From the Examiner .... Moving the St John Street bus stop is still possible according to City of Launceston Alderman Hugh McKenzie. “Clearly, we currently have ended nearly back where we started and whilst I see some benefits in the pedestrian linkage from the Quadrant and the sense of moving that alignment away from the current bus stop I haven't given up on looking at other options,” he said. ...... Ald McKenzie was one of four council representatives absent from last week’s meeting, when the council voted 6-2 to reaffirm its plan to move the bus stops closer to York Street. ...... If any of the four aldermen had been present, and voted against the motion, the council would have been forced to find a new solution regarding a petition submitted by retailers in the area. ...... “I have championed the moving of the bus stops –http://www.examiner.com.au/story/2088215/mckenzies-push-to-relocate-city-bus-stops/ – from there current location [and] initially I pushed for the move to Civic Square in front of St Andrews Church, which met some resistance from the church due to access issues for funerals and weddings,” Ald McKenzie said. ...... “The redevelopment of Civic Square would also give active space for those waiting for a bus to utilise the public open space and library. ...... “I also pushed for Patterson Street but again this met resistance from Pilgrim Launceston Uniting Church.”...... Deputy Mayor Rob Soward, who did not attend the meeting, could not confirm how he would have voted. ...... "Had I been there last week I would have asked questions in open council to ensure all consultations had occurred and obviously if speakers were present to hear concerns ... before I finalised my view,” he said....... Ald Soward said he had previously suggested moving the stops to opposite St John's Anglican Church or near the public buildings and Civic Square.
So this is the news after Ald. McKenzie get back to Launceston after his holiday in paradise. The fact that he wasn’t present for the decision making and the punters have ‘gone all ugly on him’ while he was looking the other way is, it seems, a bit of a shock. But as he says “I haven't given up on looking at other options” .
Ald. McKenzie wasn’t alone in his absenteeism and Ald. Soward suggests that despite supporting a different location for the bus stops he would have needed to be around the table to get a sense of where the decision should go. He makes no comment about consulting with the community or stakeholders and maybe it’d be superfluous. It begs the question, who among the aldermen were (and are) engaged with their constituency on this (or any other) issue?
It’s now known that the Mayor received a petition from a number of business people and that after the horse had apparently bolted he was advocating a decision shift on the strength of what was apparently a rather small number of petitioners. In contrast over a thousand petitioners called a public meeting and moved a motion that council shouldn’t be gifting public land to the university to enable it to move four kilometres. The Mayor on that occasion, in concert with the aldermen and the General Manager, decided to ignore that meeting’s advice and went ahead as if it didn’t matter, In fact that meeting mattered as much as if it never happened.
When it comes down to it what is at issue here right now, its quite apparent that the lack meaningful and appropriate consultation processes capped of by a disinclination to be accountable to council’s constituency is increasingly front of mind. In fact the proposition that aldermen might be allergic to the very idea of accountability increasingly has currency.
The issue is not about the location of a few bus stops actually. It is in fact just on of the details that haven’t been given the appropriate level of consultative planning involved in the expenditure of $20million borrowed on behalf of ratepayers. More to the point this money needs to, apparently, be spent very quickly. It is little wonder that corners might need to be cut and that all manner of shonkiness might expose itself along the way.
The argument seems to be that, quite aside from ratepayers needing to look out for a rate hike down the track, some of this money is destined to stick somewhere, or rub off, or fall someone’s way, whatever. The question does have to be asked, just who are the expected beneficiaries here and where do they live? If it is supposed to be the ratepayers, just how ands over what timeframe?
It appears as if the Minister somehow has ‘something at stake’ here. However, Launceston’s ratepayers may well find themselves paying higher rates for less or lesser services and there’ll be little or nothing that they’ll be able to do about it except to pay up. Where does the Minister’s interests reside? Is it to do with the assurance of accountable and transparent local governance? Is it to do state-wide politics? Would it be unreasonable to expect that the Minister’s interest might be here with Launceston’s ratepayers capacity to meet the commitments he, in concert with council, have visited upon them?
There are other questions arising here, given the level of expenditure, that beg an answer. Firstly, just how does this $20million expenditure fit within council’s strategic plan? Flowing from that, where can ratepayers get access to the project plan informing this expenditure? Consequent to that, where can ratepayers gain access to the business case for this additional and significant expenditure on the city’s infrastructure?
The level of background dysfunctionalism at Launceston City Council is concerning. It might well be the equal to the kind of disquiet that brought Huon and Glenorchy Councils to the Minister’s attention and ultimately undone. However, it appears as if the Minster is engaged with Launceston’s council much more deeply than either of these councils which, superficially at least, suggests that Launceston’s council might well avoid the kind of disquiet he has for the affairs of Huon and Glenorchy Councils.
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