Received from Maurice Prendergast
Sun, 14 Jun 2015 at 12:32 a.m.
[Undated email by excerpt. -Eds]
From: Maurice Prendergast
To: Bill [Feather]
In response to your e-mail below in which you seek feedback from Board members on the recommendation of the Representation Review team, I offer my comments as described below.
Effective representation and fair representation; while enshrined in legislation, are really just haughty ‘weasel words’ because while members may masquerade during election campaign as being representative of a particular catchment/community; once elected they can freely abandon their ‘fine principles’ and commit their loyalties to quite alien causes. Case in point: Rural electors who thought they would be effectively and fairly represented by a rural Councillor/ representative of the huge City hinterland found that same Councillor voting to remove their one precious budget consideration (the seal extension budget) and curiously voted for the same amount of funding to favour the provision of cycleways. Conclusion: there is no discipline that binds elected members to the principles of fair and/or effective representation. Cr Wilson has demonstrably personified this. This segment of Local Body law should be removed and pronounced unworkable.
Number of Councillors: The most effective Councils since re-organisation in 1989 were those with 21 and 18 councillors. Why? Enhanced salaries for (presumed) talented chairmen of Committees generates a ‘dash for cash’. Currently (at 14 Councillors) the mayor ‘cabals’ by having guaranteed loyalty from his six Committee Chairmen whose salary he has enhanced by bestowing upon them lavishly paid Chairmanships; thus securing an implied loyalty to the Mayor (or be sacked). Peter Chin introduced this draconian practice. When I was Deputy Mayor back in the mid-nineties the Mayor (Turner) relied on trust and appointed for three years. Peter Chin changed that to annual reviews – just to stop his footmen straying from loyalty to him I guess. So having secured six avaricious troopers, on any given issue he can be sure of six votes plus his own (7) which curiously is half of 14 and in the event of a tied vote he can exercise his casting vote to get across the line. That is what is so magical about the number 14, and that is why it will be strenuously defended (or even reduced). So a decision to have only 14 Councillors gives the Mayor a guarantee that he will preside over his ‘Fiefdom’ This was never possible when (say) there was 18/20 elected members. There was always up to 14 and then 12 (when the number dropped to 18 Councillors) who were not ‘tainted’ by having accepted gratuities from the Mayor. In a perverse way this always guaranteed honourable behaviour and reasoned decision making by Council and ‘debt laden vanity projects’ never saw the light of day. I don’t expect a ‘buy-in’ from the public at large because the rank and file electors (largely) don’t like Councillors, and if there were more I would anticipate an ‘uninformed’ revolt – which is a pity because this would be guaranteed means of discipline. But my analysis is that an addition of (say) six more ‘back-bench’ councillors at (say) $50,000 per annum, ($300,000) would be about the best investment the ratepayers could have made in the recent past. And the remedy is staring us in the face. Who was that philosopher who said “those who ignore their history shall be condemned by it”. The exercise of power that currently burdens us in debt is the product of having insufficient disaffected/ unsullied members – members who have retained the capacity not to be corrupted.
Community Boards: I am ambivalent about the Review Team’s proposal. Community Boards have never worked as expected by the Commissioner when established in 1989, and while I have served on six or seven Boards during the 35 year life of the ‘new City’, with the exception of the Strath Taieri Board it has been an unrewarding experience. The Boards suffer from not having any decision making authority and consequently suffer from having no sense of purpose. Initially each Board was granted $2000 per annum (euphemistically referred to by the CEO of the day as ‘drop dead’ money) – such was his limited respect for the function of the Boards and intended for the most menial of chores like keeping the toilet paper and light bulbs up to their community Halls etc. Then a Committee/Working Party was established to review the function of Boards with power to decide – a committee stacked with Community Board members and unsurprisingly the annual grant went from $2000 to $10,000 pa; but this change was not intended for any particular purpose. Without any strict purpose set down for these funds it has often generated an exercise in a kind of cronyism where conflicts of interest seemed to flourish. The distribution of these funds is attended by a set of criteria which is carefully described as ‘Guidelines’. Of course nobody can be nailed for imprudent expenditure of these funds because their distribution is bound by the discretionary word ‘Guidelines’. I attempted to get some kind of discipline on board at a recent Board meeting by changing the operative word Guidelines to a more disciplined caption ‘Rules’ but I did not even get the support of a seconder for my motion. Therefore every other member seemed to be comfortable with the freedom of having no rules associated with this ratepayer funded slush fund, and this kind of caballing is in my view why the Mosgiel Taieri Community Board is being abolished. I cannot raise an argument against that recommendation. E&0E)
From: Bill Feather
Sent: Thursday, 11 June 2015 3:10 p.m.
To: Sarah Nitis; Martin Dillon ; Maurice Prendergast; Blackie Catlow; Mark Willis
Subject: Representatation Review
Good afternoon all,
You each will have received a copy of the findings and recommendations of the Hearing panel released last evening. If not a copy of the report is attached.
The Council are to consider this report at an extraordinary meeting on Monday 15th June at which a number of Community Board Chairs including myself will attend.
I am interested to gauge the feeling of the community over the Review Panel’s recommendations and would like for you to forward to me your assessment of community support or otherwise that you learn of over the next day or two for the recommendations under consideration. The media broke the news this morning in the ODT and are planning a follow-up in more detail in either tomorrow or Saturday’s edition.
Your thoughts are important please respond earliest.
[Bill Feather, Chairman, Mosgiel Taieri Community Board]
Related Post and Comments:
11.6.15 DCC representation review
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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr