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.

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