Democracy at Work but falling short?

The question of how to accommodate the interests of all stakeholders at McLeay Park dealt with at last night’s full council meeting was a challenge to all.

Believing that we had failed to complete a public consultation process and therefore ignoring the views of the majority of residents near the park I reserved out the resolution from last weeks City Strategy & Planning Committee. Our Mayor then allowed deputations from a number of concerned citizens. The depth of passion from these deputations which centred around a belief that they had not been heard of given a proper chance to partcipate justified in my mind my actions. These people were afforded an opportunity they believe they did not previously have.

My belief is that as good as the community engagement policy of the City of Unley is when compared to other councils it can do with improvement. This item was evidence of it. When a council’s community tells us that we have got it wrong it is up to us to re-examine how we go about engaging with our community. We must be careful not to throw the blame out our community as I suggest some of us are guilty of.

We do have a good policy but it has short comings. In this instance as with a few others I have witnessed our community engagement works fine until “the time on period of the last quarter”. We seek the views of our ratepayers via surveys and workshops and the like and then determine we can glean form these what is needed and make a decision on their behalf without them making judgement on the final draft.

Maybe because we have a community engagement policy better than we think we do not have to improve. If we fall into that trap we will soon have one of the worst policies.

My motion to defer the matter of McLeay Park last night so that we can be sure that we have properly and effectively sought the views of the affected ratepayers was defeated because the majority of elected members felt it was more important to resolve the matter on the night.
This back fired when it became apparent that making decisions on the run does not work and we therefore deferred it.

We need you to make good decisions and we need to listen to you to make good decisions even though sometimes we may vote other than the way you might wish us to.

I will therefore continue to advocate for our rate payers so that they get an opportunity to truely contribute to issues that effect them and that they can be satisfied that they have been given that opportunity.

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