Tag Archives: City of Swan

Council set in ways on meeting start time

Last week the City of Swan council voted again not to trial a later starting time for Council meetings. Before I get to the ins and outs of the meeting, for those not familiar, here is some brief background on the matter.

This topic came about in May last year (2014) when we called a Special Electors meeting to discuss the Claymore Close trees and council meeting procedures. The whole saga of the Claymore Close trees had highlighted some bigger issues about council processes and accessibility that we thought could be improved. One of these that became evident for us and others who started attending meetings was the early start time of these meetings (5.30pm).

The timeline:

  • 19 May 2014 – Electors request later starting time 6:30 pm
  • 16 June 2014 – Council referred the matter to CEO for a detailed report
  • 10 September 2014 – CEO report. Council vote not to trial new time before council amalgamation. Start consultations online and in meetings. Defer decision to new council 2015.
  • 4 November 2015 – Current meeting. Results of surveys and staff report recommends no change to meeting time.

There are several statements in the council report that I disagree with and you can read my full deputation on it below. But the key points were:

  • Almost everyone who completed a survey indicated they preferred a later start time
  • Disagree that 5:30 is optimal, having never tried a later start time
  • No evidence provided that earlier time suits a broad demographic of the community

The new Councilor Adam Kovalev moved an alternative motion for council meetings to start at 6:30 pm. This was amended by Cr Parasiliti that it be for a trial period of 6 months. The councilors did at least speak and debate the item, but I particularly want to address many of the arguments given below. Cr Kovalev spoke very well and got to the core of the issue but the motion was lost 12 to 2 (Cr Kovalev, Cr Parasiliti). Bizarrely, our new ward Councilor Ian Johnson (who originally moved the motion at the special electors meeting) seconded Cr Kovalev’s motion, but then proceeded to speak against it and basically said that he had changed his mind now he was on council.

Arguments presented against the motion and my rebuttals are listed below:

1. People only come to one council meeting, so if it’s important, they will organise to be here (Cr Bailey, Cr McNamara & several others)

Rebuttal: It’s irrelevant if people only come to one meeting when an item affects them or a hot topic comes up. The point is, that if and when they do want to attend a council meeting, the start time is as easy as possible for them to get there. From personal experience and many people I’ve spoken to, 5:30 pm is not a convenient time to get there.

2. It would disadvantage others, especially young families (Cr Elliott)

Rebuttal: I can’t say from personal experience, but I actually think it’s the opposite. A later start time would allow people with young families to finish feeding/dinner routine and put them to bed. Then one parent may be able to attend the meeting.

3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (Cr McNamara)

Rebuttal: This is a clear example of the status quo bias. The refrain heard against all requests for change. Perhaps another time could work better? But how would you know if you never try?

4. There are less people now (conclusion of meeting 7:30 pm) than at 5:30 pm, therefore an earlier start time is better (Cr Lucas)

Rebuttal: The number of people at the end of the meeting can’t be compared to the start time. There were only four people at the end of the meeting (as an aside, I would wager that most of those who left had no idea what had happened to their item given the ‘bloc voting’ process, but that’s another blog altogether!). What needs to be compared is the number of people at the start (5:30 vs 6:30 pm). Again, you can’t say because it hasn’t been tested. I might add that Cr Kovalev made an excellent point, that it’s not even necessarily about more bums on seats, just making it more accessible is worthwhile itself. This leads into the valid issue of measuring success.

5. What will the trial achieve, no measurement (Cr Bailey)

Rebuttal: While it was a good idea by Cr Parasiliti to trial it for 6 months (something we called for last year), without agreeing on how you’d assess or decide if it was successful is a serious flaw. Counting the number of people in the chamber is obvious, but I don’t think it’s the best measure. You really need to actively find out what residents prefer. An exit survey might be a good start.

6. Majority of residents in City of Swan didn’t comment, sample sizes of surveys are small (Cr Lucas, Cr Elliott, others)

Rebuttal: I agree the sample sizes of 48 and 31 residents is small and disappointing. But rather than taking it as a sign that people don’t care, I see it as a failure of the City and councilors to engage with their constituents on this issue. When there were paper surveys at meetings, I never once heard the mayor announce it or encourage people to fill it out. How many residents did councilors canvas each time this issue came up? How many people did they encourage to fill out the survey online? And on a related note, I found out about this issue at 1 pm on the day, via a journalist. Not from one of my three ward councilors, one of which who moved the motion originally, and not from the City, having initiated the special electors. Yes, I should read the council agendas, but I don’t always.

7. Council meetings aren’t to engage residents, councilors should be doing this directly (Cr McDonnell)

Rebuttal: Cr McDonnell made some good points that councilors should be engaging with their residents directly via community groups, meetings and door knocking etc. But I disagree that Council meetings aren’t the time for residents to engage. This is when the decisions that affect people are made. As I said in my deputation, it seems like a fundamental piece of local Government democracy that people have the opportunity to hear and take part.

8. Late finish will mean councilors can’t concentrate and it will be dangerous to drive home (Cr Haynes, Cr Bailey)

Rebuttal: The previous staff report suggested that with a later start time, most meetings would finish at 8:30 pm. This doesn’t seem too late. And if councilors have dinner before the meeting (as I understand most other councils do), then the net effect on finish time is zero! In addition, research has shown that one of the biggest factors influencing judges decisions is how long since they had a meal break. So I’d think there are probably good arguments for having dinner first.

9. Staff and community prefer the current time (Cr Lucas)

Rebuttal: There was no evidence provided what the staff and councilors prefer. It would have been ideal if the report had included separate surveys of the ~10 staff who have to attend and 15 councilors, to see how their choice compared with the residents surveys. I agree that councilors and staff should have a say, but there seems to be an ongoing unwillingness to try anything different regarding meetings. And as I said in my deputation, if a later time really won’t work, as least implement recording of meetings!

 

Endnote: As a farcical conclusion, Cr Johnson moved a second alternative motion that meeting start times be delayed 15 minutes to 5:45 pm. This was also discussed briefly and strangely, 3 additional councillors voted for this (5 to 9). Cr Fardig at least acknowledged that it was odd to argue loudly for no change one minute and then argue that a slightly later time would help him get to meetings. So apparently no change is needed, but then change is OK if it would be convenient for councilors. Go figure!

 

Here is my deputation in full:

Evening Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Councillors and fellow residents,

Having instigated the Special Electors meeting which led to these original requests I thought it was important to speak tonight.

I’d like to highlight some of the unsupported statements in the current report, and also for new councillors explain some of the history around this request.

At the time of the special electors meeting , we thought the issue had highlighted opportunities for improvements in the accessibility and process of council meetings. The start time being one of these.

I want to share some of the frustrations around this issue. When the council did eventually vote on this issue in September 2014, the results of the survey conducted where not published or considered before councillors voted. We were told that the results were still be analysed. Today is the first time I’ve seen the results. How on earth, could it take over a year to process the results of 48 residents!? Surely no one can point to this as an example of good governance and process.

Now that the results of the two surveys conducted are in, it is very clear that in both cases the vast majority voted for a later start time. The time of 6:30 pm was the clear winner both times, with 62.5% and 54.8% of the vote. In the first survey 80% of respondents said they were likely or highly likely to attend later than 5:30 pm, and for the second survey it was 100% wanted after 5:30 pm. (Correction , no residents selected 5:30 pm as preferred, ~10% did not select a time.)

When council last voted on this issue in September 2014, the officers report stated that the start times of metropolitan councils ranged from 6 – 7:30 pm. It therefore seems the City of Swan is one of the earliest meeting times in Perth.

It also stated that a start time of 6:30 pm would result in quote “the majority of council meetings concluding by 8:30 pm (based on current durations)”. Which seems entirely reasonable.

The report asserts that given the current high attendance of councillors, the current time is quote “the optimum meeting time for councillors”. However, if you have never tried another meeting time, you can’t make that conclusion. There isn’t necessarily only 1 time that may be optimum, there could be plenty of other times which also work fine.

The Report also states multiple times that quote “earlier meeting times encourage participation from a diverse section of the community”, a compromise for various community members. But there is no evidence to support that claim. The only evidence we have, from the two, admittedly small surveys, is that the majority would prefer a later starting time of 6:30 pm.

This may seem like a minor or non-issue, but community engagement with council decision making is absolutely fundamental to a robust democracy.

In concluding, I would request that you support Cr Kovalev’s alternate motion of a 6:30 pm starting time, in line with the results of the surveys conducted. And if a later time is really not going to work for the councillors, I would request that you seek to implement recording of meetings, so that as many members of the community as possible can have access to council meetings. Thank you

 

Cr Mark Elliott’s speech, via his Facebook page:

I understand the intent of those who wish to see a change to the current meeting time. A change would be more convenient for some people who work particular schedules. However, a change will – by necessity – disenfranchise others. Any time we choose will be problematic for someone.

Particularly, I am concerned about young families with young children with early bedtimes. These ratepayers utilise council too, and if I am honest, given the choice of inconveniencing professionals and young kids, I’ll pick the former any day.

The surveys returned regarding the matter – whilst in favour of a change – were relatively sparse on both occasions. I disagree with some that imply this suggests a failure of the process. Rather, perhaps, it is a failure of this very specific issue to engage or energise the 100,000+ residents of the City generally.

I am open to the concept of change. I’m also open to other ways in which we can make Council more accessible to ratepayers, including recording of meetings. However, in the face of a small sample size indicating a lack of overwhelming support for change, I endorse supporting a system which has served us well for many years.

I understand the concern of some about improving the community’s engagement with Council. However, these opportunities already exist for those that have the passion and the interest. Ratepayers packed the rafters for the Guildford Hotel. They packed the rafters for Claymore Close. And they certainly packed the rafters for Amendment 40. The opportunity is there for you to engage, if you want it. To take part, if you want it. To be there, if you want it.

Midland/Guildford candidate survey

Local government elections are on!

You will have received ballot papers in the post this week. Voting closes on the 17th October and we encourage everyone to take part in our local democracy.

To assist, we’ve just sent a short candidate survey to the Midland/ Guildford ward candidates with email addresses (please email us Todd Burgess), details below. We’ll post the responses as they come in and we hope this will inform your vote.

If you have other questions or you’re in another ward/Council, we encourage you to ask your candidates direct. You can find all the profiles and contact details on the AEC website.

Dear Midland/Guildford candidate,

Congratulations on standing for council!

We represent a local community group called Transition Town Guildford. Transition Towns are a global movement aimed at building community resilience through relocalisation. Formed in mid 2010, our group is focused on Guildford and surrounds. Our vision is “A strongly connected community and a healthy environment”. Please see our website for more information and details of past events. 

We encourage our members to participate in the local community; this of course includes voting in local elections and getting to know local representatives. To help inform our members and the broader community we are conducting a short candidate survey (questions below). We invite you to respond as soon as possible and your answers will be posted on our website in the order received. 

Good luck and we look forward to working with you in the future. 

Regards

The Steering group of TTG.

Survey

1) There have been several recent requests made to increase the transparency of council meetings e.g a later starting time, audio and/or video recording, having deputations with agenda items, non-block voting on items with presentations/deputations present etc. What are your views on accessibility to council meetings and processes?

2) A recent study by Murdoch University into tree cover and urban heat showed that Swan compared favourably with other councils with respect to percent tree cover. However, this average figure may reflect the semi-rural nature of parts of the shire with a greater abundance of trees. Given the strong association between tree canopy cover and the health impact of the heat island effect, as well as the amenity value of trees for Swan, what is your long term vision for tree cover in the urban parts of our community?

3) The City of Swan currently spends ~$9.38 per resident on cycling infrastructure. However leading councils in WA are spending up to $70 per resident. Will you support and champion increasing funding for cycling infrastructure?

4) Looking at transport more broadly, for exisiting councillors, how have you supported the creation of people friendly transport (walking, cycling, public transport)? For prospective councillors, how will you support and encourage walking, cycling and public transport use?

5) Finally, what’s your vision for the future of our community?

RESPONSES

Joe Marino

1.        I have always supported the community to have accessibility to Council meetings and processes.  Councillors need to be accountable  for transparency of meetings.  While I was on council for 14 years I always was open and accountable for my decision making, allowing the community time and accessibility to me before I considered the decision on Council.  Improvements are required in the current environment; if elected I will be happy to consult the community on new improved measures to be put in place.

2.       I am very supportive of tree planting throughout the urban parts of the City.  I have participated in annual tree planting with community groups together with promoting the free tree program with in the City.  Whilst on Council I was always supportive of this program.   The program allows for the community to access free trees for planting from the City.  My long term vision is to increase the allowance of trees provided by the city to the community each year and to implement a bench mark of annual tree planting by the City.

3.       When I was first elected on Council there was no funding on the budget for cycle paths for the City.  Council introduced a cycle plan to be introduced within the City so funds were allocated to the implementation of the plan.  Over the period of the plan funds were increased to provide for the paths.  I was instrumental in the allocation of funds to be increase over time.  I have had no vision on the current plan plus the allocation of funds as I am no longer a Councillor.  If elected I will revisit the plan for future direction and seek increased funding over the coming years.

4.       As a previous Councillor, I put a benchmark in place for funding requirements for all paths, which was increased substantially by me over a period of time.  Also introduced the free bus shuttle service in Midland and increased funding for bus shelters.  I also continuously lobbied State Government for improved services to public transport.   As for the future I will review the current budget allocations and put in place appropriated funding allocations to promote and improve people friendly transport.

5.       My ultimate vision is the have a sustainable and affordable City for our community to live in.  Consult the community as to the introduction of sustainable opportunities within the City and to reward the community with incentives when implemented.  With this in mind I would continue to focus also on core activities such services for youth and seniors, community safety, graffiti management, heritage, improvements to roads, paths, streetscape, drainage, the environment, facilities for the community and a balanced approach to development.  I would like to make the City the ultimate choice to live in.

Kent Acott

1. I believe council meetings should start later, perhaps 6.30pm. And after attending many meetings as a member of the public, I know there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding of procedures. This needs to be addressed. The recording of meetings should also be re-assessed. More engagement with the public is vital for a progressive and forward-thinking council.

2. I certainly appreciate the value of a significant tree cover and the importance it has on overall community health and well-being. It becomes even more critical as Perth’s urban sprawl shows no real signs of abating. It is absolutely critical that we protect the tree cover we have. I would be very interested in speaking to your group about other tactics and options.

3-4. For many years, I have been writing and speaking about the need to reprioritise our transport focus. We need to put people first, cycling second, public transport third and the car last. This needs to be done at all levels of government. (It is encouraging to hear our new Prime Minister has distanced himself from the 1950s thinking of “build more roads”). For the City of Swan this means creating streets for people (with benches, tables and things to do and engage), providing more bike infrastructure (including dedicated bike paths, more bike racks and repair stations) and lobbying for improved public transport services. These should be the prime focus of all developments and road work, not just after-thoughts.

5. I want to help Midland-Guildford become a vibrant and exciting community, where families thrive and businesses flourish. I want to give Midland-Guildford a soul by creating interesting and engaging spaces, places and events. I want to introduce a contemporary way of thinking that puts people first. I want to embrace the area’s unique qualities and heritage fabric. And, most of all, I want its residents to feel safe and comfortable. This is my vision for Midland-Guildford. Check out my facebook page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/KentAcott.MidlandGuildford

Ian Johnson

Transparency of City of Swan meetings is important to align the City more closely to voters and residents. I have supported later City of Swan council meeting times for some time, and if elected this is the first thing that I will raise with other councillors. I work in Perth and live in Guildford, and the current City of Swan meeting start time of 5:30pm means I need to leave the office at 4:45pm. On a typical work day I do not leave the office until 6pm, so in my view City of Swan meetings need to start at 7pm to accommodate councillors who work in Perth, AND just as importantly, City of Swan residents who work in Perth who wish to attend council meetings. We need more people to attend.

I also favour web casting of meetings so that residents can see what is going on. The meeting procedures used will need to be modified so that people watching, or attending in person can follow the events.

On the subject of trees, I have been defending trees wherever I have lived for decades. Recently I took part in community action to defend street trees in Guildford.  If elected I will continue to defend our trees and promote the planting of new trees.

Trees grow, mature, and eventually die, and we need a long term plan for the trees of Guildford. We need to look at what type of trees, and succession planning for trees. With the changes to the management of the flood plain around Guildford, it appears that there is scope for more trees to be planted. It would be great to see the original pre-settlement woodland  return to the flood plain. As a volunteer firefighter I am well aware of the risks involved with woodland close to housing at the rural urban interface, and so there would need to be adequate firebreaks and other precautions.

As an occasional cyclist, I cycle from Guildford to work in Perth about 20 times a year and was pleased with last year’s upgrade of the Perth/Midland cycle path  to include the underpass at Lord Street, Success Hill. This has made the journey far safer and slightly faster. The new cycle path extension under construction comes past my home in Swan Street, Guildford  so I am looking forward to using it. I will support new cycling infrastructure and some simple changes in Guildford would include cycle racks in the area of the coffee strip. In the longer term, I will support the proposed cycle bridge to carry the Perth Midland cycle path over the River Swan. If elected I will be seeking ideas for improving  the cycling experience in the City of Swan.

As a prospective councillor I have already worked to ensure people friendly transport. In May 2014 the City of Swan took away some of our Guildford jarrah and iron bus shelters without proper consultation.  I noticed that 3 bus shelters had gone missing, including one I used when I commuted by bus to Belmont, and so I campaigned to get them back. When the City put back 5 bus shelters I thought my campaign was exceeding expectations until I found that they had taken away 8 bus shelters. Most of the time I go to work by train from East Guildford station. The City of Swan needs to be advising the State Government that greater capacity is needed on the Midland Line.

As part of my election campaign I did about 80% of my own leafleting and so must have walked over a hundred kilometres. Some parts of Midland Guildford are not pedestrian friendly as there are no footpaths. In addition I noticed in places such as Stratton and South Guildford there are bus stops, but no bus shelters. The CoS should provide more bus shelters and should encourage the PTA to provide more frequent bus services.

We have a lot of train lines and railway reserves but the passenger network is goes only as far as Midland. I think the City should be talking to the State government about extending our passenger network in the City of Swan.

My vision for our community is to continue the 2 storey building limit in Guildford and to support the heritage character of Guildford. I believe all homes in our community should have gardens. In Midland Guildford as a whole, we need to retain open space for children to play on – for this reason I oppose the Midland Oval development as the 12 storey block of flats the City of Swan wants to build will remove the green space that the children who might live there would need. Instead of turning the Midland Oval into concrete jungle let’s do something imaginative – what about a children’s adventure playground, or a botanical garden, or community garden or simply return it to the use envisaged when the Oval land was donated to the community over a hundred years ago.

Finally my vision is for a community where the City of Swan recognises that it is there to serve the community and that means finding out what the community wants and implementing that. If elected I will work to improve the communication on policy matters between residents and the City. In particular I will listen to groups such as Transition Town Guildford and other groups in the area to deliver what people want and expect.

ianpjohnson@yahoo.com, 0411 097 393

https://www.facebook.com/ianjohnson.midlandguildford

Draft Guildford Heritage Precinct Master Plan launched

Tonight the City of Swan ‘launched’ the Draft Guildford Heritage Precinct Master Plan in the Guildford town hall. This is a significant document that will shape the long-term future of the ‘Guildford Heritage precinct’ – ostensibly Meadow street between Swan and Helena streets. But will have significant implications for all Guildford residents and visitors.

The document is aimed at developing a long-term plan for the use and care of the heritage buildings, sites and streetscapes on Meadow street Guildford. The document has been prepared by a team of consultants (landscape planners, heritage architects, tourism professionals etc.) and will be available for download on the city website tomorrow. Hard copies of the report will also be available at the Midland/Guildford libraries and the Admin building.

It canvasses the best uses of the existing buildings and potential alternative uses (e.g. moving the Potters, Visitor centre, or Library etc.). Three major options are proposed, but elements from all options are up for debate.

It’s also a rather substantial document, ~100 pages apparently. Therefore, the City only provided a brief overview tonight and is giving residents 2 weeks to read and digest the report, before a feedback session (Monday 30th March, 6:30 pm). We encourage everyone to look at the sections of the report which interest them and make sure you come along to have input in 2 weeks time!

Guildford Heritage plan