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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The public meeting

Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to tonight's public meeting about the proposed gaol.

11 of the 12 Councillors were present, which I was very pleased to see. The General Manager of the Council and the Economic Development Officer were also there, of course, seeing as it was really their function. Let me say that it was a "tough gig" - in old-fashioned Aussie parlance they were on a hiding to nothing.

The School of Arts was full to overflowing. I did not do a head count, but I would estimate 250 people were there. Nearly everybody was wearing "No Jail" stickers (don't you just hate American English?). Apart from that issue, the meeting went reasonably well.

There was an element of theatre about it, some set piece speakers (from the floor, I mean); one speaker did the standard routine: "do you want a gaol? No! I cannot hear you. Do you want a gaol? No!" But other speakers gave logical summaries of why the Robertson area is not suitable, physically, for such a large development.
The Interjection of the Night Award goes to the man who asked if the Council was either incompetent, or corrupt. The "blogger" knows who you are, and will personally deliver your Award tomorrow night! Apart from the slightly risky nature of the comment, (Clr Lewis was quick to warn against libellous comments) I liked the old dilemma, inherent in the suggestion - "choose the lesser of 2 evils".

Eventually, the meeting was wound up, with the Councillors making it clear that the mood of the meeting had been "noted". That was abundantly clear, so, it actually means little to say that. It depends on the 12 Councillors now to put that mood into action, by deciding not to submit an expression of interest. If they proceed with an "Expression of Interest" for the gaol, there will be local mutiny.

However, I still am concerned that Robertson might have "overplayed" its hand, and locked Council into an anti-Robertson position for years to come. But as some people say - what is different, they never do anything for us any way. From the point of view of the Council, they were not treated with respect, and certainly the mood of the meeting was hostile to them. It was not as bad as it might have been.

Before the Councilors blame Robertson too much, they were very poorly advised by their EDO. It was an unsuitable proposal; poorly researched; very tardily handled, in terms of leaving little time for consideration of an important proposal; and unimpressively presented at the meeting. So the Councillors should look to their own camp, before blaming Robertson for the beating that was inflictd on them tonight.

Everything that happened tonight was entirely predictable. In fact I predicted it here, last week. It is not acceptable for supposedly professional staff, especially senior staff, to say that "public speaking is not in my job description".

Any senior Council Officer who cannot handle a meeting like that, is not up to the job.


ah said...

Thanks for the update, wild horses could not have made me be there (and Admiral across the road doesn't look wild at all). I am relieved to thus get a confirmation to my belief that I am not suited to senior Council positions!
But I sympathise with whoever it was, since those sorts of situations can be really intimidating, regardless of whether you are in the majority or minority.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Anni
You did well to stay away.
I managed to sit there the whole time, and not utter a single (public) word.
A woman on ABC 97.3 said it well this morning - they were the rudest bunch of people she had ever heard.
I might have been a bit tough on the Council's EDO, but, he did not handle the whole process well, more particularly with the poor preparation. Research should have shown him that physically, Robertson was not suitable. That would have avoided the whole ugly scene from the N.I.M.B.Y. crowd there last night. (Not In My Back Yard)