Thursday, September 28, 2006

Images of the Cross rides again

In the absence of the Kings Cross Arts Festival this year (see posts below) one of its highlights is nevertheless flying the flag.

'Images of the Cross' at the TAP Gallery has been a fabulous showcase of local artists and photographers for several years now. The exhibition is unjuried so you get entries from the sublime to the... fascinating!

It opens with a great party and there is $1,500 in prize money. Entries need to be in with a $25 fee by 9 October and the gala opening is on 12 October at 6pm. Contact the Gallery on 9361 0440.

The theme is eponymous. Hmmn, I just had an idea about what I will be entering. A certain prominent local politician might not like it though... Click the headline for the TAP website

Sydney as a 'foreigner' sees it

On the whole, Sydney is a philistine desert and this perspective is behind a lot of my views about the place. It was beautifully expressed this morning on one of the email lists used by those 'nasty' cyclists...

"I have recently returned from cycling overseas for several months and it is refreshing to be back riding in Sydney -- and be told numerous times to get off the f'ing road and all the other intelligent and constructive things Sydney drivers have to say.

"Until arriving home in Sydney the only things I've had thrown at me recently are powerbars, other foods and encouragement to keep me going on the road. My Sydney commuting thick skin must have thinned, leaving me ready to explode after my commute last night.

"Sydney is a disgrace and nightmare to cycle in and I just want to commend everyone on their efforts in bringing cycle concerns to the community when and where possible. I have also noticed that there does seem to be a lot more cyclists on the road than when I left, I hope this trend continues.

Also don't know if you have seen this website, but check out
  • the video


  • If there is an esky in there somewhere these guys are my heroes."

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Bike bash in Martin Place

    From another Council media release today:

    Bicycles are set to take over Martin Place tomorrow, 11 am to 2 pm, when the City of Sydney holds its Bike Expo.

    The expo will feature BMX demonstrations, cycling displays from leading bike shops, and a competition to win a brand new bicycle and accessories valued at more than $900.

    The onstage action will feature workshops on basic bicycle maintenance, trick riding demonstrations from some of Australia's leading BMX riders and interviews with some of our leading internationals cyclists, including Gold Medal Paralympian Janelle Lindsay.

    The Expo is part of NSW Bike Week, which runs from September 23 to October 1.

    City to create 25-year vision

    From a Council media release today:

    A call is going out for the nation's best minds in urban planning, finance, engineering, property, the arts and environmental science to join forces with the City of Sydney to develop a 25-year vision for Sydney.

    Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP today announced Council's decision to appoint a consortium of experts to work on a sustainable vision for Sydney 2030.

    "We're developing an exciting long-term vision for Sydney which will promote 'green' urban design planning, new public spaces, an integrated transport system, art and cultural development; and sustainable economic, retail and tourism plans.

    The Council decided today to implement the following initiatives:

    > Call for expressions of interest for firms and individuals to deliver Sydney 2030 and Financial Plan;

    > Increase resourcing in key areas such as transport and planning, security, customer service and community engagement;

    > Improving the Council's operational and internal reporting structure.

    To achieve this 2030 vision the City will continue its comprehensive community and corporate consultation through public and private meetings, surveys, community workshops, website questionnaires and customer service feedback.

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Rooftop noise wars in KX


    Shades of Batman and Robin on the rooftops of Kings Cross!

    On Saturday night in an apartment block close to the Strip some backpackers -- wait for it -- had a rooftop BBQ! No music mind you, pretty low-key.

    Contacts who live next door tell me at around 11pm they found their block's serial complainer stalking about on the rooftop collecting intelligence to make a complaint -- and also noticed the serial complainer from the block on their other flank, nose against her kitchen window, in pre-complaint mode. My contacts, sick of the constant harassment, let fly with some choice words at the busybodies.

    Well! The cheek of it! They are now waiting for the inevitable complaints to their body corporate.

    Last year in the same place one serial complainer emptied half a garbage bin of water over the DJ at a 30th birthday party being held on the roof next door. You can see their point of view though -- how dare other people have a good time! All partying should be banned! Electrocuting DJs, however, is only natural.

    Pic: Roofscapes of the Naked City -- what intrigues lurk behind these innocent exteriors?

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Edwin slays 'em again


    The king of bling in Kings Cross (or is it the Queen of bling in Queens Cross as the RTA so quaintly calls it?) slayed 'em last night with episode two of Edwin Duff's 'Thanks to Frank' symposium at the El Rocco jazz cellar in Kings Cross.

    Backed by the silvern Terry Wilkinson Trio, Edwin wove that old Kings Cross magic for an audience that included Helen Reddy and Barry Crocker. At 78 Edwin held the crowd seemingly without effort as he pattered his way though the inside story of Frank Sinatra's early career, cracked them up with his offbeat humour and drew ovations for the atmospheric renditions of mostly lesser known Sinatra gems.

    'Escape to Capitol' (episode three of the ten-part series), will happen at the same venue on Wednesday 18 October -- Bar Me, home of El Rocco, Cnr Brougham and William Sts. Highly recommended. 'It's the only gig in town' according to Danny Ward, booking agent with the Musician's Union.

    Picture: Edwin Duff in green and bling last night.

    RTA thwarted on cycle lane removal

    The government has announced today that the RTA has withdrawn their planning modification request to remove the bike lanes on Kings Cross Road and Craigend St, says cycling activist Fiona Campbell. (see posts below)

    There will be no further Cross City Tunnel road changes. The decision was made by Minister for Roads Eric Roozendal.

    I am trying to find out whether that means the RTA will reinstate the lane it illegally removed from the Craigend Street ramp.

    Chloe Mason from Bike Sydney says they are preparing a letter (of demand) to the RTA for reinstatement.

    Chloe also reports this conversation with Lisa Mitchell from the Dept of Planning:

    "C: Isn't it Interesting then that the safety issue for removal has somehow melted away?

    LM: We can only speculate on that."

    The retention of a lane from McElhone Street to Rushcutters Bay makes the proposed aerial cycleway over Woolloomooloo practical as a main route because it could begin in McElhone St near William St.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Decaux cycle hire idea for Sydney?

    Sydney cycling activist Fiona Campbell tells us that a public cycle hire plan already successful in Lyon and Brussells is under discussion for Sydney. Advertising company JC Decaux sets up the operation in return for advertising rights. Short term hires are free of charge. Click the headline to see a Dateline story on the Lyon operation. And Councillor Shayne Mallard reports on the Brussels version on his blog HERE.

    The system uses smartcard technology to avoid the pitfalls of previous public cycle schemes such as the one in Amsterdam where anti-social types simply stole too many of the bikes.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Clover Moore loses the plot

    There were hi-jinx in Council tonight around the election of Deputy Lord Mayor, with Clover Moore going to absurd lengths to close out any opposition. She ended up with egg on her face and a Greens Deputy who happens to be running in her state seat in March 2007.

    First Clover shifted the Deputy's election back in the agenda while elections for committee chairs went ahead (completely contrary to precedent but, later on, there might have been less press and fewer onlookers around).

    Then when crunchtime came everyone else nominated The Greens' Chris Harris, an obvious pre-arrangement. Clover then moved to forego the vote, effectively ABOLISHING THE POSITION of Deputy Lord Mayor. She's starting to look desperate at this point but you've got to admire her sheer chutzpah.

    The five opposition councillors then walked out, leaving Clover with no quorum and a ripper press story in the making.

    Mayoral notes soon circulated around the opposition offices, relenting and agreeing to hold the election. The councillors filed back into chambers to vote a 5-5 dead heat between Clover's nominee Robyn Kemmis and The Greens' Chris Harris. Then came the customary roll-of-the-barrell lucky dip, Sale of the Century style.

    Cr Harris' better half, Mrs Kathy Harris, is now Sydney's 'second lady' and it will be interesting to see Clover's spin on this one.

    However it's a clear sign that Clover intends to run for parliament again. Why else would she care enough to use her Lord Mayoral powers in such a desperate way?

    Flying over Woolloomooloo??


    The latest local brainwave is to build an aerial cycleway to the city by clipping it on to the railway viaduct over Woolloomooloo. This was raised by cycling supporters at Council's recent Community Forum in KX.

    Cr John McInerney supports the idea and is feeding it into the City's cycle strategy but the RTA or someone would have to stump up the money. That would at least make up for their removal of the William St lanes. Don't hold your breath though.

    If you think the idea is pie-in-the-sky, the picture shows what they already clip on to motorways as mere decoration. This example is in Ultimo, but they spent even more on decorating the western distributor near King St Wharf.

    Late night transport needed in the Cross

    At the recent night trading workshop held in Kings Cross, one of the more positive ideas agreed on was that the place needs better public transport after hours. This would provide a quick exit from the area and make it less necessary for punters to use their cars, reducing the impact on surrounding residential streets as partiers return to their vehicles.

    Two ideas involved a shuttle bus between the Cross and the City, and Nightrider buses proper, ferrying people out to the suburbs.

    Clover Moore has picked up on this but typically her apparent hatred of Kings Cross causes her to get it only half right. She has called for shuttle buses to take people OUT of the Cross only. The Kings Cross Liquor Accord funded such a bus during 2005. It carried 400 passengers per weekend, but the Accord understandably failed to see why a few member venues should pay the full cost of a service benefiting everyone -- while removing their potential customers.

    A two-way service is what is needed. This would achieve the above benefits and would provide local venues with better incentive to partially fund the service. Council is already funding a daytime shuttlebus service -- why not extend it to late nights and negotiate a subsidy from city venues?

    But Clover has merely asked the Minister for Transport for a meeting. Good luck Clover.

    Deputy Mayor to be pulled out of a hat

    No it's not a dada play but one of the more amusing aspects of local government. Tonight Council elects its new committee chairs and Deputy Lord Mayor. If, like last year, the voting squares off at 5-5 (Clover's team vs everyone else), nominees' names are pulled from a hat. The Mayor does not have her oft-used casting vote powers for these elections.

    Last year Labor's Verity Firth knocked off John McInerney for the no. 2 spot. This year who will it be?

    The position carries little weight but attracts perks such as extra office staff, a better allowance, some prestige and use of a car.

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    RTA lies to the press

    Cycle activists are convinced the RTA removed the cycle lanes from the Craigend St off-ramp without planning permission. Certainly no-one has been able to produce a copy of the document.

    Some journos from the Herald got on to the story and the RTA's excuse was that the Craigend St ramp is not Craigend St, even though their application for permission described it as such. So does my roadmap.

    So-far the journos seem to be convinced by the lies. It's not a huge issue but it's typical of this arrogant, ignorant government.

    Thanks to the anonymous commenter below who alerted us to the SMH letter on the matter today (click headline for link)

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    What the Ombudsman says about sniffer dogs

    The NSW Ombudman's report into sniffer dogs has finally been tabled (see posts below). Guess what -- these dog operations are 99% ineffective, just an expensive sham. From a press release by Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon:

    “The report revealed there is no evidence that drug detection dogs disrupted low level street dealing, had no deterrent effect on drug users and did not reduce drug related crime.

    “Given that over 99 per cent of all sniffer dog searches did not result in a prosecution, the Ombudsman should have recommended that the extended search powers be scrapped.

    “The report reveals that the dog related costs of a two day sniffer dog operation at the 2004 Big Day out was $41,000.

    “Of the 414 people searched, only one person was successfully prosecuted - a young boy who was fined $1,000 for supplying drugs to his girlfriend.

    “Almost all convictions involved people supplying small quantities of drugs to their friends, while big drug dealers and manufacturers have got off scot-free."

    Welcome to Kings Cross.

    Woodhouse to report Commissioner

    Local heritage activist Andrew Woodhouse intends to complain to the Attorney General over remarks made yesterday by a Commissioner from the Land & Environment Court.

    New owners of the long-vacant Hungry Jacks site in Kings Cross are challenging Council's refusal of an application for a nightclub on the site. The owners have already retracted plans for a roof deck that would have been enclosed on three sides by the Funk House Backpackers which itself is opposing the application on grounds of noise.

    In a press release yesterday Mr Woodhouse said:

    "In the most extraordinary scene I have witnessed [in 15 years] Commissioner Hussey said blankly to a resident, an academic living in Carinthia, Springfield Avenue, giving his evidence on-site about noise problems,"Why don't you move?"

    There was stunned, tacit outrage.

    Then someone said ,"You're biased and looking for ways to approve the DA".

    The Commissioner then rather rudely said to the owner of the business above the proposed pub, having heard evidence the building was not originally designed for such noise levels and didn't have sufficient acoustic sound proofing, "It's wishful thinking to expect such a building to be new".

    In a 180 degree turnaround by the end of the afternoon's hearing the Commissioner was seeking criteria that would establish what "saturation point" meant in terms of too many such outlets.

    We are lodging a formal complaint to the Attorney-general and Brian Preston, Chief Judge of the NSW Land & Environment Court."

    On the other hand, a lot of us do wonder why these people concerned about noise move into the Cross. Another resident of Springfield Avenue made a submission supporting the application on the grounds that they had moved to the Cross because they like all the venue action and they couldn't see any further negative impact on their street from one more.

    I have questioned the idea of an 'over-saturation' of licensed premises, arguing that the Cross has been 'over-saturated' for so long that it is part of the identity of the place. The saturation also brings benefits like plenty of security on the street, our new CCTV cameras monitoring crime and a concentrated, relatively small area for police to cover, allowing very fast response times in most cases. I also wonder whether each new club generates proportionately more people as much of their clientele is presumably filched from other clubs who are no longer 'flavour of the month'. Their $multi-million renovations only seem to work with the fast crowd for a year or so...

    It's a hot debate in the Cross these days with the Lord Mayor firmly on the side of those who object to licenced premises.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Smartpoles are dim

    Walking up William Street from the city to the Cross on Wednesday night a friend who notices these things counted 15 smartpoles with lights not working. Does it mean anything?

    RTA shafts City cycle strategy


    The RTA has begun removing their new cycle lanes from William Street east. Cycle activists say numerous objections were lodged with Frank Sartor's Department of Planning but the decision appears to have been made with no acknowledgment or public consultation. The RTA claimed the bike lanes were to be removed to reduce traffic congestion and 'for safety reasons'. They offered no evidence of traffic congestion on the Craigend Street ramp (left) and failed to explain how putting cyclists in the same lane as heavy peak hour traffic made things safer.

    The removal of these lanes impacts on Council's Cycle Strategy by removing the only eastern link from the network.

    Picture: The white lane markings are new. Black markings show the old lanes. Work is continuing tonight.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Council and Partnership squander money on retail fantasies


    While Lord Mayor Clover Moore is on record as opposing the sniffer dogs (see post below), unfortunately her council seems to favour local organisations such as the Kings Cross Partnership who reel in ratepayers' and sponsors' money but never get their hands dirty with any of the hard issues like this one, or the recent traffic issues around the Cross City Tunnel.

    Council and the KX Partnership happily splash about $millions of our money in an endless fantasy of turning the Cross into a 'mother-and-child retail strip'. One can picture the sweet little toddlers, wide-eyed, walking past the semi-naked search victims while their mothers tug their little hands saying, 'come on dear, there's a lovely frock shop just down the road'.

    This is why home-grown arts projects, events, and street entertainment are seen by many locals as a more effective way to attract a different mix of people to the Cross. Realistically, we have to attract people who can tolerate the trappings of fascism going on around them. If we attract people, the retailers will gradually return, beginning a positive cycle rather than the present negative stalemate.

    In addition, smaller everyday initiatives like placing a much-needed district map and a public 24-hour-access noticeboard in Springfield Plaza would be an inexpensive way to give people reason to linger in the Cross, changing the people mix and evolving the character of the Cross rather than trying to obliterate it. Half the population of Potts Point walks by this town focus every day en route to and from the station, the last true daytime people-magnet in the Cross.

    This is an obvious starting point in the strategy for revitalising the Cross, but one Council and the KX Partnership seem determined to avoid. After all, it might lead to dancing! They, rather, spout the patter of big development, the one-size-fits-all answer to all problems in this venal town, with '$52 million worth of development in train' along the strip according to Clover's latest Bligh News. Mostly nightclubs, you will find, and nothing to do with daytime activity.

    Clover Moore has denied multiple requests for the noticeboard citing 'issues of curatorial control'. A district map in this tourist centre is apparently too difficult because 'the contractor who did our maps went out of business'.

    Curatorial control? Over a public noticeboard? My letter to Clover questioning this and asking for a meeting was never answered. Can't install a map?
    Pah-lease! No wonder I get annoyed.

    Picture: A thick blue line with a nice puppy dog welcoming the mummies and their kiddies to the Cross. Get real please!

    Sniffer dog report forced into open


    Two years ago the NSW Ombudsman studied police and their drug sniffer dogs for two years and released a preliminary report showing that the dogs did a woeful job of catching dealers and reducing drug-related crime, supposedly the aims of the program.

    Since then the government has suppressed the final report. Greens MLC Lee Rhiannon now says she has forced the report out into the open, with the support of upper house MPs.

    The preliminary report showed the dogs did a woeful job of catching ANYONE, with around 80 per cent of searches proving fruitless and most of the 'successful' ones revealing only small quantities of cannabis.

    Out of around 2,500 searches on trains, for instance, they found only 1.5 grams of heroin and NO trafficable quantities of any drug.

    Still the police continue their search-and-destroy blitz on Kings Cross, claiming the operations are 'effective'. One can only conclude it is show policing to please shock jocks and the Murdoch press.

    Unfortunately the grim sight of young people being semi-strip-searched and humiliated in the Cross continues to drive away both the search victims and sensitive souls who happen to wander by.

    2011 Residents Association sees this as a prime cause of the retail decline of the Cross and has asked local police to at least conduct these searches in private as they are required to under Section 32 of the Police Powers & Responsibilities Act.

    The police ignored this request, revealing their role as apparent political pawns of the government.

    Picture: Police chased this young guy down the road with two sniffer dogs which then jumped on him, contravening operational guidelines. No drugs were found on the search victim -- as usual.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    Going underground


    I have been exchanging links and some of my pictures of unusual conveniences with Alex from New York (see porta-loo link below, my three contributions now posted on that site above the porta-loo pic).

    It reminded me of this re-working of the entrance to the disused underground toilets in Taylor Square, Sydney. The building and attached electricity substation is up for lease. It would make a fabulous underground club. I have some more pix of conveniences around the world that Alex dared not post in censorious USA so I might put them up here in future.

    This picture, titled 'going underground', is part of my collection of photo-art ( www.myphotoart.com.au ).

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Porta-loo


    From a New York blog with a basic subject.

    Where the bloody hell are you?

    Click the headline to see a nice spoof on our national tourism advertising. You could call it tragicomic. Thanks to Fletcher.

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Do pushbikes cause traffic congestion?


    It's pretty hard to get a letter published in The Sydney Morning Herald. There has been a running debate on those pages about people riding pushbikes in Sydney. In salon des refus├ęs spirit, here's one of my letters that didn't make it:

    'Greg Last (letters September 6) thinks bikes increase traffic congestion. True, they go slowly up hills but if you have a long look at the nearest traffic lights you will find that, in fact, cars hold up far more traffic. I have also observed that the new cycle lanes in William Street solve Greg's problem very nicely by separating cars and bikes. The RTA, however, now wants to remove them in order to 'reduce traffic congestion'. Can we have a reality check please?'

    As you can see, in William street it's the buses causing the holdups because Frank Sartor's granite vision did not include bus bays. Doh!

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Germaine has a go at Irwin

    The sad death of Steve Irwin is indeed a national tragedy. Germaine Greer begs to differ (click headline for link).

    But who will take up the baton by advertising for Tourism Australia in the US? Who can maintain our international image of shorts-wearing prawn-eating crocodile-thumpers with loud voices?

    I suggest the Crazy Warehouse guy from the Chaser's War on Everything. Perfect.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Council breaks rules playing favourites with funding

    City of Sydney staff appear to have been abusing council funding resolutions -- disadvantaging the arts community in favour of the big business and development lobby -- to the point where it has become an issue of probity.

    Last night Lord Mayor Clover Moore tried to shut me down as I summarised the following statement at council's City East Community Forum. Even the microphone was shut off about three paragraphs from the end. Fortunately my voice carries well.


    [Michael Gormly speaking as acting president of 2011 residents association inc:]

    "I applaud much of the language of the Local Area Plan and its apparent embracing of diversity and ‘growing the unique character of each area’.

    Unfortunately Bob Brozman’s line: ‘if you want to know what’s going on, just follow the money,’ paints a very different story when it comes to Kings Cross.

    Councillor Hoff did a lot of good work with community representativess writing the Business Support Program. Unfortunately, staff seem to have abused its intent and in fact broken the rules in allocating $70,000 to the Kings Cross Partnership for the coming year. I’ll give you a couple of specifics in a minute.

    At the same time they de-funded the highly successful Kings Cross Arts Festival run for the past six years by the Kings Cross Arts Guild which I have observed to be a genuine community organisation run by hard-working volunteers and showcasing local culture and the roots of our heritage -- the very thing a true diversity policy should be encouraging. (While some individual events were later funded after a lot of extra lobbying, this is peanuts in the scheme of things).

    This is not just sour grapes. It’s the culmination of a long list of bureaucratic roadblocks and unfair treatment handed out to this organisation over the past two festivals. I won’t bore you with the list here.

    And it’s not just the spirit of the law that was broken, it was the letter of the law. On 14 November 2003 the previous Council resolved to fund AN arts festival to the tune of $30,000 pa. However when some of the inevitable local politics occurred and a small group splintered from the Guild and put in a rival bid for funding, council staff disobeyed this resolution and decided to fund TWO Kings Cross arts festivals per year for half the money each.

    They had the dilemma of Solomon so they decided to break the baby in half. In a depressed local economic environment where it is difficult to get private sponsporship -- not one dollar came from the wealthy Kings Cross Partnership (KXP) for instance -- $15,000 is hardly enough even for effective publicity. It was a successful divide and conquer ploy.

    The point is, council broke its own specific ruling and their behaviour needs to be brought to account.

    But it gets worse. This year the grants under the Business Support Program (BSP) broke more than one rule. While all other business groups got less than they had asked for, the KXP got $70,000. The limit in the council resolution of 1 August 2005 is $50,000. That’s a $20,000 transgression of the regulations in my book.

    Further, the BSP requires that the business group applying MUST show that it has consulted with the community and community groups. As the longest running residents association in the Cross, and despite having attempted several times to work with the KXP, they said nothing to us.

    Further, the BSP stipulates that the business group demonstrate it represents both large and small businesses like a true chamber of commerce. Small businesses in the Cross were specifically not even invited to the three-day symposium KXP held over the weekend. The KXP does NOT represent small business in the Cross. Another stipulation broken.

    Further, Council's resolution of 1st August 2005 stipulated that the CEO should design a parallel Community Support Program mirroring the BSP and with a similar budget. A year later that is not even being alluded to. That’s another serious failing, and evidence of serious favouritism, and misuse of council funds. All these matters fell to the Cultural and Community section of council under the watch of our new CEO, Monica Barone, and were voted on by Council -- with Clover Moore’s team blocking amendments about the Arts Guild Funding.

    Unfortunately in the Cross it’s all gentrification and big business, and the community can go to hell. This is not democracy. Nor does it foster ‘diversity’, nor is it in keeping with the ‘City of Villages’ slogan, and it belies the emphasis on local arts given lip-service in the Local Area Plan for City East.

    Unless council has an immediate and genuine rethink of its attitude, we feel we should take these serious matters further and lodge formal complaints with the relevant authorities."