Thursday, 22 September 2016

Some thoughts on the Clarence Valley Council mayoral election on 27 September 2016

The Daily Examiner, Letter to the Editor, 19 September 2016, p.11:

Heal the distrust

Well the results of the Clarence Valley local government election have been announced and while congratulating each of the nine councillors, I feel that some facts should be noted.

Firstly, only two of the councillors seeking re-election this September increased their first preference vote tally over that received in the 2012 council election. These were Karen Toms and Jim Simmons.

Of course one re-elected councillor had no yardstick with which to measure performance, as he was elected unopposed in a 2015 by-election and this was the first time he had to face the Clarence Valley electorate.

If those underperforming re-elected councillors are genuinely seeking to adequately represent residents and ratepayers over the next four years, they need to lift their game - and a good way to start would be to avoid attempting to explain away a demonstrable level of unpopularity by erroneously blaming "scare" campaigns or a difficult election campaign.

Most Clarence Valley voters are not fools, and underperformance along with a growing lack of connection with the electorate had been noticed for years, not just during the election campaign.

Secondly, in addition to the reduced incumbent vote, the large candidate field and the successful election of three new faces appears to indicate a desire on the part of the valley electorate for a change of style and approach.

As all nine councillors will soon be meeting to vote in the mayor and deputy mayor, I would hope that at least four councillors will nominate for each position so that there is a genuine choice to be considered.

This month offers a chance for councillors to elect a mayor and deputy who are perceived to carry no excess baggage and who might begin to heal the mounting distrust of local government. I would further hope that those who had either been mayor or deputy mayor previously would give local government renewal a chance and not nominate this time round.

By the same token, the candidate elected on preferences in the last count round who chose to absent himself for the entire length of the election campaign and on polling day - never bothering to offer the electorate any information concerning his stance on current issues and community concerns - should seriously consider refraining from nominating or accepting nomination.

Clarence Valley Council has the great good fortune to govern an area which contains individuals, groups and communities which go the extra mile to ensure that our natural environment, local economies and lifestyle are protected from adverse winds and who willingly support the council's better efforts in that regard.

I sincerely hope that this new council will not squander that goodwill.

Judith M. Melville

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