Thursday, 22 January 2015
Referendum vote on establishing popular election of Clarence Valley Council mayor now unlikely to be held in 2015?
Arthur Lysaught in The Daily Examiner, 21 January 2015
On one level democracy lost out yesterday when the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) published the list of nominations for the one vacant councillor position in the Clarence Valley local government area by-election, because there was only one candidate on that list and therefore the election was cancelled.
That candidate is retired club manager and former one-year-and-a-bit councillor on the financially embarrassed former Grafton City Council, 62 year-old Arthur Francis Lysaught, (largely unknown along the Clarence Coast unless you like to bet on the horses) who by default now becomes a Clarence Valley councillor without facing scrutiny by the electorate.
Yet from another perspective democracy won, because the accompanying referendum on establishing that a mayor is to be elected by popular vote for four-year term may not go forward, because the NSWEC is highly unlikely to agree to proceed now there isn’t a by-election next month and the cost to council of a stand-alone referendum would be prohibitive.
Which means Clarence Valley voters will probably have more time to consider this question, as a new referendum cannot be scheduled until the general local government area elections in 2016 and, current mayor on a one-year term, Richie Williamson will not be able to run as a popular mayoral candidate until 2020.
Mayor Williamson has called an extraordinary council meeting for 27 January at which the status of this referendum will be discussed.
However, as one Lower Clarence resident remarked to me, it would not be a good look if councillors were to vote to still hold the referendum in 2015, with the very new, pro-popular election, councillor having no verifiable broad political support base within the electorate and also suspected of being a potential glove puppet of the mayor.