will devote my time to serving the whole community. I will be an ethical and accountable leader and endeavour to build a team approach with all elected councillors. We need to restore the balance – and the confidence of our community that their views count.
His strong stand on not accepting political donations is a breath of fresh air – his campaign will be entirely self-funded. Mr Underwood says he has no political affiliations or links to specific interest groups which means he shouldn’t have to vacate the Council chamber because of conflicts of interest.
Mr Underwood claims his experience in local government, including a long record of service in Redlands, will equip him to make the right decisions or ensure that good decision-making processes are in place and used properly. Mr Underwood said “We need a Council prepared to roll up its sleeves and get on with the job of looking after the Redlands’ community.”
His slogan is “return the balance” which refers to the way that his council would deal with myriad development applications. According to Mr Underwood:
Badly designed neighbourhoods and site over-development, growing traffic congestion and a lack of care for our special part of the world are all apparent. The community feels their voices are being ignored.
About economic growth, Mr Underwood said:
I share the realistic view, like most residents, that urban and economic growth will occur in the Redlands – but I am convinced we can get much better community outcomes than are being achieved now. My commitment is for a more balanced approach to decision-making and a return to Council’s democratic processes.
Mr Underwood said he looked looked forward to meeting with and listening to residents over the coming months. He has a Facebook page for his mayoral candidacy and a website is expected to be unveiled soon.
Local government knowledge
Mr Underwood has worked for 30 years in local and state government planning and infrastructure. He was Redland City’s General Manager in charge of policy, planning and infrastructure – experience which could prove invaluable when dealing with congestion and other problems resulting from the current spate of development. The idea of electing a mayor who “knows the ropes” of local government may be appealing.
He was responsible for delivering the Redlands 2030 Community Plan, widely lauded by local governments across Queensland as an exemplar at a time when community plans were mandatory. The current Council may have adopted the Community Plan’s ‘values and aspirations’, but has largely failed to take these into consideration in decision-making.
His experience with the Community Plan supports Mr Underwood’s assertions that “I am very familiar with the community’s values and expectations of its Council.” For too long our political leaders have chosen to hear what they want to hear, even when their personal views conflict with properly researched community views.
Redlands2030 welcomes a contest
Redlands2030 is not endorsing any candidates at this time. While a pair of mayoral candidates ensures a contest, other people may yet put their names forward.
In the lead up to the election, Redlands2030 will examine the policies of all candidates and their positions on implementation of the Redlands 2030 Community Plan.
As the Redlands’ fastest growing media outlet, Redlands2030 expects to play an important role in promoting discussion about issues which the community will consider when choosing the next Mayor and Council.