Mayne’s Whinge: Too many open Council meetings

 Less than one month into his term as a City elder and Stephen Mayne is already complaining about the number of open public meetings he has to attend.  Mayne thinks three meetings a month is too much and he would like to have them reduced to two. (So much for his commitment to transparency and accountability).  most decisions of Council are made behind closed doors and are not minuted or documented. The public or even the Council for that matter have no idea what decisions are being made in the name of the City Council. But three public meetings a month  is too many for Stephen.  Mayne did not get support from his fellow Councillors to have the meetings dates changed but he did foreshadow that we would be seeking to argue (behind closed doors no doubts ) for a reduction in the number of open public meetings sometime in the future. In doing so Mayne made reference to other City Councils who he said held only two such meetings a month.

Stephen has no community base and as such is accountable to no one.   He is a faction of one.  Whilst he seeks to form an alliance with the administration and is reported as not returning members of the local community and City traders phone calls. he is also oblivious to the fact that City of Melbourne Councillors receive substantially more money for their time (over $1,000 a week plus bonus payments, lurkes and lerks and other benefits) much more than in available in other municipalities. Mayne is also oblivious of the provisions of Section 89 of the Local Government Act.

Robert Doyle overseeing Melbourne’s commitment to democracy

Robert Doyle once again demonstrated that he was in control and that his mode of management was to provide the community input into the decisions of Council that do manage to get a mention on the Council’s agenda.  The Future Melbourne Committee meetings are the only chance members of the public get to express their concerns in an open public forum.  Unlike Stephen Mayne, Robert Doyle intends to retain this right and the opportunity for open transparent democracy.

Mind you the meetings do not really contribute much to the public discourse, but they do provide a forum for some Councillors to hear their own voice and practice public speaking in a closed forum in what is a bonus to the hoards of paid staff who are on the public payroll to attend the talk fests.  There were more staff then public in attendance, costing ratepayers a pretty penny in overtime or time-off in exchange.  It’s always good to see Councillor support staff, such as Jack, in attendance. Jack, alias the “Governance Elf”,  has been a valuable source of leaked information and gossip about what goes on behind the scenes.

Our award again goes to  Crs Watts and Louey who withheld the need to listen to their own voice and who just voted on the issues before them without debate.  This is efficiency at its best.  Stephen Mayne and other Councillors should learn from them.  The December 11 meeting was over within 90 minutes.

The Council Voice: Cross Examination of Witnesses

Last Tuesdays “Future Melbourne” All up council meeting was interesting to say the least, if not worthy of an event in Melbourne’s Comedy Show.

Cr Mayne dominated procedures and you would think he was the shows chairman.  At one stage in proceedings Cr Mayne referred to submitters  as Witnesses.  Clearly Councillor Mayne was at ease in the theatrics of the meeting even if he was confused by the fact that it was not a court of law.

Like that of  ballet performance each Councillor has their chance to shine on centre stage, although some shone more than others as  each Councillor took over the role of chairman depending on what topic was under consideration.  The Council spent an in-ordinate amount of time discussing various planning permits that managed to get referred to the Council  meeting for consideration only be deferred to next weeks meeting.

Councillor Mayne has clearly embarked on a policy and tactic of endorsing Staff recommendations this avoiding any changes or reflections of any real merit.  (It pas dividends at a later stage to keep the administration on side you never know when you may need a favour in exchange) Never the less Stephen Mayne gave a convincing performance and maintained eye contact and focus at all time showing confidence if not substance.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was the only other player that demonstrated that experience counts when it comes to meeting etiquette and style.  One could not help but like his style.

There was an interesting movement, during the later stages of the meeting when Robert Doyle and Beverly Pinder-Mortium had left the meeting early,  when the numbers in the chamber were equally divided 4 for and 4 against and meeting had to rely on the casting vote of whoever was chairman at the time. Traditionally a casting vote should be cast to maintain the status quo or if there is none to the negative.   In any event a resolution of the committee that does not command the support of an absolute majority of the elected Council (6) the vote is referred to the full Council meeting for consideration.  In this tie breaker Cr Ong correctly ruled against a proposed amendment but then cast his deciding vote as chairman by ruling in favour of the substantive motion put forward by Cr Mayne.

Whilst the procedures of the Council may satisfy those who have an interest in the topics that have been placed on the agenda, and those who were granted the opportunity to have their three minutes presentation followed by a cross examination by Stephen Mayne,  what concerned me more was what was not on the agenda or listed in the Council papers.

Most issues are decided now-a-days by delegation, no one knows what decision are made and by who. Decisions are made behind closed doors  hidden form the public’s view. There is no `register of delegations and there is no central reporting of what decisions have been made in the name of the Council.  I tried to raise this issue at the end of the meeting but the Councillors sat there with be wielded faces not knowing what to do.  If there is no recommendation, script auto queue  before them they  dumfounded.

It would be good governance for the Council to at least review a list of delegations and request the publication of any decision made under delegation to be listed on the Council web site and a summary presented at Council’s Future Melbourne meetings.

It would be good if Council meeting could be web cast, if not informative it is at least entertaining and admission if free.

The Council Voice: Cross Examination of Witnesses

Last Tuesdays “Future Melbourne” All up council meeting was interesting to say the least, if not worthy of an event in Melbourne’s Comedy Show.

Cr Mayne dominated procedures and you would think he was the shows chairman.  At one stage in proceedings Cr Mayne referred to submitters  as Witnesses.  Clearly Councillor Mayne was at ease in the theatrics of the meeting even if he was confused by the fact that it was not a court of law.

Like that of  ballet performance each Councillor has their chance to shine on centre stage, although some shone more than others as  each Councillor took over the role of chairman depending on what topic was under consideration.  The Council spent an in-ordinate amount of time discussing various planning permits that managed to get referred to the Council  meeting for consideration only be deferred to next weeks meeting.

Councillor Mayne has clearly embarked on a policy and tactic of endorsing Staff recommendations this avoiding any changes or reflections of any real merit.  (It pas dividends at a later stage to keep the administration on side you never know when you may need a favour in exchange) Never the less Stephen Mayne gave a convincing performance and maintained eye contact and focus at all time showing confidence if not substance.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle was the only other player that demonstrated that experience counts when it comes to meeting etiquette and style.  One could not help but like his style.

There was an interesting movement, during the later stages of the meeting when Robert Doyle and Beverly Pinder-Mortium had left the meeting early,  when the numbers in the chamber were equally divided 4 for and 4 against and meeting had to rely on the casting vote of whoever was chairman at the time. Traditionally a casting vote should be cast to maintain the status quo or if there is none to the negative.   In any event a resolution of the committee that does not command the support of an absolute majority of the elected Council (6) the vote is referred to the full Council meeting for consideration.  In this tie breaker Cr Ong correctly ruled against a proposed amendment but then cast his deciding vote as chairman by ruling in favour of the substantive motion put forward by Cr Mayne.

Whilst the procedures of the Council may satisfy those who have an interest in the topics that have been placed on the agenda, and those who were granted the opportunity to have their three minutes presentation followed by a cross examination by Stephen Mayne,  what concerned me more was what was not on the agenda or listed in the Council papers.

Most issues are decided now-a-days by delegation, no one knows what decision are made and by who. Decisions are made behind closed doors  hidden form the public’s view. There is no `register of delegations and there is no central reporting of what decisions have been made in the name of the Council.  I tried to raise this issue at the end of the meeting but the Councillors sat there with be wielded faces not knowing what to do.  If there is no recommendation, script auto queue  before them they  dumfounded.

It would be good governance for the Council to at least review a list of delegations and request the publication of any decision made under delegation to be listed on the Council web site and a summary presented at Council’s Future Melbourne meetings.

It would be good if Council meeting could be web cast, if not informative it is at least entertaining and admission if free.

Payback: Council Credit on the line

Whilst embattled MP Craig Thomson faces allegations and charges for alleged misuse of Union funds arising from the Fair work Australia, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and Senior Staff continue to ring up charges on their Council supplied Corporate Credit Card.  Members of the Council’s Governance team are constantly having to chase up on the Lord Mayor and staff to pay back money that has been accredited to the Council’s account. 

In Linda Weathersons  account these expenses do not show up on the Council expense statements as they have not been acquitted. 

Dodgy accounting aside, the fact is the use of the corporate card for personal expenses should not be allowed,  even just a short term personal loan or a question of convenience. 

Hopefully the media will FOI the Council for the copy of all staff’s credit card statements

The Council’s published expense statements  no longer show expenses related to overseas and interstate communication or travel. They’re instead hidden away in the consolidated Travel register.

Does that mean the Council is not reimbursing out of pocket expenses occurred whilst on junkets overseas and instead they are being paid an illegal  additional allowance, above and beyond the allowances set out under the Local Government Act?

The findings of the Thomson case  will have a far reaching effect well and beyond the confines of Federal Politics.

Payback: Council Credit on the line

Whilst embattled MP Craig Thomson faces allegations and charges for alleged misuse of Union funds arising from the Fair work Australia, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor and Senior Staff continue to ring up charges on their Council supplied Corporate Credit Card.  Members of the Council’s Governance team are constantly having to chase up on the Lord Mayor and staff to pay back money that has been accredited to the Council’s account. 

In Linda Weathersons  account these expenses do not show up on the Council expense statements as they have not been acquitted. 

Dodgy accounting aside, the fact is the use of the corporate card for personal expenses should not be allowed,  even just a short term personal loan or a question of convenience. 

Hopefully the media will FOI the Council for the copy of all staff’s credit card statements

The Council’s published expense statements  no longer show expenses related to overseas and interstate communication or travel. They’re instead hidden away in the consolidated Travel register.

Does that mean the Council is not reimbursing out of pocket expenses occurred whilst on junkets overseas and instead they are being paid an illegal  additional allowance, above and beyond the allowances set out under the Local Government Act?

The findings of the Thomson case  will have a far reaching effect well and beyond the confines of Federal Politics.

Form before Function: Melboure City Council’s failed design

The City of Melbourne Award Winning $25 Million Dollar revamp of Swanston Street continues to come under fire by traders, pedestrians and the like.  Not only are the Tram Super Stops unsafe an accident waiting to happen, the outdoor café shelters are virtually useless when it comes to providing shelter.

The “V” profile lets the rain in and there is hardly a dry spot left available for dinners.  The design just does not function.

Rob Adam’s “Designer City” department spent a pretty penny designing and having constructed the latest stainless steal street furniture and add-ons.  It seams not one feature of the Street make over has been successful  at anything other then emptying the Council’s bank balance. 

The Street lighting is hidden way in the Trees. The stainless steal seats provide little comfort and the Street café shelters let in the rain.

Whilst the elected Council is quick to try and claim success in the Million dollar makeover the Street is not looking or functioning any better,  the Super stops have added to traffic congestion preventing emergency vehicle access.  Service vehicles have difficult in making deliveries and the road surface is in need a replacement.

Although everyone else has difficulty with the Street, the Lord Mayor continues to travel down Swanston Street in his limo unabated.  Taxi’s and the Police are allowed to park in the street willy nilly, even where there is no designated parking spots, the tram “Super” stops are a major safety hazard and the Street furniture and lighting does not function.

The only vitality left in the Street is provided by the Horse and Carriages and Melbourne’s Street Traders.  Without them it would be just a very expensive and extravagant private car park/bicycle path. Designer City Out of Control

Form before Function: Melboure City Council’s failed design

The City of Melbourne Award Winning $25 Million Dollar revamp of Swanston Street continues to come under fire by traders, pedestrians and the like.  Not only are the Tram Super Stops unsafe an accident waiting to happen, the outdoor café shelters are virtually useless when it comes to providing shelter.

The “V” profile lets the rain in and there is hardly a dry spot left available for dinners.  The design just does not function.

Rob Adam’s “Designer City” department spent a pretty penny designing and having constructed the latest stainless steal street furniture and add-ons.  It seams not one feature of the Street make over has been successful  at anything other then emptying the Council’s bank balance. 

The Street lighting is hidden way in the Trees. The stainless steal seats provide little comfort and the Street café shelters let in the rain.

Whilst the elected Council is quick to try and claim success in the Million dollar makeover the Street is not looking or functioning any better,  the Super stops have added to traffic congestion preventing emergency vehicle access.  Service vehicles have difficult in making deliveries and the road surface is in need a replacement.

Although everyone else has difficulty with the Street, the Lord Mayor continues to travel down Swanston Street in his limo unabated.  Taxi’s and the Police are allowed to park in the street willy nilly, even where there is no designated parking spots, the tram “Super” stops are a major safety hazard and the Street furniture and lighting does not function.

The only vitality left in the Street is provided by the Horse and Carriages and Melbourne’s Street Traders.  Without them it would be just a very expensive and extravagant private car park/bicycle path. Designer City Out of Control

Hot Deals: Two Major Projects under review for 2013

Planning and discussions are under foot for the redevelopment of two significant sites in Melbourne – The Queen Victoria Market site and the Jolimont Rail Yards  site between Russel and Spring Streets.

Both sites are in need of re-development but proposals that have been bandied around in the media and promoted by Robert Doyle and the City Council set alarm bells ringing with private developers buzzing around the projects like scavengers and birds of pray hovering over a two day road kill all wanting a free feed or a coven of vampires who have been offered the keys to the blood bank.  Profit and theft of public assets by political mandate.

Queen Victoria Market 

Development of the Queen Victoria Market site in the car park south of the goods shed is long over due.

Issues related to the grave sites of Melbourne’s pioneer community needs to be addressed with any identified remains respectively moved and relocated.  Many of the graves that once comprised Melbourne old cemetery have already been moved and it should be possible to relocate remaining grave sites to facilitate the development of the site.

Any development of the Queen Victoria site to avoid over crowding and visual overshadowing must be subject to strict height limits.  The height of any new building must be no higher then the ridge line of the adjacent market goods sheds or a maximum of four stories.

This site needs a creative design solution to enhance the community activities and appeal of the Market precinct. Architects such as Nonda Katsalidis (Fender Katsilidis Architects) designer of the iconic Atlas/Mondo Apartments adjacent to the Market in Franklin Street would be a good choice for the design and planning of the Queen Victoria Market site.  The Council should avoid architects such as  Denton Corker and Marshal designers of Jeff’s Shed and the State Museum and Melbourne failed City Square project.

Council, as owner of the land, has full control of the sites development. The argument supporting higher density high rise development and the need to hand over the project to private developers on economic grounds must be rejected.  This site is too significant to be handed over to developers who seek to maximize profit at the expense of the communities interest. Any move to do so should be seen as possible corruption creeping into the Council’s major project portfolio.

Jolimont Rail Yards.

This is another site that privet partnership developers would love to get their hands on.  This is a site that must also be subject to height limit controls to ensure that the adjacent Federation Square and Yarra River precinct site is not  overshadowed.

Whilst fully supporting the need to roof over the rail yards and facilitate a built environment connection from Flinders Street to the Yarra River we should question the need for any proposals that construct any building on the site.  There is no reason why the site could not or should not be a hard-edge open space decking, a place for outdoor public gatherings, exhibitions and the like.

Like St Peters Square in  Rome, San Marco in Venice or Red Square in Moscow, Melbourne needs a large hard-edge open space precinct.  A place that can become the focus of large outdoor activities and community events. Melbourne’s designers and  planners have for too long suffered a fear of open spaces,, fueled mainly by greed and the need to maximize private profit. It is time to embrace a simple solution to this site which needs little more than covering of the Rail Yards and a connection to the Yarra River.

The Jolimont Rail Yards/Federation Square site should have been the home of Melbourne’s Museum. The fact that it isn’t is a testament to failed planning policies of the Kennett Government. An open space area would possible allow for the future relocation of the State Museum to this site when the Carlton Gardens site becomes tied and outdated and the Museum needs to expand.

Hopefully future generations will have the opportunity to demolish the Carlton Museum. A future Melbourne Museum should be relocated to back into the heart of the City and incorporated into Federation Square, were it should be, adding much needed vitality and focus to a city that is desperate to regain its identity as the States Capital of Arts and Culture as opposed to being dominated by Crown Casio and a Federation Square that does not function to ts fullest potential

Hot Deals: Two Major Projects under review for 2013

Planning and discussions are under foot for the redevelopment of two significant sites in Melbourne – The Queen Victoria Market site and the Jolimont Rail Yards  site between Russel and Spring Streets.

Both sites are in need of re-development but proposals that have been bandied around in the media and promoted by Robert Doyle and the City Council set alarm bells ringing with private developers buzzing around the projects like scavengers and birds of pray hovering over a two day road kill all wanting a free feed or a coven of vampires who have been offered the keys to the blood bank.  Profit and theft of public assets by political mandate.

Queen Victoria Market 

Development of the Queen Victoria Market site in the car park south of the goods shed is long over due.

Issues related to the grave sites of Melbourne’s pioneer community needs to be addressed with any identified remains respectively moved and relocated.  Many of the graves that once comprised Melbourne old cemetery have already been moved and it should be possible to relocate remaining grave sites to facilitate the development of the site.

Any development of the Queen Victoria site to avoid over crowding and visual overshadowing must be subject to strict height limits.  The height of any new building must be no higher then the ridge line of the adjacent market goods sheds or a maximum of four stories.

This site needs a creative design solution to enhance the community activities and appeal of the Market precinct. Architects such as Nonda Katsalidis (Fender Katsilidis Architects) designer of the iconic Atlas/Mondo Apartments adjacent to the Market in Franklin Street would be a good choice for the design and planning of the Queen Victoria Market site.  The Council should avoid architects such as  Denton Corker and Marshal designers of Jeff’s Shed and the State Museum and Melbourne failed City Square project.

Council, as owner of the land, has full control of the sites development. The argument supporting higher density high rise development and the need to hand over the project to private developers on economic grounds must be rejected.  This site is too significant to be handed over to developers who seek to maximize profit at the expense of the communities interest. Any move to do so should be seen as possible corruption creeping into the Council’s major project portfolio.

Jolimont Rail Yards.

This is another site that privet partnership developers would love to get their hands on.  This is a site that must also be subject to height limit controls to ensure that the adjacent Federation Square and Yarra River precinct site is not  overshadowed.

Whilst fully supporting the need to roof over the rail yards and facilitate a built environment connection from Flinders Street to the Yarra River we should question the need for any proposals that construct any building on the site.  There is no reason why the site could not or should not be a hard-edge open space decking, a place for outdoor public gatherings, exhibitions and the like.

Like St Peters Square in  Rome, San Marco in Venice or Red Square in Moscow, Melbourne needs a large hard-edge open space precinct.  A place that can become the focus of large outdoor activities and community events. Melbourne’s designers and  planners have for too long suffered a fear of open spaces,, fueled mainly by greed and the need to maximize private profit. It is time to embrace a simple solution to this site which needs little more than covering of the Rail Yards and a connection to the Yarra River.

The Jolimont Rail Yards/Federation Square site should have been the home of Melbourne’s Museum. The fact that it isn’t is a testament to failed planning policies of the Kennett Government. An open space area would possible allow for the future relocation of the State Museum to this site when the Carlton Gardens site becomes tied and outdated and the Museum needs to expand.

Hopefully future generations will have the opportunity to demolish the Carlton Museum. A future Melbourne Museum should be relocated to back into the heart of the City and incorporated into Federation Square, were it should be, adding much needed vitality and focus to a city that is desperate to regain its identity as the States Capital of Arts and Culture as opposed to being dominated by Crown Casio and a Federation Square that does not function to ts fullest potential