I must follow the people for I am their leader

AS the local government elections loom, we are starting to see all the usual promises being trotted out by candidates to convince Wingecarribee voters they should be our civic leaders for the next four years.
Nanjing Night Net

I am sure they mean well, but we’ve heard it all before – back to basics, fewer potholes, more accountability, free this, better that, lower rates and that hoary old chestnut about listening to the community.

So, while the 53 candidates line up for the nine chairs around the meeting table, I thought we should have a look at the council decision-making process and the reality of serving as an elected member.

OVER the years, one thing I have learned is that whatever a council does will be criticised by some element of the community. It is a bit like religion. There are not always right or wrong answers, but people will argue their opinion to the death, firmly believing there is no other viewpoint.

YES, making decisions that will please everyone is an impossible task. A good example is an application to develop a quarry or a mine. Everyone wants to use the products of mining (even Larry), but not many people want anyone mining anywhere near them.

Whatever decision is made, the council will end up in court – if councillors reject a mining proposal the mining company will take them to court; if the council approves a mine the community will take them to court – the classic rock and a hard place scenario for the council.

A STREETLIGHT is another bell ringer. You’d think everyone would welcome a streetlight in their neighbourhood. Not so. Every time a new streetlight goes up, council staff get hammered by at least one resident complaining the light keeps them awake, makes the dogs bark, interferes with their enjoyment of the stars, or takes away the country atmosphere.

MANY years ago when I was appointed as a manager at the council I interviewed some respected Highlands locals asking them what they would do to improve the operation of council if they were the mayor for a day. Their responses were well considered, but they left me confused.

“Council must listen to the people,” some said. Others insisted, “council must make hard decisions, even in the face of overwhelming community opposition.”

Some told me the council should formulate clear policy and stick to it, but others reckoned the council should be flexible and consider every matter on its merits.

Some told me adamantly that council should be providing leadership, others were equally adamant the council should do what the community tells it to do.

Some wanted more development, some wanted less development.

There were many more paradoxes, but you get the drift – it is just not always possible to please all the people all the time is it?

THE indoor aquatic centre project at Moss Vale is a case in point. Lots of people I bump into on the street question the sanity of tossing millions of dollars collected for infrastructure recovery projects into what someone described as a “piddle puddle that satisfies only a handful of users.” Some call the current aquatic centre proposal fiscal irresponsibility, while other members of the community will be delighted to finally see an indoor heated swimming facility in the shire, even if we can’t really afford one.

WHICH brings me to Young Dud, who came home much earlier than expected from the Mittagong swimming pool.

“How come you’re home so early?” asked Grace who was surprised to see him before dark.

“I got kicked out of the pool, Mum.”

“What for?” asked Grace.

“Having a pee in the pool,” confessed Young Dud.

“Everyone has a pee in the pool,” said Grace, sounding a tad surprised he got kicked out for that.

“Yeah Mum, they do,” said Young Dud, “But not from the diving board.”

ANYHOO, good on each of the 53 candidates for having the guts to toss their hat in the ring. I wouldn’t do the job for quids.

And, if elected, do remember the wise old sage who said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

The best councillors I’ve known keep an open mind, listen to all sides of an argument, then make a considered decision based on merit, not prejudices. The worst councillors are those sheep-like souls who are influenced by noisy minorities, political party doctrine or blindly follow the lead of some belligerent bully sitting in a position of power.

Let’s hope we don’t get any of these this time.

Sheep don’t make very good councillors. Photo by Geoff Goodfellow

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Posted by at 24/04/2018
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