A Shift in Power

As always happens soon after an election, the newly configured council meet and vote for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of the City of Bayswater. The result from last night’s Special Council Meeting shows there has been a shift in power, and that shift will likely lead to significant changes for the City.

First, congratulations are due to newly elected Mayor Filomena Piffaretti and Deputy Mayor Catherine Ehrhardt on securing the numbers. They had a long-term plan, worked hard, and successfully implement it. Former Mayor Dan Bull and Cr Elli Petersen-Pik contested the positions but lost 5 votes to 6.

This is how I think the (confidential) votes went:

The Special Council Meeting is able to be viewed on YouTube and it was the first City of Bayswater council meeting to be live streamed. I personally am pleased by this as the live streaming was the final stage of my transparency motion from 17 May 2016 where the Council also agreed to audio record the meetings and implement electronic voting in the chamber.

It was good to be able to watch and listen to the meeting. Although my ears perked up when I heard the following words from the new Mayor. I consider the words to be both wrong and concerning.

“The unmistakable message, our community wants a new direction”. “There is a changing of the tide; it’s now time for us to set a new course with new leadership and a new Mayor”

Filomena Piffaretti

Why they’re wrong

They’re wrong because of the 5 Councillors who sought re-election, 4 were re-elected. If anything, this is illustrative that the wider community does not want a ‘new direction’. Contrast this with the 2015 election where out of 5 Councillors seeking re-election (Albert, Sabatino, Anderton, Toldo, Cornish), only one was re-elected (Cornish).  And this 2015 election ushered in a totally new direction for the city of Bayswater; one where Bayswater was nationally recognised for their tree management, red-tape reduction measures and edible gardens on public land. And recognised at the State level for their community consultation processes (including participatory budgeting) , transparency measures and measures to control a rampant development industry.   

Why they’re concerning

They’re concerning because any “new direction” is a move away from the above.

It all comes down to the numbers

Dan Bull was a great Mayor on many fronts, and I especially appreciated that he recognised his circa $140,000 p/a pay from the ratepayers dictated that being Mayor is a full-time job. At that level of remuneration it is non-negotiable. Filomena Piffaretti needs to follow Dan’s lead and understand that $140,000 means she needs to be a full-time Mayor as well.

Because Dan was an active fulltime Mayor, recent community commentary is concerned that Dan is no longer the Mayor. The community is missing the bigger picture though. Whilst the Mayor can set the tone of the organisation through liaising with the CEO and being the spokesperson for the council/local government, they do not have the power to make significant arbitrary decisions. Their single vote carries as much weight as every other Councillor’s vote.

The shift in power to change the Mayor, is also a shift in power for votes on important council agenda items. The “new direction” has the votes, and if you’re not in the development industry, that might concern you.