Thursday, September 30, 2004

Council's one-stop stress centre

Renewing the resident's parking permit today provided a perfect illustration of the way our beloved council could change the way it operates and make our lives a lot easier.

Granted, you need three forms of ID as well as your rego papers -- desperate people will go to extraordinary lengths to get one of these permits. Because of this, in North Sydney your application needs to be signed by a JP as well as the above.

One accepted form of ID is a current lease. I thought I was OK with my lease, drivers licence and a death notice from the state debt recovery office for an unpaid parking fine. Everything else was in my business name or had my PO box address but I brought it along anyway.

Not so simple, however -- the lease which allows me to live in my house is over a year old, so apparently it's not current. The month-to-month convention means nothing, and I found my self getting stroppy. The kind person at the desk let me off this time -- I mean, how else would I have such an array of documents pertaining to my address?

Another woman in the next chair wasn't so lucky -- she had the rego papers etc etc but she hadn't actually paid the rego yet because, she said, she had a bad foot. Not current, no go. So at 3.40pm she had to hobble to Central or Bondi Junction, pay the rego and get back in time to pay for the parking permit -- or else it's continuous parking fines from tomorrow. Boy was she angry. The chances of her pulling a scam with that documentation are pretty remote -- but council treats everyone like a potential criminal. They must be wrong in a ratio of thousands to one. On top of this, the fee has gone up 30% in a year.

With all the other stresses and strains of living in Sydney, we just don't need our representative body treating us so harshly. Cut us a little leeway, please. We are adult 'shareholders' in this august body, not recalcitrant schoolkids on detention. Let's hope the next general manager can inject some humanity into this heartless machine. It's time Sydney grew up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Withdrawal symptoms of Ritalin

Two friends-of-friends have teenage sons who have been prescribed Ritalin for years to treat ADD conditions. Both have now been taken off the drug. One had become a noted actor at his school, but has suddenly lost his talent. The other wants to go back on it because he has lost the ability to amuse his friends in social situations.

A time of the signs

You can now see in place some of the regimented signage council tried to impose on the Cross -- opposite the Bourbon heading north. They are quite OK but imagine that uniformity right through the Cross. Uniforms. Regiments. Consistency. DISCIPLINE! That's what we need! Naughty little snippets, all of us. The near-sighted should take binoculars, though.

Funny that the excellent historical text appearing on our footpaths is not in a consistent style. Witnesses say ex-general manager Robert Domm made a unilateral decision to change from the big white neo-modernist lettering to the brass plaque style now appearing. Seems to be some inconsistency about consistency there. Or is that an oxymoron? I still like some of the text Newtown got on their paths -- for instance 'Moomins not yuppies'. What's a Moomin?

The words on the corner of Bayswater and Kellett make the blood curdle. What was that about the Cross once being sweetness and light?

Robert Domm resigns

Council's General Manager, Robert Domm resigned this morning and will be leaving within a week. Mr Petar Vladetta, the City's counsel, will fill his shoes on an interim basis. Councillors hope to determine the appointment of the next manager, according to one councillor. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Clover's Press Secretary resigns

We have just been told that Pam Walker, Clover Moore's Press Secretary, has resigned -- and a call to Clover's office confirms Pam is 'no longer with us'.

More resignations are in the wind, we are told.

Pam, well liked among the community, was formerly editor of the Central Courier weekly magazine and had been head-hunted by Clover Moore.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Car share spots for KX district?

Council staff have been instructed to meet with the RTA about creating car spaces designated for care-share vehicles after a motion from Greens Councillor Chris Harris was supported by all councillors.

'This will allow car-share companies to expand their operations in the increasingly densely populated City of Sydney,' said Cr Harris.

'The benefit of car share schemes are many but two features are of particular importance : 1) Each car services the needs of about 15 people and 2) participants in car-share schemes tend to cut their km's travelled by about 50% -- for incidential travel, members tend to walk, cycle or use public transport. If you use a car for less than 7000-10000km each year, it is cheaper to use a share car than to own your own. And the more car share cars there are, the more useful the service.

'Small businesses can also use a share car.'

Now Potts Point is Kings Cross

This quote from John McInerney, again in Saturday's Herald, casts some light on his previous mystifying statement that 'Kings Cross is working well' (see story below).

'Cr McInerney wants to encourage a High Street of shops and small businesses, rather than Westfield-esque malls.

"We're going to have to rethink this big box shopping centre," he said. "The new Woolworths up in Kings Cross is exactly what we want. There's no parking. As soon as you have parking ... you have separated the shopping centre from all the surrounding residential areas."

And separation-by-parking is not conducive to a walking, talking village, which residents will be asked to help create. "We'll build up a vision of a place they want their community to be," he said. "You can ask them what they want their village to be like, and out of that you can grow their village."

It seems that Cr McInerney draws no distinction between Potts Point and Kings Cross. Is he blind?

It seems everyone gets to have a say in what their village is to be except the Cross. The rest of what he says is laudable.

Some parking returned in Bourke St

Regarding an earlier story about residents in Bourke St losing their on-street parking in favour of SCEGGS school, council has made some concessions. We received this from one resident:

'We can now have parking in our own street when the kids from SCEGGS are on holiday -- wow. And there is to be a change in the parking with the use of an extended kerb. This will reduce the problem.

We now find out that the school does not want the crossing either, because it goes past a department of housing block. They are gems aren't they -- good enough to take our roads but too good to walk past us.'

Note: you can access older stories on this site by clicking the 'archives' button.

State lets go of planning powers

The Carr government has now announced it will not be stripping planning powers from Council. This followed Friday's Herald story which said Council's General Manager Robert Domm had arttacked Deputy Mayor John McInerney, accusing him of being secretly in league with a move to expand the South Sydney Development Corporation.

By Saturday the scenario had suddenly reversed.

We still can't make sense of it all -- the SSDC presided over the Green Square development in which 14,080 apartments were built and, we are told, floor space ratios (FSRs) ended up 300% higher than the original plans. This is great for developers but bad for everyone else.

Council, on the other hand, applies a certainty principle -- under which developments must conform to set FSRs and height limits with no trade-offs allowed.

If John McInerney was facilitating Council's acquiescence to a bigger SSDC, as Robert Domm seems to think, this would be absolutely opposed to council policy and McInerney's own vision of a city of urban villages.

Something smells in the state of Denmark. And for a senior public servant to attack a councillor is also very unusual. Many people are asking why Clover Moore hasn't taken firm action against Domm over the attack.

Whatever is going on, greater profits for developers is sure to be a major factor driving some of the protagonists. But which ones?

Is this rock bottom?

A horrific scene was graphically described at Council's forum meeting last week. A resident had seen a man going through rubbish in Kellett Street, unearthing used syringes and spoons and gathering the dregs to self-inject.

The rubbish was likely to have come from nearby sex premises, said Dr Ingrid van Beek, Director of the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre.

She said these premises still operated 'in competition' with the MSIC, which itself was hosting 200-300 injectors each day -- and properly disposing of the detritus.

The sounds of silence

A person with loads of equipment was spotted on Sunday recording noise levels at the Cross City Tunnel exit -- when there was no work being done and no machinery making noise. The person agreed that it was a strange time to be recording -- but maybe it was a control for measurements taken at other times?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Meeting? What meeting?

Now the two separate Courier publications that cover each side of the Kings Cross ridge have hit the streets, it's interesting that neither reported Monday night's forum meeting uproar . Journalists from both mags were there and interviewed me at length over the next couple of days. Avry at World Internet and his problems got a mention in the Wentworth Courier, though. All the people in Bondi must find it fascinating reading.

Looks like the Kings Cross Times is your best source of local news. We tell it as we see it and welcome robust debate. Because we don't depend on developers or real estate advertising for our living we can deal with the pressure they are putting on our town in a straightforward way.

So bookmark this site, and now read on...

Council staff have principles

We've been running the story about World Internet in kings Cross losing its travel agent tenant because first, council would not let the tenant put up an under-awning sign, and then after a favourable hearing from councillors, blocking the idea of having a three-sided revolving sign, one side for each tenant on the site.

The matter featured at Monday night's community forum meeting where senior staffer Jason Perica -- the man who refused the new idea -- said he would 'look at it'.

He turned up on-site yesterday, with retinue, to talk it out with Avry Ben-Zeev, owner of World Internet. What if five or ten tenants on a site wanted signs, asked Perica? Ben-Zeev replied that this was hypothetical.

Perica apparently said the revolving sign was 'against his principles'. We agree. principles are much more important than small matters like driving people out of business. Moving signs ARE against the rules, even though the rules are in the process of being changed. Compromise ideas like awarding a temporary permit until the new rules are set would be, simply, immoral.

We note that JC Decaux installations all over the city now have moving signs. They must come under a different set of principles, maybe because they are a big multinational company?

Mr Ben-Zeev can appeal to a commission of councillors if the decision still goes against him. We'll keep you posted.

STOP PRESS -- Councillor Shayne Mallard has also visited World Internet to assess the situation. The Liberal Councillor lives in Potts Point -- good to see him taking more and more interest in local issues.

A freudian slip?

The charming Angela Catterns on 702 radio let slip a nice one this morning: A story about the Liberals' internal party polling came out as 'parting pollies'. No wonder they are concerned.

Domm attacks councillors

The thot plickens. Today's Herald carries a story about a rift between Robert Domm and Deputy Mayor John 'Kings Cross is working well' McInerney over control of development from Central to the airport. (Click headline to link).

Clover Moore is standing up for both men, as she did in Kings Cross on Monday night (see stories below).

We don't have any inside info on this, but given the recent political history of Sydney certain trends are obvious.

The state government has been talking about this plan for a while, with a vision of massive development that incidentally would ensure massive profits for developers for decades. It has oft been said that the forced merger of City and South Sydney councils was about facilitating this vision, and Labor confidently put up Michael Lee as Mayoral Candidate, relying on the dogged faith of Labor voters in the inner city to elect him no matter what outrage they had committed on our local representation.

It didn't work, of course. Clover stepped in and snookered them. Bad Clover.

Now it appears the move is on to strip council of its planning powers over the area and donate a whole lot of public and council land to finance the 'vision'.

And Council's General manager Robert Domm appears to be leading the charge against our elected representatives -- in a curious echo of the accusations I made against his staff on Monday night. I said Mr Domm and his staff were wedded to the Sartor agenda for Sydney and Kings Cross, and were sabotaging any moves in other directions coming from communities or councillors. I called for Mr Domm's resignation.

This new development only reinforces the perception. Who is working for whom here? Unless there is new information to be revealed , it is easy to think that certain connections here are trying to run the show. Consider the following:

Robert Domm was appointed by Frank Sartor. Frank, after peparing for the forced amalgamation and instigating the widely hated Gateway plans, gets an instant seat and ministry in the Labor Government. The Labor government has sold most of our freight rail infrastructure to Chris Corrigan (who is now busy shutting down or disposing of all the less economical branch freight runs, and putting staff on short-term contracts). Robert Domm was a prominent employee of Chris Corrigan's. He also has a religious commitment to short-term contracts. He has now attacked his own Deputy Mayor over development. And the Labor party gets squillions from developers.

Call me a cynic, but unless someone can enlighten me with new information, this looks like a dirty little cabal sacrificing all public accountability on the altar of big money and back-scratching. If Labor couldn't get control of the city by fair means, they'll do it via their well-trodden back door.

If this is true -- and I hope it's not -- Robert Domm appears to be an agent of this cabal planted at the heart of a council elected fair and square on a platform of listening to the community. No wonder little old Kings Cross gets ignored. These guys are playing with the big boys.

If you want to know what's going on in this venal town, just follow the money. The Greens have been beavering away at this developer-political connection -- they expose the money trail on a new website: Check it out!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Deputy Mayor says Kings Cross working well

Today's SMH apparently says this:

'The Deputy Lord Mayor John McInerney says 'Kings Cross is working well. It's the first real emerging village. We've got to do that in Newtown and Erskineville and all other centres as well.' (Tim Dick, 'City wants its village people to picture a vision for the future', p. 3)

This is typical of the shallow spin that always seems to get published about the Cross. If you keep lying, there are always some fools who will believe it. One can only hope this is from Tim Dick's interviews last week, before Monday night's meeting showed pretty much that McInerney doesn't have the faintest idea about urban villages and how to grow them, for all his talk. Mistaking a village in the final stages of destruction for an emerging village beggars belief. And I get called 'insulting'!

I note that Tim Dick had been given my number last week and was told he could get a knowledgeable and different view on local politics. He didn't phone, but has obviously had a cosy time with the spin-merchants. His five paragraphs of free plug for Dancer's cabaret was particularly incisive. Meet the new boss -- same as the old boss.

The local who sent the above snippett commented: 'Glory be -- if this is the village solution, move over Putin!.

Let the sun beat into Kings Cross

Snapped a pic yesterday, on our first hot day, of pedestrian behaviour under shortened awnings. As the sun beat down and the heat and glare reflected up from the new expanse of grey granite, the people all formed into single file under the very narrow Crest Hotel awning, hugging the 1-metre strip of shade. Wait until summer. Thanks, Council, for the people-friendly chopped awnings we are getting. Global warming will show your concepts to be really far-sighted.

But hey, eventually the pavements will be covered in cafes, big umbrellas and yuppies sipping coffee. And that's cool.

Cat Stevens deported from US

702 radio just reported that the US has deported Cat Stevens AKA Yussef Islam. He recently re-released 'Peace Train' for charity and seems to be a pacifist. Obviously this is a security threat to the Bush clan. Or maybe it's just the name?

Residents Call for Moratorium to Protect Kings Cross Heritage Streetscape

Resident groups, DRAG and 2011 have written to Clover Moore, Lord Mayor, City of Sydney Council, calling for a major scaling back of works on the building awnings and signage in Kings Cross.

This follows a well-attended Kings Cross Community Forum on Monday 20 September, hosted by the Lord Mayor. Speaker after speaker put forward the widely-held view that the heritage streetscape and classic neons should be retained, protected and enhanced.

The Lord Mayor has said that Council is committed to maintaining the unique character of the Darlinghurst Road including its neon precinct (Lord Mayor’s announcement 30 July 2004). Yet Council's scheme to cut back or rip out awnings, trash neon signs and to install soulless standardised signage continues apace.

At the forum Councillor Phillip Black, of the South Sydney Heritage Society, made a bold statement of principle opposing the ongoing removal of signage and the pointless destruction of 1920s and 1930s building awnings.

In the face of this Geoff Brew, construction manager, mooted the possibility of concentrating council’s efforts on footpaths, drainage and roadworks and further scaling back of work on awnings and the removal of signage. As the street work upgrade is now months over schedule, this would seem an eminently sensible and much needed approach.

DRAG and 2011 are requesting a Moratorium on further work to building awnings and signage until the new City of Sydney Signage and Advertising Structures Development Control Plan (DCP) is discussed. There is no rush to pull down signs or erect new ones.

They have requested a Mayoral Minute for a Moratorium and give priority to the footpath and opening the roads.

-- Press release from DRAG & 2011. Click headline to link to the DRAG website. Write to 2011 Association at PO Box 1211 Potts Point 1335.

William street contracts all signed by this council?

Cries of 'save William Street' rang out at regular intervals during Monday's council forum at the Crest Hotel.

These followed a passionate speech from Lawrrence Gibbons, East Sydney resident and publisher of The Hub and The News, in which he pleaded for council to spare William Street from the worst of the Gateway formula.

Many were flabbergasted to hear the plan involved reducing the street to one lane each way, a move said to be driven by the desire to squelch the prostitution and so-called kerb-crawling that has been a feature of the street for decades (Remember Richard Clapton's 'Girrls on the Arvenu'?). It was suggested this would just drive it deeper into surrounding residential areas.

Council's response included the usual mantra of 'there's nothing we can do because all the contracts have been signed,' laying the blame on the previous council.

However a source from within Town Hall tells us that no contracts had been signed at the time the last council was sacked (in preparation for the forced amalgamation). If this is true, it means any existing contracts were signed by this council or during the caretaker period between the sacking and the elections.

Mr Gibbons' speech also pointed out the utter stupidity of working on William Street at the same time as the Oxford St streetworks. He suggested giving the street sex trade a whole building to operate from. This resonated with another idea running around that what is needed is a drive-in brothel!

William Street is rapidly turning into a retail graveyard and the Gateway solution applies the usual sterile solution of yet more cafes. There has been no overall study of the business dynamics, demographic changes and government decisions which have lead to the death of retail in William Street and the Cross. Such a study is urgently needed lest the solutions are again handed over to big developers who will no doubt build more alienating apartment towers with characterless retail units at street level and huge underground carparks feeding into the single traffic lane.

Laying grey granite and planting schmartpoles among the plane trees to light endless al fresco cafes is a vision so simplistic as to be almost laughable. For Gorsake stop laughing -- this is serious, mate!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Why council shouldn't assess our submissions

Writing submissions is really time-consuming. So it gets really annoying when they are ignored.

The classic in this regard was the Boundaries Commission report on amalgamation of City and South Sydney Councils last year.

Over 90% of the written and verbal submissions were vehemently against the merger. The report itself showed almost no evidence of increased efficiencies -- the only costed savings were from having fewer councillors. This meant the representation ratio of South Sydney residents to councillors went up from around 6,000 residents for each councillor to 13,000 per councillor. And you were wondering why they don't answer your letters.

Yet the Commission unanimously endorsed the merger, dismissing the avalanche of public submissions as 'expressing a range of views'.

We get the same thing in local government. The favoured design team comes up with a design for, say, Darlinghurst Road or, say, Springfield Plaza. Let's say they get a lot of submissions which question the very basic assumptions of the plan and present alternative, imaginitive solutions that might even save money. Then the same people who came up with the plan have to assess these submissions and make recommendations. What is wrong with this picture?

Well, especially if there is an overall agenda or mindset that produced the plan, and submissions run against it, the assessor is going to find a thousand excuses to dismiss them, isn't he/she? No matter that a lot of these excuses are utter drivel -- councillors don't really have the time to analyse them.

This is why I am calling for submissions on council-generated projects to be INDEPENDENTLY assessed and reported on. It's revenue-neutral in the long-term as the outside assessors would be freeing staff to do other work.

Then at least we would not feel as if we were wasting our time doing the damn things.

This would be a highly effective way for council to truly increase its response to the community, and would encourage the planners to really think about and investigate what the community is going to like before they start planning. It would foster diversity, not sameness.

If you agree with this, let your councillors know about it! That would be one submission that really made later ones count.

How our corporatised council is killing Sydney

The efficient running of council along corporate lines is one of the achievements attributed to Frank Sartor during his term as Lord Mayor. This is a good thing -- we would rather have a financially sound council than a debt-ridden yoke around our necks.

But this efficiency is coming at a huge price in other respects, and there are deep flaws in applying a corporate model to a publicly representative body.

A corporation exists to extract as much money as possible from its customers for the benefit of its shareholders. Indeed, we see our council is imbued with this thinking -- we have 'customer service centres' and staff are about to undergo a five-year 'customer service' program to improve their 'interface' with... customers.

The trouble is, we elect council and support it with our rates, so we are in fact the shareholders, not the customers. So when council boasts about its huge surplus, you have to wonder. Council has a policy of 'maximising services' rather than reducing rates, for instance. This is fine if the 'services' are really services and not, in some cases anyway, expensive programs that only part of the community agrees with and which cause stress and cost us money.

Is it really a 'service' to have our garage sale, lost cat or flatmate wanted posters torn down each day? Is it really a 'service' that live venues cop massive parking fines because they back onto a No Stopping zone? And is it really a 'service' when rangers hassle cafes such as Fellinis to move all their customers 1.6 metres from the kerb they have been so happily inhabiting for decades? Or to threaten plant shop Urban Jungle in Darlinghurst with $200 fines because they put out plants which beautify their wide corner, as they have been for decades -- also providing free seating for older passers by to take a rest? And is it really a 'service' to plaster Sydney with proscriptive stainless steel regulation signs that expressly forbid any possible sign of life in this sterile 'tidy town'? Or to require a small business to apply for a $30 permit so they can change a light in their under-awning sign? And then another one when they come back with parts and have to put up a ladder again?

It doesn't feel like 'services', that's for sure. It feels like we are naughty schoolchildren on detention, or louts on a train. it doesn't feel like our corporation working in the interests of its own shareholders.

But it runs even deeper than that. Part of the efficiency is achieved by reducing staff working conditions and replacing job-secure salaried staff with people on relativerly short-term contracts. This might be fine for a corporation because it makes managers very accountable in their job of extracting money from customers for the benefit of shareholders.

It has the oposite effect, however, with a council. Whenever a ratepayer goes to one of these middle managers with a problem or an idea, they kick it upstairs for a ruling. If that ruling goes against the ratepayer -- and they mostly seem to -- the middle manager cannot go in to bat for the ratepayer because if they rock the boat their contract won't be renewed. Instead of being a conduit between the public and the council, they become more like meat in the sandwich, and only meek sycophants can stand it.

Over time, therefore, people with guts and any sense of the community are weeded out.

This is especially obvious in our council which has succeeded in imposing the corporate city culture over the more people-oriented South Sydney culture since the forced merger. It also tends to generate a lot more complaints from the public -- leading to the present situation where councillors and staff are so overloaded with correspondence they cannot handle it. Response times are terrible -- not a good indicator of corporate health.

What is needed is a blend of both systems. A well-managed, efficient administration which is imbued with a true service mentality -- not a punitive top-down arrogance. This should be a central tenet in any council's mission statement.

Another central tenet of a council should be to REDUCE expenses for its 'shareholders'. A simple way to do this would be to reduce rates whenever possible. This tends to reduce the cost of living and of doing business, enabling smaller low-profit but unique and interesting businesses to survive, and for low-income people to reside here.

The high-cost approach we now suffer has the reverse effect of creating an undiversified high-income ghetto with only cloned franchise shops who can afford to advertise in mass media. Read your Richard Florida and Jane Jacobs to see how totally outdated is this approach.

And a huge surplus just means they have extracted more money from the 'shareholders' than they need to.

Sydney really needs to grow up, and it won't happen by banning more things and punishing more people. It will happen when our public agents foster community dynamics and only come the heavy when there really is a problem. They should apply the spirit of the law, not its letter. Council might not extract as many fines, but life sure would be a lot more pleasant.

Now it's December roadworks for KX

A little birdie just informed us that the main re-sealing of Darlinghurst Road is booked for mid-December, with the road to be closed for at least a week.

This makes a joke of previously published October completion dates. Maybe they were just for the footpaths. Oops, forgot to mention the roads!

This also raises questions about Council's planned 24-hour street party to mark the coming out of the new Kings Cross -- planned for December 11-12 -- during which they were going to close the road anyway. Good idea at least. Let's hope something happens eventually.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Community Forum rant

Speech given at Crest Hotel 20 September 2004. Sorry it's a bit long.

I am sick to death of hearing all the propaganda about how wonderful Macleay Street is and how Kings Cross is going to be like that if ever these streetworks are finished. Macleay street is fine but most people can't afford the $800 balcony plants, $220 beach towels, $365 vases, and the endless grey restaurants serving, in the words of Tony Bilson a bit of protein on garlic mash for $30 a plate.

It's all catering for the army of yuppies who are supposedly about to pay over 600,000 each for a grey box in a converted hotel. And to sell these units, Kings Cross has to be 'cleaned up', in other words turned into a monocultural wealth ghetto.

I am also sick to death of the staff of this council doing everything it can to make this real estate agents' dream come true.

Lucy Turnbull quoted urbanist author Jane Jacobs in this very room to justify the disaster we see unfolding outside this window.

Quoting that iconic author was a travesty, as everything that Council started here directly contradicts Jacobs and similar thinkers. Here's what Jacobs says about local politics:

'There are only two ultimate public powers in shaping cities: votes and control of the money.'

The votes have now produced a Council that listens to the community. But the same old council staff of yore work assiduously in favour of the big money, trying to make the developers' dream come true.

And the stupid thing is, this big plan for Kings Cross won't work.

Jane Jacobs' theme is that top-down planning always fails because it doesn't understand the street-level detail and dynamics. It's the detail that matters. Let me give you some on-the-ground detail about what's happening in Kings Cross:

At the last forum meeting councillors agreed the Cross should keep some of its neons. This is wonderful as far as it goes.

Yet last week Peter Pan Travel moved out of the World Internet premises, breaking a three-year lease, because it wasn't allowed by senior staff to put a sign up, even though councillors had agreed in committee that the rules were too inflexible in this case. This has now been repeated in round two after a suggestion for a revolving sign was also rejected. The rules are more important than someone's livelihood.

To put up a ladder to fix a neon, you have to get a $30 permit. After you go away to get the parts, you need another $30 permit. South Sydney had no such rule so it must be unnecessary. What small business has the time or money to do this?

The ubiquitous Sartor granite slab is being laid at the Top of William Street. I hear Shayne Mallard swung into action and at least got a reprieve for the mature plane trees that had to go because they didn't fit the slab concept.

But no-one's helping Aldo from Mama's restaurant who has had his outdoor seating pavilion fenced off, with no consultation, cutting his seating to less than half even though he has a DA for it and he just paid for a renewal of his three-year licence. There is no provision for it in the new plans either -- all the seating is being removed in case a drunk sits on it, and Aldo gets to look at a garden while he goes broke. His crime? Why, you can get a decent $5 breakfast there and he doesn't employ a yuppie chef. Wrong business mix in the proposed yuppie heaven!

At the last forum meeting I spoke about saving some of the heritage steel-riveted awnings, particularly the one on the Normandy Building, and councillors agreed, and also acted, thank you Phillip Black. Yet the senior staff have managed to spoil the spirit of this: even though this street is listed as a heritage streetscape, we now see the awning has been butchered back from its original proportions to fit the Sartor plan. Same goes for the Council's own Woolworths building. One of their justifications for continuing the useless awning cutback is agreements with owners. No excuse in this case -- they -- or rather we -- ARE the bloody owners.

As a partial quid-pro-quo for the loss of business during the street works, council originally budgeted up to $17,000 for each new awning and $1,000 per new sign as long as it fit the uniformity of the uberplan. I fondly imagined that money could be diverted to help refurbish the old awnings and subsidising a newly liberated signage policy. Nope. Only those who signed up for the bland uniformity -- after being told they had no choice -- will be getting any money. Everyone else can get stuffed. That alone represents $100s of thousands that has been withdrawn from Cross business.

The Moulin Rouge club now has $4,000 worth of parking fines because they and the bands that play there have a no-stopping zone outside their back door. How can you run a business without loading or unloading a vehicle? Same in Brougham Lane behind the Kings Cross Hotel -- it's a loading zone during the day but at night I see the bands from Club Blink bumping in and out of a no-stopping zone with lookouts posted for council rangers who slap on a $153 dollar fine.

I have raised this with council and with the Kings Cross Partnership, but no, the supposed representatives of the business community are not concerned with such matters.

Moulin Rouge needs to put up an under-awning sign -- you know, flashing lights, Moulin Rouge style. One, it's against Councils signage policy and two, they need the leaking awning to be fixed. The place is trying to become a live music venue and doesn't do drugs or prostitution -- and all they get is raids from the health dept and police, and fined when they do get a good night because people queue outside to get in.

The Kings Cross Arts Festival is coming round again. Apart from having half last year's budget, it's been a saga of squelching by staff. I want to know why we can't have a banner across the street to advertise it -- the Bourbon was allowed when they opened. Looks like big money talks, the community can walk. We've been told a banner is 'too old-fashioned'.

The ever-so-uniform smartpole banners are going to be the centrepiece of Kings Cross. We were told they were there 'to celebrate community events'. But no, we can't use them to promote the arts festival. Why? We're getting the City's generic Christmas design – for the next four years. This, in the least religious postcode in Sydney according to the ABS. I can just see all the mummys and daddys Chrissy shopping for the kiddies in the sex shops.

Kings Cross is about to lose its library yet again because new tenants have a lease on the temporary premises and the Woolworths building still isn't ready. The saga of this library has been a comedy of errors marked by the incompetence of successive councils or worse, pandering to developers' interests. (BTW advice given at the meeting about closing and opening times contradict the leaflets being circulated in the Cross.)

Not only the Woolworths building but the streetscape works are running way over time and budget -- under this council staff -- who are supposedly famous for good management. Business has virtually stopped right along the street. I've seen the figures -- Andrew Strauss's photo shop across the road was doing 30-40 rolls of film a day last September.

This September it's down to three or four on some days. People are screaming for help. But all they get is platitudes and more enforcement of ridiculous rules.

At the last PACT meeting we heard there was another application to extend the working hours into the night to speed up this work. Hullo! Do we hear any work? No, we only hear excuses about unforseen water mains, and I hear council is planning to charge the locals for fixing them.

Several promises have been made to businesses on this street -- parking bays were going to be successively opened as they were finished. Rubbish was going to be cleared up. So far nothing has happened. A recent schedule of work showed that the Bourbon end of the street was going to have by far the shortest construction downtime, but this end the longest. In whose interest is this? Not the small guy, that's for sure.

Council Rangers have been hassling patrons at Bar Coluzzi to move their stools 1.6 metres away from the kerbline. People have been sitting there for decades and it has not been a problem. The place is an institution. We don't need robots for rangers, we need human beings!

Why is the Community Centre still battling to get its secure parking spot as shown on the original DA for the Rex Building, while last week the General Manager, the Property Manager and the Place Manager all came and hassled them because in the empty foyer of the otherwise empty building was some furniture awaiting pickup!

Councillors recently called for a review of the city bike plan and for the Gateway plans to include safe cycleways separated from traffic. This is being blocked by Council staff who say they don't need to do the RTA pedestrian and Bicycle Course even though a Traffic Committee member said in a recent meeting that he enjoys running down cyclists! This, too is the precise Sartor agenda.

And the exact same Sartor design team is bringing us a new Springfield Plaza, same as all the other granite slabs. My submission, for one, addressed several concerns and suggested positive design solutions. All were ignored, and yet exactly those issues came up at the last PACT meeting, including strong concerns from the police.The plan, however, has hardly changed.

But I'm used to submissions being ignored, including the 30-odd generated by the Kings Cross Times when this travesty was proposed -- go have a look, councillors -- you'll find each one objects to the awning cutbacks, the uniform signage and the grey granite. All ignored.

I then organised a public meeting in this room -- ask Roy Bishop and Chris Harris about it, they were here among the nearly 300-strong crowd. The community voted for a more villagey European style paver, not the ubiquitous granite. Not only was this clear expression of community will ignored, but I heard Robert Domm assure Clover Moore at the recent meeting in Springfield avenue that the community had spoken in favour of the grey granite. Not true, Robert.

Now I hear Mr Domm has already moved to fix all the problems by engaging HR consultants to conduct a 5-year 'professional development' program to 'improve efficiency' and including a 'customer service' review to improve their 'interface with the public'.

So we can all relax -- it was all the junior staff's fault. Now we'll get 'Have a nice day' from the robots instead of 'Resistance is useless', as they 'interface with the public'.

And by the way, senior staff, we are not your customers, we are in fact the shareholders of your corporation, and you are supposed to be public servants who represents us, not corporate masters of the universe.

I have become such a such a vocal critic of these plans that middle management in council have now been told not to answer my emails. My emails have to be kicked upstairs and if there is an answer it eventually comes back in the smoothest of passive-voice – and says nothing.

Steve Carnell recently said to me, when I was asking for his help about the neon signage issue, 'Michael is just on about what Michael wants'.

However I know that the things I am saying are deeply felt in the community.

I can assure you I have nothing to gain from any of this, unlike the other influence-pedlars. I can simply see that the most eccentric, interesting and diverse community in Sydney is being squelched by the big money, aided and abetted by a council staff dedicated to carrying out the will of Frank Sartor and sabotaging the democratic mandate of this elected council.

So what do we do about this distinct pattern of squelching? Here are four actions that would help.

1. As it is clear the culture of senior council staff is actively anti-democratic, it needs to be changed. And as culture is steered by senior management, and it obviously won't change, I urge this meeting to call for General Manager Mr Robert Domm to resign...

2. Kings Cross needs real help now, not more excuses. I propose that Council set up an interim committee on Kings Cross, reporting to the Lord Mayor, to immediately find ways to relieve the opression of parts of this local community and to come up with a sensible strategy for the future of Kings Cross.

3. We are sick and tired of time-consuming submissions being ignored by Council. I ask that submissions received from the public about council projects are assessed and reported on by an independent body and not by the very same people that came up with the plan.

4. At present council liaises with, pays money to and listens to The Kings Cross Partnership even as other sections of the residential and business community are ignored. I move the immediate election of a three-person precinct committee to represent our community interests and to liaise with Council's Interim Kings Cross committee.

Uproar at Council Crest meeting

After meeting 71 work deadlines today, finally I have time to report on last night's council forum at the Crest.

The meeting was dominated by anguished complaints from locals suffering under punitive Sydney City Council actions and regulations.

Yours truly laid down a long rant, listing a multitude of gross and stupid injustices being wrought by this council. Clover Moore kept trying to shut me down but the crowd erupted each time and I was able to continue.

At the end I called for the resignation of Robert Domm, council's general manager and former employee of Chris Corrigan in the MUA union-bashing days. Clover took high umbrage and accused me of being 'insulting', also firing a vicious little spray at local Dick Bennett who was among the many people supporting me. Driving small businesses to the ground with heavy-handed and inflexible regulation is by far the greater insult, in my opinion.

Then came the star turn of the evening -- cr Phillip Black stood up and, apologising to Clover (his team leader), agreed that staff had sabotaged genuine attempts to save some of the heritage items in Darlinghurst Road. He said he had had the same experience as me. Mr Black is a heritage enthusiast and knows what he is talking about. Calls of 'Phillip Black for Lord Mayor' rang out from the very deep peanut gallery.

An ironic moment came when Avry from World Internet, who has lost a tenant because of the council's rigid and repressive signage rules, was answered by council's Jason Perica -- the very guy who squelched his application after it had progressed through a council committee and several layers of staff. Jason said he would 'look at it'.

My theme was that the will of council (the people we elected) is constantly being overruled by council staff who are completely welded to former Lord mayor Frank Sartor's agenda -- an agenda formulated for the cbd but applied with no variation to the annexed territories. Kings Cross of course is copping the full brunt of the mindless destruction. I say mindless because it is -- a discredited neo-modernist agenda from the 1920s is being laid on us disguised as yet another 'clean up the Cross' campaign.

It is obviously just a ratepayer-funded program to make the Cross an acceptable product for real estate agents to be able to showcase when advertising the oversupply of yuppie units being built. You know the ads: 'close to cafe society' is the magic line. OK that's quite a claim I've made but if you keep reading this site I can back this up extensively. For a start, every renewal plan from William St to Springfield Plaza features artists impressions of supermodels drinking coffee under umbrellas -- note the lack of awnings!

Anything that runs against the Sartor agenda is squelched. Anyone pandering to or not threatening the agenda gets a hearing.

This became obvious when Stephen Carnell of the Kings Cross Partnership asked a Dorothy-Dixer: 'What is Council doing to compensate main street businesses for the loss of business during the construction works?' H e got a bored answer from Robert Domm again outlining the $700,000 of our money being spent over three years on the Cross, and all the help the KXP is getting to produce pamphlets -- which don't seem to be doing much for the Cross.

It's a stark contrast to the way other people are being treated -- small business people, the Arts Guild or in fact anyone with the slightest bit of imagination.

One bit of good news is that Council now wants to put LED light strips under the awnings -- you can see example in place on the pavement heading north from Hungry Jacks. It's a sign of life! We had assumed these were illegal installations by shopowners. The signage policy expressly forbids any extra illumination lest it has 'an impact on the streetscape'. I kid you not -- you are only allowed to have a sign if it has no impact on the streetscape. I mean, what's the point then. However franchises like Gucci etc don't mind this because they do all their advertising in Vogue.

It's just the small guy with a hint of individuality that gets screwed. But then, that's the plan.

The outrageous hypocrisy of council breaking its own rules while using the same rules to squelch everyone else except JC Decaux is now on the record.

And it is noted that the idea, while pretty good, was not generated through any consultation with the community. Like the sudden change of plan from white lettering on the pavement back to the brass plaque model. This, I am told, was another unilateral decision of Robert Domm. And we thought 'consistency' was the hallmark.

Anyhow, Clover's advisor Larry Galbraith rang today wanting a copy of my speech. And Sonia Gidley-King, the Woolloomooloo darling who is responsible for the 'Wrap with Love' movement, got a call from Clover's Bligh office after her hilarious recounting of the Catch-22 antics of the 311 bus route of late. JC Decaux came up there again, surprisingly.

I will edit out the flowery bits from my speech, send it to Larry, then post it on this site. Watch this space.

Great new KX businesses

For all the grief being felt by Kings Cross businesses, there are some great new places opening. The mysteries of retail success constantly elude.

We've just been to the 'Nothing over $20' cd clearance shop on Bayswater and Kellet. Newly open for only two days, it's packed. We just spent $80 there after exercising great restraint. Really interesting cds with full cover notes etc. Now playing: the stripped down, no overdubs, digitally remastered 'Let it Be' by the Beatles. Always had lousy sound, that record -- now you can finally hear what the lads really played and sang.

In Llankelly Place, 'Little Penang' serves fabulous Asian food at budget prices. Super-fresh, no MSG, great service, pleasant little room. Highly recommended. No bit-of-protein-on-garlic-mash-for-$30 here!

And in Victoria Street on the former Bugdens bookshop site is 'Dumplings and Noodle' -- more super-fresh Asian stuff. Went there recently with a friend who'd just been to Vietnam and visited the dumpling village. The tasty and varied fresh-made dumplings here are just as good. The dumb-waiter arrangement at the back gives it that true traditional Kings Cross eccentricity.

Meanwhile Bugdens has moved to the top of William St and seems to be thriving with more room and great books at low prices. Tip: You can get a lot of KX literature there. Saw 'Darlinghurst Nights' in the window yesterday. Grab it.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Library falls through the cracks

Kings Cross is about to lose its library again. The temporary library nestled between sex shops was supposed to relocate to the mezzanine level of Councils building across the street -- the old Woolworths building.

However renovations on the new building are so behind schedule that it won't be ready when a new lessee takes over the present premises.

The new library is due to be opened in October, and it will be pretty flash we hear. Library users will have to be patient in the meantime.

Our favourite council staff prides itself on its management expertise. Hmmmn. Another trifling matter, I suppose.

Sherry latest victim of Cross Cleanup

Needing some sherry to whack into a trifle, we went up to the closest bottleshop only to find they don't stock it any more. 'Too much trouble with the locals' was the explanation. As you can't make a decent trifle without it, we forged on until we found a retailer brave enough to stock the stuff. Yes, yes, it's a trifling matter.

Council ruins another business

The travel agency forbidden to erect an under-awning sign has now vacated the internet cafe -- see 'Born under a bad sign' story below.

This is despite Councillors having agreed the rules should be more flexible in this case. Nope. Staff applied the rules.

What is more important -- someone's livelihood or an inflexible bureaucracy which has forgotten it is there to serve the community?

STOP PRESS. The travel agency says it will still come back if it can put up a sign. Avry, the owner of World Internet, came up with a brilliant idea -- to have a triangular revolving sign like a Toblerone packet with the three business names on it. Local Place Manager Linda Mearing thought it was a great solution but... you guessed it, senior staff squelched it.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Council grants a choice of pavers!

People who commented on plans to upgrade Springfield Avenue will not only get a second chance to comment but have also have been offered a choice of pavers.

This follows a street meeting with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, councillors and staff (see stories below).

Council's initial plan was to lay bitumen, but after complaints that this was a downgrade, settled on more of the grey granite as seen now in Darlinghurst Road. However residents brought up other ideas such as terracotta pavers which would complement the many brick Art Deco flats in the precinct, or a mottled grey paver as seen in Llankelly Place.

Comments are open until 30 September but council urges early lodgement as the construction is soon due to begin.

Arts Festival ready to rattle 'n roll

Kings Cross is ready to rise from the ashes of street reconstruction with its fifth annual Arts Fest, this year themed 'Kings Cross Now'.

It starts on 14 October with the Wayside Chapel Art Exhibition & Auction hosted by David Wenham, and runs through to 13 November.
A climax will be a ball in the tradition of the original Sydney Arts Balls, which caused scandals from the 1920s to 40s. This year it revives the original 'Drag & Drain' moniker. Jeff Duff's band will lead the entertainment with Jeff's David Bowie/FrankSinatra show in the soon-to-be-opened Ladylux venue, formerly the Venus Room in the Cross, on Friday 12 November.

Other events include a steel drum orchestra, an outdoor projection show and 'live walls' in which Sydney's stencil artists come out. Theatre events, a great debate, a film festival, an Art deco walking tour, art exhibitions, music and poetry and much more ensure there will be something for everyone. Be there or be scared. We'll bring you more as the time draws closer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Music is a vanishing act

by John Wardle

The Live music industry in NSW is in real trouble. Music is all around us, and yet musicians have lost their role as contributing members of the community.

There have been many contributing factors to this decline. Social and demographic changes, such as changing leisure technologies, environments, and practices -- the gentrification of inner Sydney, and the little known impact of local government environmental planning policies that encourage increased population density in areas with a heritage of live music.

Though the pubs dismiss the impact of their transformation into the local casino, many Musicians credit the introduction of gaming machines to their traditional work place, the local pub, as being a fatal blow to the once vibrant music scene in NSW -- which defined the sounds of our lives and made a major contribution to our evolving cultural identity. After all, what is easier? Spend perhaps $100,000 to get an entertainment licence, or just get in a few pokies?

In May 2003 the results of an inquiry into state of live popular Music opportunities in New South Wales, the Vanishing Acts report, was published. (Click the headline for a link)

The report was written by Professor Bruce Johnson of the University of NSW and Dr Shane Homan of the University of Newcastle and jointly funded by the Music Board of the Australia Council and the NSW Ministry for the Arts. It provides solutions to many of the long-held industry concerns about the future viability of live Music in the State.

We now have a terrific opportunity to encourage a magnificent new music scene in NSW if the initiative is there to act on the recommendations of Vanishing Acts, and if State and Local Governments have the long term vision to support necessary changes to licensing and local government processes that are required to encourage the return of the musician to the local community.

It would be exciting to see a Musical environment in NSW where a more inclusive music is encouraged, -- where teenagers, who are restricted from most venues, can participate, where older people, and others who may not feel comfortable in a rock venue can enjoy live music in their neighborhood, and where ethnic music is included with the wonderful food culture that we appreciate so much.

This can all be supported by acting on the Vanishing Acts report, with the addition of a restaurant licensing initiative to encourage live music there.

-- John Wardle isa professional musician and music teacher responsible for the guitar program at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Access Centre.

Llankelly lights on the blink

A reader asked when the Llankelly place lights would be turned back on. Council's Kings Cross Place Manager Linda Mearing says there are delays from suppliers. 'We're currently chasing the supplier of the light fittings for maintenance and
replacements,' she said.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Clover lets rip on political posters

Council last night decided to instruct contractors to pull down political posters every seven days, forcing political parties to potentially replace them three times before the election.

The move was pushed by Clover Moore and opposed by the Labor councillors and The Greens Chris Harris, who commented that it would benefit the major parties which have large media budgets, and disadvantage the minor parties which don't.

The report in the Herald (click headline) misses the point, however, that the seven-day rule is a huge step forward from the 24-hour regime which applied up till now.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Politicians as graffiti artists

Politicians will be allowed to display election posters on telegraph poles for seven days if a Lord Mayoral Minute is passed at tonight's Council Meeting. The minute affects Council's Graffiti policy. Greens councillor Chris Harris is believed to have a motion calling for the posters to remain until the election on October 9.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has called in Parliament for election posters to be permitted 28 days before an election, to removed within 14 days after an election, describing the process as a traditional part of Australian democracy. The Labor government has refused such a move. It is noted that Labor Party corflutes are all over the city at the moment.

Councillor not happy about Normandy Building

Councillor Phillip Black, who has been listening to local concerns about retaining more of the heritage in Kings Cross, says he is not happy about the cutting-back of the Normandy Building awning (See story below).

He has checked and has been told the owners gave consent to Council for the work.

He said the awning was not included as 'heritage' under the previous Council's planning, despite Darlinghurst Road being listed as a heritage streetscape under former SSCC policy.

The awning was being cut back according to the City Council's Awning Policy, which Cr Black says needs to be changed.

'But that is another process,' he said.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Swans flying into the Cross

The financially stressed Aussie Rules Club in Darlinghurst Road has formed an association with the Sydney Swans in order to 'strengthen the opportunities for the Club,' according to a letter sent by Club President Mr Nicholas Ryko to club members.

The club had been under financial pressure for the past two years 'as a result of the changing demographics of the local area including the majority of hotels providing accommodation within Kings Cross,' says the letter.

Combining the membership of the ARC and the Swans 'will see the Club develop as a premier social venue for its current members,' said director Harry Tsagaris.

Three directors will resign their position to be replaced until the next AGM by three 'casual directors' selected for 'their business expertise and experience and their association with the Swans.'

Swans Chairman Richard Colless has been invited to fill one of the vacancies.

Kings Cross and the Swans? Go the Swans!

Wild and woolly Woolloomooloo

What is missing from Council's 'vision' for the Kings Cross district, and that of local residents who just want it 'nice' again, is any recognition of the area's role in the Metropolis as a whole. Yet they only have to investigate a little local history to see there is more to it than the staid conformity they espouse. Some quotes:

(KX was historically part of Woolloomooloo precinct. The following quote comes from 'Requiem for Woolloomooloo' by George Farwell, 1971).

'Every big metropolis needs its escape route, a refuge, some shield from the rat race, the inquisitive and unwanted charity of what is called respectable society. Yet... the 'Loo has mostly been respectable, its values very Christian in non-clerical ways: giving sanctuary to the poor, the persecuted or those otherwise in trouble.

'...At one time or other it has been a haven for all manner of classes, callings and types; gypsies, displaced Aborigines, poets, artists, gunmen, con men, philosophers, whores, drug addicts and drug smugglers, visaless immigrants, seamen jumping ship.

'...At a distance were the bright commercial towers of a city too affluent to care; and more closely, looming greyly above Cathedral Street, the buttresses and belltower of the cathedral, itself both conscience and scourge of the sinful below.'

When the current 'clean up the Cross' campaign began, someone on radio compared it to the S bend of a sink -- where all the filth collects, an analogy I found personally offensive. But it did highlight the stupidity of the sink trying to eliminate its own S bend. You can't have one without the other.

In 'The Glittering Mile' docco (1964) a nightclub owner described the Cross as Sydney's 'psychologist 's couch'.

And from 'Memories Kings Cross 1936-46' :

'Here joy, if not unconfined, was less restricted than it would be in suburbia or Boolamakanka. Live and let live was the attitude and still is. [Or it should be - Ed]

'Sydneysiders have always had to fight against becoming too raffish... not too staid and dignified but not outright raffish. It needed a Kings Cross and environs where carefree or even dubious behaviour would be tolerated or, at best, borne with pain by the conformists. What better place than the Cross, close to the city, almost a peninsula.

'... Ergo, the hoity-toi mixed up with the hoi-polloi and with artists, authors, musicians and outright bohemians, add transients from the country, interstate and overseas -- what a heady brew it all makes!'

Things haven't actally changed much, and the wowsers who in 1838 banned bathing in Woolloomooloo, and a century later sent businesses in the Cross broke by forcing them to close at 6pm even though they made most of their money later in the evening, have modern counterparts equally blinkered, self-righteous, judgemental and arrogant. They should learn to 'Live and Let Live'. That was stated in the first edition of 'The Kings Cross Times' and today has become its motto.

Anti-Anti-cluster rules

Some perspicacious person has responded to the 'wowser' story (I think ironically) pointing out that anti-cluster laws against Convenience stores are wowserish too.

I don't like convenience stores much either -- but rather than banning them, Council should be working out why they proliferate. The market should decide these things, not Council repression. After all, what's next? Banning gay shops because someone doesn't like them? Or bookshops carrying political literature? We hear there are moves to 'improve' the retail mix in Oxford St along with the 'upgrade' they are about to get.

Who has the right to crush someone's livelihood? I thought it was a free country. Small business is being beaten about the head by out-of-control bureaucrats. This can only have the effect of reducing diversity in favour of yet more of the same franchise operations you see everywhere, who can leverage off national advertising and have the bucks and resources to pressure councils.

Jane Jacobs makes much of this -- for example she says a responsible civic authourity should ensure that a healthy mix of older low-rent buildings remains so marginal yet often interesting businesses can survive, along with low-income people in the housing market.

This is not one of the criteria of our Council. The low-cost housing debate has been relegated to a Housing Commission thing, which does nothing to slow gentrification or to help the 'working poor' such as artists, writers and students.

And in reply to the person who commented that all the 'classy' people and artists etc hang out at Fox Studios, I was just in Coles having a yak with a local filmaker and a practising artist, while last night I went to a fundraiser where two local writers spoke. Try walking into the Trop and shouting 'Who wants a million bucks to make a film' and see the response you get. I doesn't happen in North Sydney, I can assure you.

The Kings Cross sleaze debate

'Sleaze' is central to current debate about the Cross. I have asked for a non-judgemental definition of it in comments on this site but none have appeared. Let's face it, though, we all know what is being discussed here.

I respect the point of view of those who argue that the Cross used to be nicer but has been ruined by the onset of 'sleaze'. However I don't accept the argument. There are much larger forces at work, and the while the tone of the Cross has certainly changed a lot of it simply reflects the way society has changed. The 'innocent' days of Cary Grant movies have given way to Rambo and movies devoted to splatter or teenage gross-outs; Doris Day pop has moved over for Gangsta rap glorifying gun crime, and death metal. No wonder the Cross has a harder edge. It's just that it is visible here rather than hidden behind closed doors as in other suburbs, just as it was way before the '70s.

The Cross used to party a lot harder back in the '30s and '40s -- parties often ran very obviously all weekend. You could still buy cocaine over the counter in some local shops. The Westpac bank site on the corner of Springfield Plaza was known as 'battleship corner' because that's where the working girls used to hang out, enticing Yankee sailors and soldiers during the war. Single blokes walking down the road then would commonly be accosted by a young lady with the proposition: 'Want some company for the night? Strip to the earrings, thirty bob.'

Kings Cross Road, now an alienating freeway, used to hold rows of terrace houses operating as brothels and was known as 'Douche-can Alley', and gunmen inhabited Woolloomooloo and the Green Park Hotel.

These references come from 'Memories Kings Cross 1936-46', a fascinating locally produced book still available at the Community Centre, now moved back to the Rex Building (thru the double doors to the right of the PO -- go get a copy while they're still available).

Saturday, September 11, 2004

On wowsers

Nothing to do with Inspector Gadget, this from 'Wowsers' by Keith Dunstan, quoting H.L. Mencken in 'American language', who defined the word thus:

'A drab souled Philistine haunted by the mockery of others' happiness. Every Puritan is not necessarily a wowser; to be one he must devote himself zealously to reforming the morals of his neighbours, and, in particular, to throwing obstacles in the way of their enjoyment of what they choose to regard as pleasures.'

Sounds a bit like 'clean up the Cross' and the anti-cluster laws for the sex industry.

Council considers community grants

The City of Sydney will consider funding of $285,000 for
community-based projects at next Monday's meeting.

Council's Cultural and Community Care Committee recommended funding
106 projects, selected from 192 applications. The grants, up to $5,000
per project, support local community and cultural activities in the
City. The projects are distributed across the City, targeting areas of
greatest need.

The grants will go to projects that provide family support,
counselling and mentoring; practical support for the homeless and
other disadvantaged people and health and fitness for the young and
the elderly.

Other programs include educational projects aimed at increasing
knowledge and awareness of local history and heritage, local
activities that encourage environmental awareness and sustainability,
and community cultural activities, including visual arts, dance and
theatre, craft and festivals. (press release)

Friday, September 10, 2004

Ain't she lovely

Troops back from Iraq disembarked today at Garden Island. In contrast to the ABC Docco which implied heavy metal was the soundtrack to war, after the National Anthem and 'We are one' the outdoor PA broke into Stevie Wonder's 'Isn't she lovely'. Still trying to work that one out.

Anyhow, welcome back, troops. The Australian Armed forces have again acquitted themselves brilliantly in action. The training and culture of our forces continues to be one of the best reflections of traditional Australian values.

Normandy building disfigured

Walking down Darlinghurst Road the other day, blissful in the belief that Council would be saving at least some of the steel-riveted awnings in the street, especially that of the stylish Normandy Building, well, blow me down and stagger-me-guts if I didn't look up and see it in shreds. Apparently it is being 'cut back' to suit the 'gateway concept' (even though Kings Cross is not a gateway) and to deprive pedestrians of shelter from the rain and sun.

Despite an avalanche of objections to this awning cutback, the previous Council stuck to their guns, justifying it on the grounds that it would let in more light -- even as they brought in rules to eliminate most of the light-giving signage that illuminates the Cross. Clutter, you know. Consistency. Blandness. The sort of values that are inviolable and unarguable.

Many locals think the real reason was to provide less shelter for the 'undesirables' that used to be a lot more evident until the Police started carting them down to Central or elsewhere.

A photo of it by Max Dupain from early last century shows the original awning as a backkdrop to some street buskers playing violin and lap guitar. Ah, the good ol' days.

We are awaiting a comment from Council.

Born under a bad sign

World Internet on Darlinghurst road has just been notified it will lose one of its tenants, Peter Pan Travel, because they cannot get permission from Council to erect an under-awning sign.

There are three businesses on the premises, but current council rules do not permit a sign unless the business has a street frontage. The shop has a five-metre frontage, and owner Avry Ben-Zeev says there is room for the three signs. He spoke at the Council committee meeting which dealt with the draft signage Development Control Plan where Cr Phillip Black said different levels and types of signage were appropriate, and Lord Mayor Clover Moore agreed, saying there was a need 'for more flexibility'.

An email trail shows that Council asked for the artwork for the sign to be submitted for approval.

However Peter Pan travel says they were subsequently advised by Council that 'no signage is to be erected at this time', and that the application for the light box sign 'does not look like it will go through'.

We will be asking Council staff if having bureaucrats destroy businesses is a fair and just thing. Incidents like this every day reinforce the perception that unelected council staff are doing everything in their power to sabotage the will of the elected Councillors.

The common perception in the Cross is that Council staff are dedicated to imposing the Frank Sartor/Lucy Turnbull plan to kill -- sorry -- 'clean up' the Cross, even though they were never elected by anyone in this area. Their term for it, if I recall was to 'improve the business mix'. Peter Pan Travel and Avry Ben-Zeev must think this is a prime example of bureaucratic doublespeak. Writer Richard Florida calls these type of people 'Squelchers' because they kill good ideas. See Richard Florida references below or just click the headline.

Straight staff vs bent Cross

The following story just about sums up the cultural problem between the Cross and Council staff as they apply their CBD-oriented 'tidy towns' agenda to a town of eccentrics -- as told to us yesterday.

Council staff wanted to remove a tree from outside a well-known flock of bats in the area. The Body Corporate didn't want it removed. At an on-site meeting, staff explained the tree needed to go because it was crooked. The somewhat glamorous chairperson of the BC replied to this effect: 'But daahling, we're all crooked here at the Cross!'

The Cross is not dead -- just being crushed, as one of our commenters posted, by a Sartor/Turnbull program vision for the place that doesn't even mention its nightlife or role as an entertainment centre.

The person who reckons not even 100s come to the Cross should sit -- as we did the other Saturday night -- in the Goldfish Bowl listening to a good rockin' trio and watching people and cars absolutely pour into the place. There is still a lot of goodwill for the Cross and, from a business standpoint, it is crazy to deny this and attempt to turn it into a suburban shopping centre.

The mix is there, it just needs the right yeast.

The Kings Cross drugs debate

A lot of (less-than polite) comment on this site revolves around drugs, blaming them for the condition of the Cross.
Yes the drugs etc are here but a few simple, imaginative initiatives would bring a lot more people in who would dilute and displace those people who seems to be so disparagingly judged and condemned by the 'superior' people. That is the positive way forward.

There is no solution to the drugs thing, as you can see at every PACT meeting, short of regulated supply of heroin. This would gradually rob the dealers of their customers and make it unnecessary for working girls to stay on the game just to feed their habit, while reducing the overdose rate because the strength and quality would be known. And if you read the Household Drugs Survey 2001, it is very clear that you would not get a flood of new users because hardly anyone who chooses not to use a particular drug would change their mind if it became legal. For example Amsterdam, where you can consume pot at some cafes and clubs, has the lowest rate of cannabis use per head of any city in Europe.

If you could register somewhere and get the stuff at the MSIC, would YOU suddenly start sticking a needle in your arm? I thought not.

All the serious problems in the Cross are symptoms of prohibition and over-regulation, and until we move the debate into those areas we will continue to run around in circles. Roslyn St for instance -- because of prohibition it is currently being 'revitalised' by the closure of all the pot cafes, and the street dealing just increases every time one closes down. And as our new top cop said, 'For every dealer we put in jail eight more appear.'

Google 'Harry Anslinger Prohibition' for an insight into the lies and hypocrisy that brought prohibition about. Or click on the headline for a really well researched site on the stupidity of prohibition. After all, it didn't work for alcohol...

What are those 'simple, imaginative initiatives?' I'll post my ideas for the Cross when I get a minute... what are yours?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

It's all about the hair

We all know how the pollies change their ties to suit the occasion -- this site takes it a bit further. Check out Mr Howard, too. (Click the headline)

Have your say at community forum

There will be another council community forum on Monday 20 September 6:30pm - 8:00pm Crest Hotel, Level 2, 111 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross for residents of Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, East Sydney, Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay & Potts Point.

Springfield plans set in granite

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has written to residents of Springfield Avenue following her recent meeting with them (see story below).

The good news is that the street will be paved and not asphalted as originally planned, the Europen-style lampposts will be retained and more trees will be planted than are to be removed.

The bad news is that requests by several of the residents at the meeting for terracotta paving in sympathy with the brick and warm-coloured Art deco buildings of the precinct appear to have been ignored.

Council general manager Robert Domm at the meeting stated that the community had approved the grey/green granite we see in the main street. It was pointed out at the meeting that the community had in fact voted against it in favour of a more cobbled European look in a scrutineered ballot conducted by the local Heritage Society.

Clover Moore at the time replied 'I'll take that on board'.

The grey granite lobby appears to have won, however. The issue was not even recognised in the letter.

The plans will be exhibited at the Council shop on the strip from 15 September for two weeks. Written comments from the public will be received during that time. Anyone with concerns can also bring them up at the next community forum. (see story above)

Arts Festival announced

The fifth annual Kings Cross Arts Festival has just been announced. It will run from 14 October, beginning with the 'Images of the Cross' art & photography exhibition at the TAP Gallery, and ending on 13 November with the Kings Cross Arts Ball, this year reviving the 'Drag & Drain Ball' from the bohemian days of the Cross.

The main body of the festival will occur over the first two weeks of November.

The Kings Cross Arts Guild is busy finalising events and venues -- and raising the necessaries!
Needed are volunteers to help with events (you get free admission!), sponsors in cash or kind, and venues for some events. It is also still possible to add events if someone has a great act, preferably with some local relevance.

Contact Robyn Greaves from the Community Centre (9357 2164) or Gavin Harris from The Cross Art + Books (9357 2038) if you can help.

As events are finalised, we'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A small break for Cross business

A meeting earlier today between some small Kings Cross businesses and Council staff found at least one small way to ease the pain of construction work in the main street.

As the paved parking bays on the east side are completed, they will be opened for parking rather than remaining barricaded as at present. At least one bay is practically ready to go.

The meeting, we are told, was triggered by an article in the Sunday Telegraph critical of the raw deal businesses are getting during the works, which are running over time and over budget.

Staff said there was no way to speed up the work, and delays had been caused by problems with broken water pipes found during excavation, which required remedial work the length of the street.

Completion dates for the work have been variously given as end of November, end of December or end of January (if Springfield Plaza is included).

Monday, September 06, 2004

Kings Cross Business dealt another blow

After yesterday's Sunday Telegraph story on the desperate plight of main street businesses in the Cross, Council has responded by offering a staffer to meet with Andrew Strauss, who was quoted in the article. In the meantime, though, it appears Council staff have pulled another swifty on main street businesses.

We are told only 40 businesses and owners have signed up to the original awning/signage package, less than a third of the possible number. Part of the problem was that some of the facades were found to be unable to support the new awning design. This would seem to be good news for those opposed to the uniform blandness the council's package sought to impose, and those including the editor who wanted the heritage steel-riveted awnings and neon signage retained.

However here's the sting. We have been told Council has simply dropped the awning upgrade program, which must be saving them a fortune. Awnings were said to cost around $17,000 each and businesses were to get $1,000 each to help with design and artwork for the twee little signs. In asking for the heritage awnings to be saved, we asked that the upgrade money still be spent on restoring and renovating the old awnings where needed, and that businesses be allowed to spend their $1,000 on whatever signage they wished, including neons if they wanted. This seemed at least a partial compensation for the severe downturn in business the already-depressed strip has suffered during the streetworks.

However according to our information no more money will be spent. It would seem that businesses are again to be the scapegoat for the inevitable cost overrun of the project . But then it appears that the real agenda all along has been to kill the Cross as it is, and to hell with the people who lose their businesses. Meanwhile Springfield Avenue is again set to get some kind of paving instead of the bitumen they were to get. (See story below). Looks like this increase in spending is at the expense of main street businesses.

It is interesting to see the various and devious ways council staff find to carry out the Sartor/Turnbull vision, and how they punish the place in puerile pique if their tidy-town vision is thwarted. But wait, there's more... just waiting to find out how some other negotiations are going before reporting.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Saving neons -- or burying them?

One of our readers sent on this story from The Guardian, alarmed that, even though Sydney Landmark signs such as the Golf House and AWA signs were to be preserved, they would be buried in a Powerhouse Museum building at Castle Hill.

by Jonathan Jones
Wednesday September 1, 2004

Black Victorian carriages and corsets cram the dusty halls of Gunnersbury Park Museum on the western edge of London, in a mansion once owned by the Rothschilds. The museum acknowledges there is not really room to display its latest acquisition, the Lucozade sign that until this week met drivers entering London on the M4. Instead, it will exhibit disassembled parts of the sign; 1950s circuits and transistors and slender red lettering will be dismantled and put into glass cases.

This glowing sign, created in 1953, proclaimed an innocent belief in a product that was good for you. A yellow bottle poured goodness into a glass. The neat text promised "Lucozade aids recovery". Recently it was changed to "Lucozade replaces lost energy".

Public enthusiasm forced the drug company divesting itself of this example of 1950s commercial art on the old Lucozade building in west London to do some nifty footwork. "A Lucozade committee" decided the sign's future. GlaxoSmithKline says a replacement sign will appear on a nearby building in a more contemporary style.

I don't know how careful the sign's dismantlers were, but I know they were quick. Arriving on the day it was scheduled to be patiently boxed like an archaeological relic, I walked from the museum through Gunnersbury Park, where a gothic boathouse built by the Rothschilds rots by a lake, windows boarded up, gargoyles mouldy - itself a candidate for restoration. At the site of the Lucozade sign I found nothing but the pale shadow of an "L".

The ruined Lucozade building has every window smashed and is covered in graffiti. Traffic races above. The story feels like a con. The museum will have the sign to delight future generations. But it evidently can't afford to do much with its bit of modernist graphic art. Maybe the drug company should make a substantial donation, and help the park in which the museum stands. In reality, this bit of the British commercial past has not been "saved". It has gone. And the road is a bit bleaker.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

How different we are

Click the headline to see statistics on the weirdos who live in 2011. It's true -- we are different. And proud of it, naturally.

Bourke St residents lose out to SCEGGS

Without any consultation with affected residents, Council has kindly put in 'No Standing' zones in Bourke Street East Sydney during school pickup and drop off times so the SCEGGS 4wd brigade can ferry their kids more conveniently. Ten houses and three businesses have lost their parking. Two carpenters and an electrician now have no way of loading their tools in and out, and say they will have to sell up and move.

In addition, 104 new units are about to hit the market near the corner of Bourke & Wiiiam Sts, only 50% of which have parking spaces. Units built after 1996 are not eligible for resident parking permits and few real estate agents inform prospects of this before making a sale, so you can imagine the mayhem.

Council staff have suggested to affected residents that they simply move their cars four times a day. Residents are really impressed by this bit of practical advice.

The issue also revolves around a school crossing made necessary because the bus stops opposite SCEGGS. It used to stop unofficially in the school driveway, but this would mean the bus enters another zone, costing each kid 40c more per fare. Moving the zone boundary a few metres seems to be just too lateral a concept for our vertical-thinking authorities.

Council staff told residents that the bus stop was there 'because that's where SCEGGS wanted it'.

The closure of St Peters Lane is again an issue. It was gated on a three-month trial basis as part of resident group ESNA and Police attempts to stop so-called 'kerb crawling', and Council was to hold a set of keys. The three months are long-gone and SCEGGS won't surrender the keys, says council, and ESNA is proposing to close even more streets (see story below).

A practical move, say residents, would be to open one end of the lane, making parking spots available to locals.

'We'd rather see a prostitute than a brown bomber,' one local commented, adding that they were seeing an increase in drug use and discarded syringes in the area.

Residents fear the strip will become another backpacker haven if some have to sell up and move.

To voice your complaint call Clover Moore (Lord Mayor) on 9265 9229 or email

Old Fitz keeps its character

The Old Fitzroy pub at the top of Cathedral Street has renovated its first floor, retaining its character in a nice blend of Victoriana and Austin Powers. Refreshing to see the pub bucking the trend of most pub renovations in which they turn it into a neo-modernist refrigerator and wonder why the patrons go elsewhere. The Old Fitz remains busy and friendly. The first floor is also a no-smoking area and the drinks are reasonably priced.


The government has abandoned proposals to allow Centennial and Moore Park rangers to check bags, following the public and media outcry over this unnecessary infringement of individual rights. The revised Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust regulations have been approved without this provision.

-- Press release from Clover Moore's office

Our stunning local media

God, we're lucky. Having those thick glossy plastic-wrapped magazines dropped on our doorstep each week makes life worth living.

On the city side of Kings Cross we get the Sydney City Courier, sister publication to the Wenty which gets dropped on the other side of town, neatly splitting the ridge in two. Now that's community recognition.

We are so stunned by the quality of the City version we've just got to share some of its gems with you. I mean, move over Shakespeare. This stuff is up there at Pulitzer prize level.

Page five, after the ads etc, features a shirt manufacturer. The intro reads 'For Ian Austen, director of men's shirt label Edward Stripe, men's fashion is gaining an edge.' Brilliant insight. Two name-drops already, fabulous. The story starts with the revelation 'I believe that shirts are the perfect fashion paradigm for men.' Surprising.

Moving right along, on page 8 is some NEWS, or so it is labelled. 'Young designers strut their stuff' says the headline beneath a pic of young beautiful women in mini-dresses. The text begins 'Want to get the lowdown on what's hot in fashion?' Who could resist, and sure enough on page 13, right-hand-side, is the ad for the same event. Lowdown alright.

Back on page 8 is 'letter of the week' which wins a $120 hamper from (name-drop company). This letter, the only one published, comes from a guy in Woollahra, where the mag is not circulated. It is about the dangers of mixing water with alcohol on harbour cruises. Riveting.

After the Police news featuring another sniffer dog triumph in Oxford Street (no mention of the damning Ombudsman's report on the dogs' ineffective performance), we have another fashion article about the gorgeous Matthew Galasso who plugs his shop with this insight: 'When you're wearing suits seven days a week you always try and find something different. The [brandname] range for men and women is a a very wearable range.' Don't forget this circulates through the housing commission areas of Woolloomooloo. How relevant.

Then after the Fathers' Day feature comes 'Lunch with Renae' who is the sassy, perky editor. Headline under pic of fashionably bald guy: 'Rich and irresistable'. A freudian slip, Renae? Max Brenner owns a chocolate shop and the pullquote reads "My philosophy was always to put some fashion into chocolate and to 'free chocolate' ". And here I was concerned about Chechnya or Tibet.

After pages of plugs for expensive restaurants, we hit the Dads' Day features, beginning with a pic of a young gay-looking guy getting his nails done by a gorgeous girl in a miniskirt. The intro: 'Beauty was once the domain of women, but men are starting to make a dent in the market.' Next page starts... 'Bachelor beauty -- Sydney men are getting a makeover thanks to New York Beauty brand, Anthony Logistics for Men.' Logistics even! How macho!

Then there is 'Revved up -- two of Australia's most desirable cars turned heads in Rushcutters Bay'. This story must have dropped from the Wenty which covers that area.

OK, it gets even better. Random quotes from the 'Education report':

'While raising my four children, I taught myself basic skills by watching television and reading.'
'Learning is something that happens to everyone, everyday. We learn that if we don't get up by the time the bus reaches the corner, we'll miss our stop'. Take note, Board of Studies.

Our favourite (sic): 'Ever put off learning a language or enrolling in that bachelor's degree. Take up the chellenge today, it's never too late.' Yes, we have typo's too, but we don't have a bevy of sub-editors checking the copy, either.

Then, the suggestive: 'Alliance Francais de Sydney offers a lot more than classes.' Headline: 'French is the word.' Where do I sign up?
More insight: 'The Raffles La Salle Institute offers a variety of creative opportunities.' At least they seem to have moved on from 'whole range of'.
I can't take this any more. Let's just finish off with this caption appearing under a pic of John Howard and a superannuation sign: 'New Way -- Holistic approach to mortgage,' a perfect new-age lead into the real estate section.

Local media just couldn't get better. Love Sydney. It's great to see our Council supporting this mag with advertising paid for with our rates -- ever since issue one which raved about the achievements of Lucy Turnbull. Love Sydney.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

New gallery will zap your eyes

A free plug for some unusual and entertaining work. Exhibition opening tonight 6-9pm, until 8 September.

Click the headline to see their site.

"Don't miss the only opportunity to see Chris Balzar's and Birgit Lothmann's 'The A&0-Series' in an exclusive Sydney show at blank_space to coincide with their month-long exhibition in Aix-La-Chappelle, Germany."

'The A&0-Series', 2002-2003

Digital compositings exhibition at blank_space
by CBL; Christoph Balzar & Birgit Lothmann, Aix-La-Chappelle, Germany

a new contemporary art space
374 Crown St. Surry Hills 2010
Ph: (02) 8308 8218

KX street works finished by November

The street upgrade in Kings Cross was set to finish by the end of November -- rain permitting -- Council's KX Place Manger, Linda Mearing said at last night's PACT* meeting.

Asked why there had been an application to work till 9pm, and this did not appear to be happening, she said the application had been for one month only, and another application for late work was nearly approved.

Departing Police Commander Dave Darcy said he liked Darlinghurst Road as a one-way street and asked could it be continued, with angle parking then being a possibility. Doug Grand from the Licensing Accord said it had a negative impact on trade, and Elizabeth Bay residents said it made travel difficult in a southerly direction.

Ward Avenue is experiencing gridlock at some times of the day and crossing it has become more difficult, especially as it lacks the traffic calming devices of Darlinghurst Road, which are to be retained after submissions from the editor the the previous council.

*(PACT stands for Police Accountability Community Team)

Sniffer dogs popular with Police

At last night's PACT meeting, Police endorsed the continuing use of sniffer dogs in Kings Cross. The dog operations interrupted drug supply at various levels, they said.

The editor commented on this, pointing out that, according to the recent Ombudsman's Report, only 1.7g of heroin was found in sniffer dog searches over a whole year, and by far the majority of busts were for small amounts of marihuana. In addition, the report showed that 3,000 people had been searched, often in public, with no result.

Crime manager Jenny Hayes revealed that a dog on Kings Cross Station had detected someone carrying an ounce of ecstasy and an ounce of heroin. While this point must be granted, it however does little to alter the overall effect of sniffer dogs as it is thought the dealers know where the dogs are allowed to be used and avoid them, for example by using cars for transport. In 2,505 searches on trains, says the Ombudsman's report, not one single trafficable amount of drugs was found. Meanwhile Kings Cross suffers an even worse public image because of the common sight of people being searched on the street.

Clover Moore also criticised the sniffer dog program, following up her representations in Parliament and her call for a legal heroin trial in Redfern.

There was concern that Police resources were concentrated on the main street at the expense of back street patrols, where car break-ins and muggings occurred. The editor spoke about his partner having been the subject of five attempted muggings ( only one of them successful! ) and requested more pushbike police patrols late at night -- while it was hard to catch these criminals in the act, bikes were the best way to both surprise and catch the culprits.

Incoming police Commander Steve Cullen assured the meeting that back street patrols would never be compromised by main street operations, pointing out that the dog program was funded from elsewhere.

[Click on the headline to download the Ombudsman's report . On the page, go down to:

'June 2004 Discussion paper Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act ']

The Cross welcomes new Police commander

Superintendent Steve Cullen last night publicly took over the reins at the PACT meeting chaired by Lord Mayor Clover Moore and departing Commander Dave Darcy.

Supt. Cullen is leaving the Manly command and impressed the small crowd with his very direct and no-nonsense approach. By coincidence he has a property in Kings Cross and will be living here at least half the time. He was previously posted in the Cross in 1979 and has conducted operations in the area since.

Supt. Darcy reported on the past three months, happy to inform us that crime continues to drop overall in line with the rest of NSW and indeed with the trend in NZ and the UK. The reasons for this, he said, are not fully understood.

The focus as usual was on drugs and street dealing. Out of 211 drug charges over the period, 33 had been dealing-related.

Local business people complained about the continuing presence of street dealing and its negative impact on the streetscape. Police acknowledged this, Steve Cullen commenting that 'for every dealer you lock up eight more appear.'

Stephen Carnell from the Kings Cross Partrnership asked what could be done about the serial use of public telephones by dealers and their customers.

Not much, was the essence of the reply although there was discussion about removing them from outside businesses. Clover Moore said she was distressed by the placement of many phones, dictated by the needs of DC Decaux advertising rather than public amentiy. She was examining the 20-year contract inherited from the previous council to see if improvements could be made.

Police asked that plans to put seating in the new Springfield Plaza be scrapped in case drug dealers sat on them. Dave Darcy was concerned that a seating wall running the length of the plaza would also attract street people.

There is a DA in to convert the old Westpac building to allow al fresco dining and coffee. This 'active edge' is seen to act as a deterrent to hangers-about, and Steve Cullen supports the idea of the venues removing their seating at night.

'Put in seating and they will come,' he said.

The editor commented that the idea of removing all public amenities in case drug dealers used them was a negative solution adversely affecting the whole community, and positive solutions should be sought. The generic 'café solution' to every public space problem was unimaginitive and impractical as peple could only drink so much coffee. Existing businesses in the area might also suffer.

Fixtures to attract other people can improve public space through displacement and passive surveillance. A major public artwork, a community noticeboard, a district map to assist visitors and a phone booth would attract different people to the seating, which was also needed by the many older people in the district. I had included all this in a submission to the council but it appears staff have discounted all such suggestions except that some trees would be repositioned.

Dave Darcy disagreed vehemently with this. He suggested a trickling water feature along the seating wall to stop people sitting on it.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Gay cops being targeted unfairly

Greens MLC and justice spokesperson Lee Rhiannon has written to the NSW Ombudsman indicating her concern that a report investigating the 'lifestyles' of officers at Surry Hills police station could discriminate against lesbian and gay police officers.

An article in today's Daily Telegraph suggests that lesbian and gay police officers could be transferred from Surry Hills police station
because they go to gay bars off-duty.

"Obviously heterosexual police officers frequent their local bars. The Greens want to know what is the difference between this and gay and lesbian officers going to their local bars?" asked Ms Rhiannon.