Tuesday, September 21, 2004

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.

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