Thursday, April 1, 2010

People before Plants or Politics!

(Cr. Reid with Mdm Liong at On Luck Nursing Home. Picture used with permission)

Madam Liong is 102 years old, and has waited a long time to get into the On Luck Nursing home. There are many others like her still waiting for a place in the 60-bed Chinese-specific nursing home. In a victory of compassion and common sense, the Planning Minister and the Department of Planning and Community Development approved Ammendment C88 to the Manningham Planning Scheme, which allows On Luck to compete for Chinese-specific aged-care bed licences in this year's ethno-specific Federal allocation. The nursing home will still have to go through a planning process with council, but the Amendment gives the nursing home, and other elderly citizens like Mdm Liong, real hope for dignity and compassion in their old age.

Do not be misled by some of my fellow councillors, whom I believe seek to capitalise on the recent political bandwagon rolling against our Planning Minister. Do not indulge romantic misconceptions that this Green Wedge is a land of pretty plants and prancing possums ... As the picture below of On Luck's neighbours shows, the site is already surrounded by semi-urban developments whose impacts far exceed anything the nursing home will do. The modest 28% site coverage that On Luck will have when it fully expands will not look anything as bad as this neighbouring development!
(picture above: ADJACENT large development in the Green Wedge, NOT On Luck, but also approved by Minister). 

As the DPCD's excellent Explanatory Report to Amendment C88 explains, the social and community benefits far outweigh any environmental impacts - in fact, the report finds that there are no adverse environmental impacts! Why then the unprecedented scrutiny of this Chinese Nursing Home?

I for one, was raised to respect my elders. I cannot ever agree that in this case, it would have been preferable to indulge in a 2+ year planning process, before the final Amendment would have had to be decided by the Minister anyway. Council cannot decide on Planning Scheme Amendments, only the Minister can, that's the current Law, however much we may dislike it, and a separate grievance to take up with the State Government. We should not take out this frustration about processes on elderly nursing home residents, for they are the victims in all of this! During the suggested 2 year alternative process, several elderly residents on the nursing home's long waiting list would have passed away without ever having experienced the comfort and peace that such a language-specific facility provides. For what? To indulge the political ploys and witch-hunts by the type of Green councillor who votes against helping bushfire victims?

No, for fellow Councillors Pick, Macmillan, Downie and I, people will always come before plants or politics, and for that I make no apology!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

First battle to save our Family Parks lost by Gough's deferrment!


The fight to save our precious pockets of green, our family parks, from the ignominy of being "unclassified reserves" and the ultimate fire-sale of community assets .... IS ON! I have to go to work, but come back tonight for more on this issue!

Heartless Greens go after Nursing Home



Come back soon to find out what Cr. David Ellis had to say .....

Residents' Planning Victory: "Some of us aren't rubber-stamping robots!"


"Some of us aren't rubber-stamping robots!" was my defiant cry as we debated the fate of 53 Franklin Street, Doncaster East.

I have always supported good and appropriate development, it is necessary for urban renewal and growth. Our planning department had great foresight to introduce Amendment C53, one of the first councils to act to control high-rise developments in quiet suburban streets. However, I reject the views of my fellow Councillors Mayne, Ellis, Gough and La Vella, who supported the development and variously stated during the night that "this development ticks all the boxes" and should be allowed, accused residents of being NIMBYs, insulted the good Councillors of neighbouring Boroondara* and accused councillors like myself of "pandering to residents".

Well, I don't just tick boxes. Nor do I prejudge planning applications. At the submitters meeeting the night before, I listened to the developer. I listened to the residents. I saw that there are multi-villa developments just two blocks away and that this is a designated activity centre, and as such, designated for higher density development. Crucially though, I saw that a walk-up appartment block was inappropriate for our ageing demographics and the neighbourhood character. Multi-villa units would have achieved the same density target, whilst retaining more character and being more flexible for the future.

Cr "Tricky" Gough has served on council longer than any of us and certainly knows all the tricks (as evidenced by his clever use of deferments to closed committees he chairs), so I would never dare suggest he has lost sight of our role in being the compassionate adjudicators between strict rules and natural justice. All I know is that whilst I support our planning rules, I also listen to those who elected me. I listen to my judgement when it tells me, something that "ticks all the boxes" can still be an overdevelopment for a given neighbourhood.

"We cannot give up on our residents just because some think we might lose at VCAT!", has been my rallying cry. I said the same whilst opposing the gross overdevelopment on King Street (proposed nursing home). Sadly, Crs Mayne and Gough in particular, frequently argue that we should just follow our planning officers' recommendations because otherwise we'll just "waste money at VCAT". Rich, given that  between them they advocate the sale of community assets (like family parks) and champion 6.5% rate rises!

Cr Mayne has previously accused me of "flip-flopping" on planning matters. What he clearly cannot see, is that I judge each application on its merits, which is vastly different from his uniform, conforming approach of following officers' recommendations. I listen to all arguments, then make my own decision.

Happily, as the minutes will record, Crs Chuah, Downie, McMillan, Pick and Reid sent a clear message that higher-density can be good, but only if it is done is a manner sensitive to the neighbourhood character.

*Gough, actually on another debate that night, family parks; presumably a reference to their Kew Cottages fight on residents' behalf.

Residents' Parking Victory - Battle Won but War still to be fought!


Hurrah, we won the battle, and residents' wishes will be fulfilled, with parking restrictions in Tiffany and Adele Courts to be aligned with adjacent streets! However, it wasn't easy and the struggle is far from over - we must remain vigilant! Moments before the council meeting where my motion was to be debated, an "officers recommendation" was tabled ahead of my more comprehensive motion. My motion, supported by the residents, called for immediate restrictions, a sweeping review and strategic plan, since we cannot keep tackling this issue piecemeal. The "officers' recommendation" just called for piecemeal installation of parking restrictions. In the end, both motions were passed, but not before some debate and angst before the meeting started!

Where we have to be vigilant, is around the enforcement of these new restrictions. As my frustrated friends, the residents of Hender Street, next to the Park & Ride will attest, enforcement can be patchy. Without effective enforcement, parking signs become mere street decorations and the culprits continue to thumb their noses at residents!

Belatedly I realised that my motion did not explicitly call for the development and implementation of an effective enforcement strategy (we have very few enforcement officers to cover a large area) ...... 
We may need to revisit this one yet, I fear. I will keep a watchful eye on this, but need your support and feedback to monitor it too. E-mail me at: ivan.reid AT manningham.vic.gov.au (substitute @ for AT). Contact the Leader Newspaper. Be vigilant.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Save our Family Parks!

Our family parks are under threat from m****-grab**** councillors who have long campaigned to sell these community assets so that other pet projects of theirs can be realised!

Those peaceful green oases scattered around our municipality, usually the size of a residential block, have long been under siege. The showdown is at the pubic Council Meeting, Tue 2nd Feb 2010!

Long before I became a councillor, I supported a petition to save my local "unclassified reserve" in Coolabah Street, Doncaster. Current Council Policy allows for these reserves to go unnamed, unsigned and neglected. When play equipment falls into disrepair, it is removed, not repaired or replaced! By oficially calling them "unclassified reserves", some residents feel, as do I, that this is an attempt to belittle their true worth to the community.

Join me in my fight to protect our community assets! I have raised the following Councillor Motion at the public Council Meeting on 2nd Feb 2010. Show your support by attending at 7pm or writing to all councillors at: councillors@manningham.vic.gov.au.

Don't let them steal our parks!

Councillor Reid's motion:


Manningham City Council resolves:

1. That the term "Unclassified Reserves" as defined in 3.2.4 of the Open Space Strategy 2004 be immediately discontinued and replaced by the term "Family Parks", since this better reflects their true community value.

2. That Manningham Council immediately commences a review, independent of the broader Open Space Strategy Review, of all its policies directly dealing with "Family Parks" (currently designated "Unclassified Reserves"). This review is to also focus on reviewing the appropriateness or otherwise of current Council policies relating to the maintenance of these community assets, in particular their signage, play equipment and future use. Of particular concern are recommendations 23 to 27, and 46 of the Open Space Strategy 2004, and sections 3.3.2, 3.3.3, 3.3.4 and 3.5.2.

3. That this review involve significant community consultation including a Mayor's letter to all residents previously recorded as objecting to Council about its policies relating to "Unclassified Reserves" and/or their possible sale.
-------------------

Parking issues around Doncaster Hill


Manningham has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of cars per household in the whole of Melbourne and is the only urban municipality without any form of public rail infrastructure. Ever increasing housing density and the huge popularity of Doncaster Shoppingtown can only exacerbate the parking and congestion problems our residents already face.

To this end, I have responded to community petitions by raising the following motion to be debated at the public Council Meeting to be held Tue 2nd Feb 2010 at 7pm. I encourage all concerned residents to support me in my endeavours, by writing to "councillors@manningham.vic.gov.au" (which reaches all elected councillors) and / or attending the council meeting.

Councillor Reid's Motion:
With regard to strong community sentiment relating to on-street parking around the Doncaster Hill area, and in particular, the petition received from residents of Tiffany and Adele Courts Doncaster, Manningham Council resolves to:

1. Reflect the wishes of the majority of residents by immediately implementing Permit Parking restrictions in Tiffany and Adele Courts, Doncaster, to ensure consistency with the adjacent streets which already have these parking conditions.

2. Examine other streets around Doncaster Hill which may also have parking restrictions inconsistent with their adjoining streets and recommend measures for these streets.

3. Undertake a comprehensive strategic review of the current and projected future parking and traffic volumes around Doncaster Hill, with recommendations on suitable parking restrictions, enforcement and mitigation strategies. The review should reflect the likely continued increase in residential and commercial development within the area, particularly should the Eastern Golf Course redevelopment eventuate. It should also critically examine the current trend in parking dispensations for commercial developments and consider the impact of possible new public transport e.g. tram.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't give up little tram!



Today, I was officially informed that Cr. Gough met with the Mayor to express outrage at my tram article below. Cr Gough has stated he is seeking legal advice and has plans to sue me!

Such an approach is most disappointing. I believe that differences between people make the world a richer place, and strive to ensure freedom from discrimination, harassment and bullying. My blog is a means to share facts and opinions in our free society. If there is anything factually incorrect, I am always approachable and willing to resolve matters.

However, let me be perfectly clear:

1. I have stated that Cr. Gough and Cr. La Vella effectively voted against the tram, using the word “effectively” most deliberately, since this conveys my personal opinion of the effect that a vote against the motion would have had on the tram. Whether they are supportive of the tram and the degree or manner in which they choose to suport/oppose it, is for ratepayers to judge themselves, based on their actions and recorded speeches in the council chamber.

2. I do not resile from anything in my article; all quotes below are transcribed directly from an audio recording of the public meeting and can be verified once council publishes the audio.

Like the "little train that could", I will continue to “draw upon bravery and determination” to represent my fellow residents by being transparent and true. I am tolerant of constructive, robust debate and encourage all would-be politicians to do the same. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Little Tram that Could


The debate on the feasibility of a tram up to Doncaster Hill (and possibly beyond) lasted a surprising 49 minutes, with numerous interruptions of my speech by those who feared pushing for a tram would jeopardise funding for the buses.

At the heart of the debate was the decision whether to accept a GHD Consultants’ report on the tram which, in the opinion of both myself and the Public Transport Users’ Association (www.ptua.org.au) is flawed and misleading. Had we accepted the report’s findings and the initial council motion, we would effectively have consigned the tram to the back-burner and could look forward to another 35 years of fruitless lobbying.

In arguing for an alternative motion that would give us better quality facts, I drew on a famous tale I recently told my young son, “The Little Train that Could” (the particular relevance of the bold sections will become quickly apparent):

“…the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. In desperation, the train asked the little switch-engine to draw it up the hill. "I think I can," puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, "I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can." It reached the top by drawing on bravery and determination and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, "I thought I could, I thought I could."

Here are some interesting facts:

Doncaster Hill is less steep than certain stretches of Burwood Highway, which was one of three routes to be recently extended by the State Government. Down goes that argument against the tram. “I think I can, I think I can…”

The Burwood extension went ahead despite the fact that it’s a very long way from there to the city. This shows the “extended travel time” argument raised by certain councillors to be disingenuous and irrelevant. “I think I can, I think I can…”

Kerbside trams are very successful in many European cities, and this makes disability-compliant tram stops far easier to build. Another hurdle proposed by the GHD report shot down. “I think I can, I think I can…”

As a representative of the people, I am quickly learning bravery and determination – just like that little train that could. Earlier this year, when I successfully fought for rate rebates for low-income ratepayers, a report claimed that it would cost over $50,000 to administer the scheme. It’s a good thing I did challenge that report, because we have now found it will cost less than $5,000! “I thought I could, I thought I could”

Rather than consign the prospect of light rail for Doncaster to the back burner; rather than choose not to invest in tools to help us lobby the State for rail to Manningham (as some long-standing councillors advocate); rather than take off the pressure and cower in fear that bus grants may be taken off us … I want the public transport that Manningham deserves and I’m prepared to fight for it!

In my closing summary, I stated:

“It would shock most of the residents of this municipality at the level of what some might call filibustering that’s been going on here, in regards to what is a very basic request – that: We want a tram up the hill; We think we can do it; let’s just get it done and commission a report. I think it is very telling listening to some of the comments from the floor this evening, talking about how it’s not our responsibility to produce reports and lobby the government and that we should just leave it ..”

Here, Cr. La Vella interrupted with a Point of Order, where she said “It wasn’t stated that we didn’t say it was our job to lobby the state government.” (huh?)

My comments were based on Cr. Gough having earlier stated (transcribed verbatim from the audio recording):

“We’re spending money on things that really aren’t up to us to do. The responsibility of providing these services rests fairly and squarely on the State Government. The State Government will do their own feasibility studies if ever they’re going to do it. So what are we doing it for? A few bits of paper so we can go and lobby. That’s what we’re doing it for.”

As my trusted colleague Cr. Pick later so aptly pointed out, in Whittlesea it was precisely the reports and lobbying by the council & community groups that eventually got the government to deliver the South Morang rail extension! They invested in the community’s future, they didn’t give up and nor should we!

Finally permitted to continue, I concluded:

“Really if we took the approach of not spending money on a report, and not pushing as hard as we can to get a tram for residents, then it’s no surprise that it’s been … 30, 40 years we’ve been trying to get a train to our municipality and failed. … It’s an investment for our community and it’s long overdue.”

Cr. Reid summarised, “We need a bus, we need a tram, we need a train! Let’s back the tram that could and pass this (my) motion and stop filibustering”.
My motion (actual words from audio recording):

A. That council note the completion of Council Plan item 2.5.3; and

B. Council considers that this matter warrants further investigation and that it commissions a feasibility study on the provision of light rail in the municipality with a specific focus on extending the Route 48 tram from North Balwyn to initially, Doncaster Hill; and

C. The council commissions a second expert opinion from a suitably credentialed public transport expert to review the findings of the GHD Consultants’ pre-feasibility report and conduct a further independent pre-feasibility report.

D. We approach the Boroondara City Council and request that they pay half of the feasibility of the 4km (sic), which is 2km in their municipality.

(NB. Item D was an amendment requested by Cr. La Vella).

This motion was eventually passed 7-2, with a “division” recording that Cr. Gough and Cr. LaVella had effectively voted against the tram for Doncaster Hill.

“I thought I could, I thought I could” puffed the little train ….. Watch this space.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Budget considerations


We've been very busy of late, culminating with an intensive full weekend of planning last weekend. From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, we ensconced ourselves at the Pines U3A centre to discuss this year's budget.

A central issue was what to do with rates - freeze them or allow a modest increase over last year. We are all mindful of the likely impacts of the Global Economic Crisis (GEC) and are exploring ways to stimulate the local economy and help those who need it most. All of us wish to help those in need with targeted assistance - the challenge we face is how to direct the funds. I and several of my fellow councillors support modest rebates to Health Card holders, whilst other councillors prefer not to use this indicator of need, but distribute financial relief through organisations such as Doncare instead. My position? I would like to provide targeted relief through BOTH channels, i.e. to Health Card holders and additionally, through case-by-case assistance facilitated by organisations such as Doncare.

When considering how much rates may have to increase by, factors that have weighed heavily in my personal deliberations include:
- our rates have increased 78% over the last 10 years on a compounding basis. (suggesting we should minimise rate increases now). This compares with the compounded consumer price index (CPI) increase of only 36% for the same period. In summary, our rates have increased at a rate over twice that of inflation! See footnote A below for data sources.

- the need to have sufficient capital to fund essential asset maintenance - we have an increasing cost associated with maintaining buildings we errected in the late 60's. My strong position on this is that all future capital works being considered by council MUST reflect TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP over the life of the asset, or at least 5-10 years out. Whilst Manningham is a leader in good asset management, we have yet to develop this level of "true cost" analysis. Having this information would allow us to make more informed decisions in a time when we have to balance the desire to build new facilities against the need to keep our costs (and hence the rates demand) down. All of this does unfortunately speak, in my mind, against a 0% rate rise.

- the benefit to the local economy of a strong capital works program. Spending on infrastructure is known to have positive flow-on effects across the wider community. To me, this makes a modest rate increase less unpalatable.

So, as you can see, there are many issues to consider and I'm certain that we will not be able to please everyone with our budget. Fortunately, there will be plenty of community consultation before anything is finalised, so look out for the notices and have your say! Be assured however that I will do my best to represent the balanced interests of our community, with an emphasis on financial sustainability and fairness.

All this should make for some interesting debates at the next public council meeting March 31st. As always, let me know what you think. Hope to see you there!

Footnote A: Data sources: Council-supplied data shows rates increased by the following percentages each year since 1999/2000 as follows: 2.5%, 6.7%, 4.5%, 7%, 9%, 8%, 5.5%, 6%, 5.5%, 4.8%; This compares unfavourably against the Consumer Price Index data from www.rba.gov.au which shows CPI year-ending June percentage changes (all groups) of 1.1%, 3.2%, 6.0%, 2.8%, 2.7%, 2.5%, 2.5%, 4.0%, 2.1%, 4.5% for the same periods.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Strategic Briefing Sessions

On Tuesday, all councillors and several council officers had a "Strategic Briefing Session" (SBS), which ran from 5pm to 12am - that's seven hours of discussions and presentations on 27 agenda items. These SBSs are closed sessions where briefings are provided on a variety of issues, and healthy debate between councillors is encouraged. These sessions are for discussion only, and official policy decisions can only be made at the monthly ordinary (public) council meetings, which I encourage all residents to attend at least once.

I found our session to be very informative (thank you to the council officers for their excellent presentations) and the discussions highly valuable. Topics we discussed ranged from planning issues to financial performance and almost everything in-between, including details of the impending official launch of council's revamped website and a great new exhibition at the Manningham Art Gallery - see council's website for more details!

Together with recent briefings on Doncaster Hill and a tour of relevant facilities, I believe we are rapidly getting "up-to-speed" on a variety of important issues.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Town Planning


Recently, I've been getting numerous calls from residents concerned about proposed building developments. Unlike some other councils, Manningham had the foresight to intorduce (about 2 years ago), explicit planning overlays for all areas of Manningham, which makes it easier to enforce sensible controls on proposed developments outside designated high activity centres. Unfortunately, there will always still be developments which just don't seem to fit into the neighbourhood. Rescode explicitly refers to "existing neighbourhood character" as one of the parameters that need to be satisfied by a planning application. There may also be instances where overshadowing of north-facing windows/living areas is excessive. When this happens, residents can lodge objections, which are considered by council officers when planning applications are assessed. Objections should be lodged within 14 days of the development notice being errected. Petitions are less effective than individual objections. An excellent overview of the planning/objection process is provided by the national group "Save our Suburbs" (www.sos.org.au). Here is the link to the guide, which is a few years old, so do your own research as well.

What can councillors do? Well, individually, councillors have little power, but where there is enough concern from residents, a planning application can be referred to a full council meeting for a decision. Regardless of the outcome at council, an application can still be appealed at VCAT, so it can be a long process. My advice is:
1. do your own research into Rescode and SOS
2. speak with all councillors in your Ward
3. speak with the council planning officer responsible for reviewing the planning application, and ensure you familiarise yourself with the details of the plans
4. work with your neighbours
5. seek discussions with the developer
6. lodge any objections factually and promptly

At the end of the day, Manningham needs continuous development to meet the demands of a growing population. The vast majority of developments are worthy additions to our evolving cityscape. Where a development appears to be unsuitable, there are clear processes which seek to ensure a win-win outcome for all. Take the time to do your research and we can all work together for a better Manningham!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations Mr. President!

Although I am politically neutral, I can't help but feel excited and happy that the United States have elected Barack Obama as their 44th President. Let's hope and pray that he has the wisdom and gets the support needed to turn around the economic and foreign policy challenges that lie ahead.



One video clip that I found amusing plays on Barack's ethnic heritage, in particular the notion that African-Americans are particularly "groovy" - some US musicians have "pimped" his new ride, Air Force One. Check out the reactions of the "redneck Texans" !


By the way, did you know, President Obama is only 8 years older than me? bwahaha!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Community Organisation Umbrella Group


Individuals and pockets of residents can be very passionate about their topical issues. In the course of campaigning for what they believe and seeking productive outcomes, these individuals learn valuable lessons. Lessons in how to lobby effectively, whom to approach for fastest results, good communication strategies etc.. Unfortunately, once the issue(s) is addressed, these noble citizens often revert to their daily lives, taking all that useful experience with them. The next group or individual that comes along with an important issue, has to go through the whole process again.

Recognising the huge amount of experience, wisdom and passion that is spread across our community, I would like to help harness this potential for the collective good!

I've today asked council to help me gather details of all known resident action groups, and I will seek to solicit input from others, so that we can together form an "umbrella organisation" to bring these diverse groups of residents together. The goals of this umbrella group would include:
1. sharing knowledge, tips etc... useful to all lobby groups
2. provide a focal point for potentially supporting one another in different campaigns (e.g. some groups are very small and could benefit from advice or practical assistance such as volunteer petitioners, letter drops etc..)
3. community networking - one group might find another group, previously unknown to them, exists with very similar goals. Why not collaborate?

I recognise that this will be quite a challenge, given the diversity of issues, personalities etc... However I firmly believe that there is great skill, wisdom and support within the community that can be harnessed to make things happen more efficiently and effectively through community cooperation. This cannot be done by one individual, so your help is needed!

Please contact me through any of the channels below if you would like to help or have suggestions:
Councillor Ivan Reid
e-mail: ivan.reid AT manningham.vic.gov.au (note replace 'AT' with '@' This is to foil spammers)
phone: 0408 one four seven 628
fax: 9840 two zero four seven

My initial goal is to facilitate and help kickoff a meeting of like-minded Manningham residents to discuss and agree terms of reference for this umbrella group.

Photo credit: thanks to justfor_donATyahoo.com.hk!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New year, parking and savings

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a peaceful and joyous start to the new year. My family and I welcomed in the new year at a friend's house and we're all filled with optimism for a great year ahead (well, we have to start somewhere to defeat all the gloom and doom being reported in the news!).

It's early days yet, but as councillors, we've already started sinking our teeth into complex and unusual matters, with a regular council meeting and two special (closed) meetings since our inauguration already...


PARKING
In the week before Christmas, I responded to frustrated traders opposite Shoppingtown, whose business and very livelihood was being adversely affected by a lack of parking spots for their own legitimate customers. I understand that some people are parking outside Autobarn, Officeworks and Clarke Rubber without the intention of shopping there, but to avoid parking at Shoppingtown instead. This practice prevents legitimate shoppers from accessing these shops. I also received calls from residents in residential streets adjoining Shoppingtown on the same issue of overflow parking.

Working with the traders, I escalated the issue to our CEO Lydia Wilson and Director of Planning, Paul Molan, who were able to improve the situation somewhat, with new signs enforcing 1 hour parking limits and increased enforcement patrols. However these measures are only a partial solution and clearly this will be an ongoing challenge that the community, Westfield, traders and council will have to explore in earnest.

NOT IN AUSTRALIA I'M AFRAID!
On a lighter note, I had an amusing call from a resident recently. It started with congratulations at my election to Councillor, but then just hung there ... I could tell there was more to the call, and when asked what was on his mind, the caller suddenly wailed, "I got a parking ticket today! Can you do anything about it?" After clarifying the circumstances were legitimate, I had to break the news that there are strict laws against inappropriate influence by councillors that might benefit an individual or organisation more than the wider community. In other words, whilst such "favours" might be suspected in other countries, generally this doesn't happen here, and certainly not on my watch! Sigh. "If only" eh?


SAVINGS
As part of my election platform, I undertook to try and get more tangible benefits for residents out of future budgets. As a group, this term's councillors are definitely a financially responsible bunch. We've already "saved" money by having a much more modest Inauguration reception this year, and our new Mayor has been very sensible and modest in his choice of car. I've suggested that we start tracking such "relative savings" and ensure that the money that would previously have been budgeted for these items, be visibly re-allocated to tangible benefits for the community e.g. if we spent $5000 less this year than budgeted for civic receptions, there should be $5000 directly attributable to something else of tangible benefit to the community, e.g. increased budget for community grants. By tracking and linking savings in this way, we will all become more aware of unnecessary excesses and most importantly, demonstrate improved outcomes to the community in a tangible way.
I've already discussed this with our Mayor, who is very receptive to the suggestion, so watch this space.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wishing all the residents of Manningham and beyond, a Happy and successful New Year 2009!
Enjoy this video of the fireworks from Hong Kong, my favorite from this year's crop. For science-fiction fans like myself, this clip has an "insider" reference to the TV series Stargate Atlantis (smile)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Inauguration



Tonight, the new councillors and Mayor for 2009 were formally sworn into office in an official ceremony at Town Hall.
Friends and family witnessed the ceremony, which was followed by a modest reception. As a group, we decided to send a strong message of positive change and cultural diversity by electing Manningham's youngest mayor, Cr. Charles Pick and formally recognising the role of Deputy Mayor and electing Manningham's first Chinese councillor and Justice of the Peace, Fred Chua to that (honorary) role. Fred is seated to my right in the picture above. Congratulations Charles and Fred!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How is the Mayor elected?



This evening the new "Councillors elect" met to discuss who should be
Lord Mayor of Manningham. We had a very good session, and I am very
heartened that we were unanimous in wanting to know as much as
possible about each other and the skills we would bring to the role,
before making an informed decision on who should be the "face of the
city". This term, with an odd number of councillors, the Mayor no
longer has a casting vote. In my opinion, this together with the
collaborative & democratic nature of decision making at council
meetings, puts the focus of the Mayor's role squarely on facilitation,
communication and team-/community-building. Just being the Mayor does
not mean that he or she "calls the shots". Being Mayor is an extension
of the tremendous privilege and responsibility to our community that
already comes from being an elected councillor. In the coming days,
our team of councillors elect (for we are not officially councillors
until the "swearing-in ceremony") will meet again to vote on who
should be Mayor for 2008-2009. Stay tuned and you'll read it first
here when the decision is made!

For those who are interested in the details of the election process, e-
mail me for an extract from the relevant bylaws (publicly available
information). In a nutshell,
1. Councillors nominate (seconds not required)
2. All Councillors vote by show of hands
3. If one candidate achieves a majority vote (at least 5 of 9 in our
case), they are elected Mayor.
4. Otherwise, candidate with lowest number of votes is eliminated and
we return to step 2, with all councillors voting but one less candidate.
5. If there is more than one candidate with joint lowest number of
votes, the first candidate of these to be "drawn from a hat" is
eliminated (the Hand of God, or luck depending on your view!)

Please note this is just my personal summary of the process and E&OE
applies (errors & omissions excepted)!

On a final note regarding Mayoral election, I would personally favour
a popular vote by the residents at the time councillors are elected,
just like in the City of Melbourne.

Stay tuned and you'll read it first here when the decision is made!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Declaring the Poll / Statements



On Monday 1st December, after a marathon counting session that ended around 4am, the successful candidates were officially announced by Mr. David Cook, the returning officer. The evening was hosted by Lydia Wilson, MCC’s CEO and press was in attendance.

Manningham’s new councillors for the next four years are:

Koonung Ward: Charles Pick(*), Ivan Reid, Fred ChuaHeide Ward: Geoff Gough(*), Grace La Vella(*), Stephen MayneMullum Mullum: Meg Downie, David Ellis, Graeme Macmillan

(*) Charles, Geoff and Grace were re-elected, having served the previous 3-year term.

At the"declaration of the poll" ceremony on Monday evening, it was my impression from the acceptance speeches that we have a great breadth of skills amongst the councillors, a professional working attitude and common goals of seeking transparency and ensuring good financial governance.

Some of the unsuccessful candidates also said a few words, reminding us of our election promises and promising to "keep and eye on us". The more community input we have the better I say! For those of you who have mislaid the voting leaflets with the statements (or never saw those of the other wards), they are freely available on the internet. However, the VEC website no longer displays candidates’ statements, and you would have to use Google’s web-cache to retrieve them. Specially for the less tech-savvy, I have reproduced the statements from the winning candidates verbatim. Please note that I am not endorsing these statements, merely publishing them from the public domain for my readers’ convenience. Copyright remains with the original authors. Order is as presented on the original VEC website.

"MAYNE, StephenAfter 20 years advocating for accountability and good governance in politics and business I am ready to independently serve Manningham and ensure the community gets good services and value from its council. I’m a Walkley Award winning journalist who founded Australia’s best known ezine www.crikey.com and appear regularly on 774 ABC Melbourne. Over the past decade I’ve asked questions at more than 300 AGMs of major public companies and believe Manningham will benefit from my experience standing up to rich and powerful vested interests. I will be a councilor advocating maximum transparency and holding the executive to account on behalf of the community. Manningham needs new energetic and reform-minded councilors. It’s time the old guard moved on after years of excessive rate increases. I’m 39 and married to barrister and RACV director Paula Piccinini. We live very happily in Templestowe with our three young children. Read more on www.maynereport.com ."

"GOUGH, GeoffAs your local Councillor and current Mayor, I seek your support for re- election. I listen, consult and act with integrity and responsibility. I deal with issues in an open and honest way, making myself readily available and never making promises I cannot deliver on. Living here for 51 years, I understand local issues and ensure Council hears and understands your point of view. Manningham must continue to function efficiently and responsibly with sound financial management and accountability. High quality services and facilities are essential and I will continue working hard to ensure these are responsive and accessible to all. Programs supporting the needs of young people, families and our ageing community must continue. I stand for sensible and balanced development. Infrastructure including roads, footpaths, drains, streetscapes, parks and community buildings must be maintained and improved. I will work with you to ensure our City continues to be the best."

"LA VELLA, GraceOver the last 3 years I have actively listened and addressed the concerns raised by our community. Achievements include Public Transport upgrades and significant increases in the number of services with more improvements due with the introduction of Smart Bus and Orbital Bus Services. Development of Wombat All abilities Playspace at Finns Reserve; the increase of public open space; provision of bicycle and walking paths along the linear reserves also upgrades of sporting facilities; improvements to safety at school drop off zones. Over the next term I intend to lobby State Government to complete road upgrades including King St and Templestowe Rd, undertake a feasibility study for train to Manningham, and introduce strategies to encourage and support Tourism and Local Business. Through strong leadership, teamwork, consultation with State & Federal Government I will continue to promote growth for Heide Ward and Manningham as a whole, moving us forward into future decades."

"CHUAH, FredAfter 40 years of voluntary community work, I believe it’s time for me to serve you and the Manningham community. I will endeavour to make Manningham a socially inclusive community where there is greater support for the aged, disabled, youth and young families, and that all residents have equal rights and access to services. I will turn Manningham into a more progressive council that is more accountable to its residents and responsible in spending; sets appropriate priorities; limits rate increase; obtains an equitable share of Government funding; and builds affordable housing, better roads and a better transport system. Being a strong advocate for the aged and socially disadvantaged, I recently established a not-for-profit nursing home. I am a member on the Ministerial Advisory Council of Senior Victorians; Council On The Ageing; Doncaster Hill Issue Forum and Manningham Community Health Services Management Board. For Forward- thinking and Commitment, Vote 1 Fred Chuah."

"PICK, CharlesIf re-elected I will continue battling to save you money, fighting for fairness, and protecting our community. Saving you money requires lower rates through stricter budgeting. It requires ending wasteful Council spending like luxury Councillor retreats, $7, 000 plus Mayoral dinners, and unwanted statues. I opposed every Council rate rise. Fighting for fairness means defending your right to be heard. This is why I established a panel of up to 1,000 residents to shape Council policies. Fairness requires a Council pensioner rate relief discount. Fairness means preventing inappropriate development through tightening Council planning. And fairness requires hard lobbying for better public transport, such as the Doncaster Tram 48 extension. Protecting our community demands Council preserving the Eastern Golf Club site, facilitating a new Jackson’s Court supermarket, and upgrading more footpaths and roads (including King Street). I have the passion and proven record to continue being your voice on our Council."

"REID, IvanFellow residents of Koonung, we face uncertain times, with financial markets in terrible turmoil. Crime is increasing, our neighbourhood character eroding. Transport and community facilities wanting. Challenging times demand better leadership. I will deliver good governance on rates, services for families and the elderly, crime prevention and appropriate neighbourhood development. Concerned by rising crime, I lobbied neighbours and co-founded a Neighbourhood Watch for the area between Doncaster, Wetherby and Tram roads - the first one there. As a senior technology executive, accountable for $20 million annual budget, I have sound financial experience. My analysis suggests we are not getting services we need when Council materials & services spending is half that of neighbouring Councils’ but employee costs proportionally higher. A father who has worked throughout the world, I understand the challenges facing old and young, newcomer and established resident alike. Discover more at www.bettermanningham.com and vote Reid for a better Manningham!"

"DOWNIE, MegAs a Donvale resident and a relief teacher in local primary schools, I believe Mullum residents get little value for their ratepayer dollar. I am a committee person for Ruffey Lake Park, Manningham Sewerage Stakeholders Panel and FOMDAC. If elected I would insist on: tighter controls on planning; the preservation of the Green Wedge; ceasation of the sale of pocket parks and instead their development for community purposes. The council has yet to mannifest a serious water conservation initiative with their own premises having insufficent water tanks installed, precious water is utilised for annuals and not trees. I would seek more facilities for the aged and children; equitity in resource distribution to Mullum; solutions to road and drainage issues and systemic septic problems; and limiting rate increases to less than CPI. Not all of us are dog lovers. I advocate a Dog Activity Centre to relieve pressure on our parks."

"MACMILLAN, GraemeMarried with four children. I am a chartered accountant conducting an international public sector management training and financial management consultancy specialising in local government. We have lived in Park Orchards for 18 years. I am a member of a local service club. As a regular contributor and commentator on the council’s policies and strategies I want to be directly involved in assisting our community over difficult financial times. I will seek to reduce or eliminate the forecast rate rises, improve the efficiency, effectiveness and appropriateness of all council operations, obtain better accountability and transparency and achieve stronger community involvement in the council’s economic, social and environmental decision-making. I can contribute strategic planning skills to the critical new 4-year Council Plan. I want a fairer deal for Mullum Mullum ward residents in obtaining better roads, drains and footpaths. Vote for good governance. 9879 9100"

"ELLIS, DavidWho cares about Council elections? Well, perhaps you do. Right now our community needs to plan wisely for a future that is economically sound and environmentally sustainable. We need value for money in Council finances. We need decisive action on public transport and water security. We need to value the open spaces that define our part of Manningham. We don’t need a freeway through Manningham’s Green Wedge, and we don’t need to sell off public parks for further development. You have a right to expect your Council to provide strong advocacy and action on all these issues; and you have a right to be heard, not just at election times. You can contact me through my website www.davidellis.net.au or phone 9844 5135. Make your voice heard."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Koonung Ward Provisional Results

I have just been informed by the returning officer, Mr. David Cook, that the community has elected me as one of its councillors for Koonung Ward. I am excited and humbled in this vote of confidence, and will do my very best to work diligently, transparently and tirelessly for the community. From other sources, I understand that congratulations are in order for Fred Chua and Charles Pick, whom I believe were also elected. My sincere commiserations to the other candidates, several of whom I know well and believe would also have made good councillors.

Counting for the remaining two wards is ongoing and results may not be available until late this evening.

The official swearing in of all councillors takes place at 6pm Monday 1st December in the Manningham City Council offices on Doncaster Road. Please feel free to attend and meet your new councillors!

Moving forward, I wish to use this website as a medium for regular communication with residents across Manningham. I will post my thoughts on policy, current issues being debated in council and seeking your input.

Thank you and stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Let's make good use of the Federal funding!

As you can read in various articles today, the Federal Government is releasing immediate funding for local councils to improve infrastructure and indirectly, stimulate our economy. These funds must be spent by June 2009. See article.

Manningham's allocation of $419,000, will enable us to review the priority of existing capital works as well as considering new initiatives.

I am particularly interested in seeking community views on worthy projects, but as a starting point, if elected, I would focus on new/upgraded sporting and community facilities (e.g. venues for community groups, particularly those providing facilities for youths (sporting) and the aged (care centres), kinder upgrades) and reprioritised infrastructure works (e.g. making the residential eastern end of King St safer, sooner). Whilst there will undoubtedly be restrictions on how these funds can be spent, the funds will free other parts of the budget to fund those items the community wants which are currently languishing low on Council's priority list.

Don't let our Council waste this valuable funding! Recall my observations (and your "gut-feel"), that we do not appear to be getting value for money from our council, particularly when compared with other local councils. You can do something - vote REID 1 to ensure our community benefits!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Neighbourhood Watch



As you may know, I was instrumental in helping to establish a Neighbourhood Watch scheme for the area between Tram, Doncaster and Wetherby roads. Here is a publicity photo taken for the Leader newspapers at the time. Whilst I contributed at the time by finding committee members and editing the first few NHW newsletters, there is always something every member of the community can do to help. Volunteers are required for a variety of activities, most importantly for distributing newsletters in the area. You can find out more at the neighbourhood watch website www.neighbourhoodwatch.com.au (we are in Region 4 Division 1). Between Nov 3 and 28th, there will be a NHW display at The Pines Library, where you can find out more. And on 26th November, there will be a Car Park audit at the Doncaster Park and Ride. Volunteers are needed to assist with distributing crime prevention leaflets between 7am and 9am. After 9am vehicles in the carpark will be checked for security and to see if items of value have been left on display in cars - remember, you can discourage theft from your vehicle by always taking valuables with you or ensuring they are concealed.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Introduction




Thank you for making the time to discover more about me, Ivan Reid. I am a candidate for the 2008 Council Elections, Manningham, Koonung Ward. During the election campaign I will be adding more information every few days, so please visit regularly or subscribe to the news feed.

As an introduction, below is my Candidate Statement, which tells you a little about myself and the issues I stand for. After the Cup Weekend, I intend to publish some financial analysis I have done which will illustrate the questionable financial management of our Council, so come back again soon.

Fellow residents of Koonung, we face uncertain times, with financial markets in terrible turmoil. Crime is increasing, our neighbourhood character eroding. Transport and community facilities wanting. Challenging times demand better leadership. Someone who will deliver good governance on rates, services for families and the elderly, crime prevention and appropriate neighbourhood development. Concerned by rising crime, I lobbied neighbours and co-founded a Neighbourhood Watch for the area between Doncaster, Wetherby and Tram roads – the first one there. As a senior technology executive, accountable for $20 million annual budget, I have the sound financial experience to ensure our rates are managed for maximum benefit to the community. A father who has worked throughout the world, I understand the challenges facing old and young, newcomer and established resident alike. This opportunity to improve our community comes but once in four years, so don't waste your opportunity to make our beautiful city even better.

Leave me your comments or e-mail me at ivan@bettermanningham.com.
In the next few days, I'll be posting a video interview for you to meet me "in person", so come back soon!