Friday, October 01, 2004

Those resignations at council

Today's Telegraph story and editorial about six key staff resigning bring into the open what a lot of us had known for a long time -- that they were former senior South Sydney staffers with, as the Tele claims, 100 years' council experience behind them.

Word was that their lives had been made pretty miserable by the Robert Domm-dominated City administration to the point where leaving and taking a big payout was the only viable option.

Union sources say staff turnover in the merged council stands at 18% while the state average is 4-5%.

It is clear that, rather than a merger of the two councils, what has occurred is more like a takeover by the city. This is especially obvious on the streets where city rules have replaced South Sydney rules in every area from removing pole posters to parking fine practices. Much of this occurred during the caretaker period before this council was elected, so we are in effect living with an authoritarian takeover of former South Sydney territory by a council which none of those residents had elected.

The Tele's line is that Clover Moore's council is falling apart because she holds the position only part-time along with her job as MP for Bligh.

But most of the damage was done before she was elected, and the new council was forced to get on with it and live with the fait accompli of a dirty, anti-democratic takeover engineered by the state government.

Ms Moore clearly has a mandate that bears little relationship with the top-down culture of the old city council and the departure of Robert Domm opens the way for that mandate -- accountability to the community -- to filter into the attitudes of the administration.

This council is a quality line-up and opposing factions have shown the ability to work together on many key issues, political sniping being largely limited to sound-bites for the press, although there is no doubt the Labor and Liberal councillors are circling, waiting for cracks to appear among the Clover camp and their close ally, The Greens Chris Harris. That is to be expected.

However council will most likely ride out this storm and we will see real results later in their four-year term as their new policies mature. The only alternative is the old formula of developer-influenced major-party elitism.


Anonymous said...

I think you will find that it is a three term as the elections were deferred from last year. The dates were set previously.

Anonymous said...

Moore has firmer grip on the city

By Darren Goodsir, Urban Affairs Editor SMH
October 2, 2004

Sydney's Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, presided over a shake-up of planning responsibilities only days before councillors and officials began a round of infighting that was followed by the departure of the general manager.

The planning committee chairman's position, held by the Deputy Lord Mayor, John McInerney, exercised influence over most commercial and residential city developments.

Councillor McInerney, the immediate national past-president of the Planning Institute of Australia, was considered eminently qualified for the role. He was also the head planning officer for the cities of Sydney and Melbourne for a total of nearly 10 years.

It has been revealed that a fortnight before Cr McInerney became embroiled in a confrontation with the general manager, Robert Domm, Cr Moore moved into the planning overseer's post as part of a major internal reorganisation. The row led to Mr Domm's negotiated resignation, which took effect yesterday, and a payout of $208,000.

Cr Moore divided the planning roles in three on September 13, telling councillors it reflected the enlarged council's increased duties. She made herself chairwoman of the sections.

An independent councillor, Phillip Black, who runs a small hotel in Surry Hills and is a former trustee of the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust, was put in charge of a new division, that will assess projects lower than four storeys. Another Moore team councillor, Robyn Kemiss, a retired university deputy vice-chancellor, was given the job of dealing with applications for structures taller than four storeys.

Both assessment jobs had been done by Cr McInerney; now he has the strategic role of policy development and renewal of local environment plans.

He still sits on the Central Sydney Planning Committee, a joint government and council body which considers all projects valued at more than $50 million, such as the Westfield Towers development on Pitt Street Mall.

Cr McInerney has steadfastly declined to comment on the past week's fighting, but in the face of suggestions that he was being sidelined in the planning changes, he told the Herald yesterday that he believed such claims were seriously misplaced.

"Whatever talent I have now can be contributed to transport, new controls and other strategic matters," he said. "I will have half as much time as I have now if I don't have to worry about the DAs [development applications]."

The council dramas started on September 22 when the Herald revealed that Mr Domm had castigated Cr McInerney in phone calls and correspondence.

Mr Domm initially banned council officers from having contact with Cr McInerney and expressed "serious concern" at his conduct, accusing him of secret meetings in a government review of planning functions in the city-airport corridor.

The review was being conducted by the government architect, Chris Johnson.

A day later, the state's top planning official, Jennifer Westacott, withdrew the Johnson report - which had recommended an expansion of the role of a government corporation - after Cr Moore strongly objected at a lack of proper consultation.

Earlier this week, after a series of failed mediation sessions, Cr McInerney seconded a Labor motion expressing confidence in himself, and refused to accept a request from Cr Moore that he see her in her office immediately.