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Byron Shire
March 1, 2021

Bring on the next leader for Lismore

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OPINION

Darren  Coyne

Those fortunate enough to call the Lismore district home have the opportunity today to shape its future … at least for the next four years.

So when you vote for your next mayor, there are some important things to consider.

Are you simply voting for a party, a personality, or a particular policy?

Have you taken the time to get to know the candidates, what they stand for, and their past record?

Were they on the front-line to stop coal seam gas mining? Are they active members in your community or business group? Did they support solar panels on your sewerage pond?

Have they done whatever is possible to improve your roads or ensure the subdivision next door is not too onerous?

Here are some other things to consider.

Would they appear comfortable on the stage at a Tropical Fruits new year’s eve party, reading a book in a primary school art class, meeting with the Ratepayers Association or CWA, or indeed, the Prime Minister?

Outgoing Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell has certainly set the bar high.

She has displayed grace and dignity throughout the past eight years as mayor and even if you don’t agree with some decisions (fluoride), the overwhelming majority of people seem to love her.

But let’s not forget that she’s not the first.

Lismore has had some wonderful mayors – each their own character, providing colour and direction to the rainbow city they represented.

Before her, Jeff Champion was a champion for the conservatives, ready to send in the dogs to clean up the town.

Ros Irwin, Lismore’s first lady mayor, worked hard to soften that image but was surpassed by Bob Gates who led the original conservative six-pack intent on building levees. Merv King continued the conservative tradition and was well regarded.

That was cool, but still the roads remained shit.

Jenny Dowell took over and has been mayor for the past eight years, and yes, the roads are still shit, but she’s been working hard with National Party MPs Thomas George and Kevin Hogan to highlight and rectify the situation.

She has also broken new ground in using social media to connect with her community and under her stewardship Lismore is recognised as a city embracing the future, as well as its diversity

Those who have served as her deputies’ – Neil Marks, Vanessa Ekins, and Isaac Smith – have also displayed the type of leadership qualities this city needs.

The other mayoral candidates, Cr Gianpiero Battista, a follower of Fred Nile, and Mr Rob, an outright renegade, are not genuine contenders for the position. Mathew Scheibel has been too quiet to even rate a mention.

Word on the street though is that Greg Bennett, a rank and file member of the Shooters Party has been campaigning well, despite being the only contender to be barred by Lismore’s biggest market for being a dick.

And in some ways that’s understandable given that a lot of country folk are wary of city folk, especially when they think they are being told how to manage their land, which is what the current biodiversity rate threatens.

Mr Bennett might just garner enough conservative votes to win … and that’s cool, he’d probably look good in stockings at the next Tropical Fruits outing.

Lismore can deal with Mr Bennett.

Most importantly though, voters need to dig deep and ask: Do you really want to tick the box, ‘Rob, Big’?

Sure Mr Rob makes a half decent kebab on the random nights he actually opens his Keen Street business, and he’s a master of social media, with numerous Facebook sites and even more false profiles, … but the man is not exactly what you’d call reliable.

As a ‘law student’, he’s been in and out of local law courts in recent years, either taking AVOs, or defending them … mostly against people who’ve disagreed with him online, whom he’s then publicly labeled stalkers, freaks, pedophiles and ferals.

To put it simply, Mr Rob is a sewer rat that grows fat by feeding off the detritus of his community. He has nothing positive to offer.

I love Lismore. I love its diversity of people, and sub-cultures. I respect almost every mayoral candidate except him. And while I may be an ‘unprofessional gronk’; in saying this, I wish all mayoral candidates the best of luck today and look forward to the next four years,


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