Fast Buck$, Coorabell
Simon Richardson is back in the chair after his six month sabbatical, and within an hour of last week’s meeting commencing I was as angry as ever.
Now I fully understand that the public submissions often seem like whingers demonstrating nothing but their ignorance. On the other hand now and then the person making a submission puts forward a fact or a consideration that puts everything in a new perspective. Either way council has no right to make the public feel like cattle, the process is a central aspect of democracy and has to be endured even if nothing worthwhile emerges.
Generally Simon is better in his handling of public submissions than others. Basil Cameron not long ago cut me off with ‘times up’ in the middle of a sentence in the middle of a submission, so that I just stood their in disbelief. Simon wouldn’t do that. Jan Barham once arranged the speaking order so that the time ‘ran out’ before I got a chance to speak at all. Simon wouldn’t do that either.
Part of the problem is the way the process is structured. The adversarial system means that when booking your time you are asked to specify ‘for’ or ‘against’ which is not always appropriate when you may for instance agree with the staff recommendation but want to challenge some of the arguments put forward or outline some facts that were omitted.
Another non-fit emerged at last week’s meeting in relation to the strangely named ‘Mercato on Byron’. On the one hand the staff recommended certain minor changes but then argued strongly against exempting Mercato from paying rent for the veranda built over the footpath on Jonson Street.
Mercato faced the same difficulty as I did: given that there were two separate recommendations within the same report how can you decide whether you’re ‘for’ or ‘against’ if you have a different position on the two items?
Mercato‘s lawyer decided that he would nominate ‘for’, no doubt calculating that in that way he wouldn’t have to share his five minutes with anybody else. I also nominated ‘for’ on the basis that I was in favour of Mercato not being given an exemption. The lawyer finished his spiel and I got up only to have Simon interrupt me after two and a half minutes with ‘times up’ – even though I was speaking directly against the lawyer’s spiel ie I hadn’t realised I was sharing my time with my opponent.
Would it be too much to ask, too much of a concession to dignity, Simon, to request that when there are two or more independent speakers vying for the same time spot, the speakers are contacted and told? In this way we could trim our intended address to the time available and coordinate what we had to say. It is extremely annoying to arrive at the meeting to find you suddenly have to edit your stuff, particularly if the other speaker did not follow the rules and was granted the right to speak well after the nominated closing time of 12 midday the day before.
Also, Simon, what about allowing separate submissions to separate recommendations even if they occur within the same report? Too sensible?