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Deferred democracy

Political compromise is also known as horse trading. So how successful have councillors been in that regard for the past four years?

Hans Lovejoy, editor

Council elections would be occurring this week but it got caught up in the world series pandemic event.

Instead, our benevolent NSW govcorp overlords have put it off for a year, which suits them just fine.

Yet an election this week would have brought fresh new energy to local politics – it’s clearly needed.

Four year terms are gruelling enough, and now there’s another 12 months to go.

This week’s election would would have seen the end of Greens Mayor Simon Richardson’s eight year stint as a ‘Greens’ mayor.

He announced he would not contest again, a week before the virus hit.

In his first term (2012–2016), the mayor of party town found himself in opposition, and without a majority to enact his bold and exciting visions.

Without the power to pass policy, the mayor instead delivered inspiring speeches around how the pro development right wing councillors at the time lacked transparency and ignored process.

Reckless, divisive decisions result in community angst.

Clearly leadership was needed to heal and unite, and the mayor has had that opportunity to do that from 2016.

How did that go?

Since his announcement to quit, the Byrons Greens members voted on the councillors they wanted to present to the public for the 2021 elections.

They included a mix of the present Greens councillors (the mayor’s protégés), the old guard and newcomers.

The newcomers and old guard did better, which signals a lack of confidence in the mayor’s political direction.

The mayor’s agenda throughout his last term appeared to be trying to pull his party – and the community – from the uncompromising lefty protectionism of community amenity and environmental credentials into the middle lane of oncoming traffic.

There is of course the argument for getting the balance right, being pragmatic, and working with, instead of against, those who are ultimately more powerful.

Yet the eagerness with which this Greens councillor majority have sided with unelected bureaucrats (executive staff) and National Party policies has sent a clear public message.

The mayor and his followers have protected and defended executive staff from scrutiny, of what has been at times, very poor governance.

The public message from these councillors is that honest representation of this community’s values comes second.

The previous two local elections have shown this community’s values to be aligned more with ‘lefty protectionism’ than ‘pro development at all costs’.

With Byron Shire under enormous increasing pressure to accept ‘pro development’ at all costs, it would be great to see a return to the mayor’s 2012–2016 rhetoric, instead of the 2016–2020 lunacy currently inflicted upon us.

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