An open letter to Victorian Local Councillors from Tom Elliott
As I know you know, for over a year now I’ve been shining a light into your activities on my radio program, 3AW Drive. This hasn’t been done in a malicious manner; rather, I worry that because so much media attention is focused on Federal and State political matters, not enough people know what is occurring at the municipal level.
I understand that councils face many challenges. Examples include the recent freeze on rate rises above inflation, increased demand for services, inadequate road space for all classes of travellers and so on.
Notwithstanding this, I have some questions I’d really like answered:
- Rate rises ? many mayors and councillors complain about having their annual rate increases limited to inflation. Every organisation that spends money would love to have an inexhaustible supply of it. Unfortunately, this is impossible. Many businesses I know struggle every year to just equal last year’s revenue. For them, guaranteed annual increases are the stuff of fantasy. Why is it so different for councils?
- Travel expenses ? most of us love to travel overseas and this is a perfectly legitimate activity when paid for using one’s own funds. When local councillors make long trips, however, eyebrows should be raised. Almost everything that is discussed at the hundreds of forums that occur around the world can be accessed online. In addition, the federal government has ministers whose job it is to visit other countries and forge relations. Why do you feel it is necessary to spend ratepayers’ money on expensive overseas trips?
- ‘The three Rs: Roads, Rubbish and Rates’ ? get all these things right and then, and only then, can various other initiatives be pursued. I struggle to find a suburb without potholes in its roads and footpaths. Why aren’t these being fixed quick smart? And many councils are reducing rubbish collection from weekly to fortnightly ? why?
- Crusades ? far too many progressive councils pursue agendas well above their station. Examples include lobbying on behalf of refugees (few of whom pay rates or are entitled to vote in local elections), pursuing greenhouse gas reduction policies (surely a national and international problem), same sex marriage (clearly the province of federal parliament), and attempting to limit the spread of nuclear weapons (something even the United Nations has struggled to achieve). Local government is just that, local. Why do you choose to focus on high-minded policy goals that are clearly the purview of other levels of government, rather than policies you can actually achieve in service of your local constituents?
- Feuds ? far too much time is spent pursuing vendettas between different political factions. Why not instead, try and work together for the common good?
Anytime you’d like to discuss these or any other issues with me ? on or off air ? my door is open.
I invite you to get in touch ? email firstname.lastname@example.org