Welcome to my latest newsletter! This has been a busy month on City Council with debates about increased transparency, greening in the city and new restrictions on Councillors talking to the media.
Last month, I also clocked up six months being back on Council. It’s been an honour to represent our community. This graphic highlights some of the things that have been achieved. I look forward to continuing to work with you!
Push for Councillors to declare developer contact
Early last month, I proposed that Councillors declare any contact they have with developers on an online register. This transparency measure would eliminate any perception of bias in decision making and ensure that Adelaide models best practice. The City of Vincent in Western Australia has had such a register in place for some time and I suggested that Council administration consider what they have in place as a template. You can read more about the proposal in InDaily here and The Advertiser here.
Unfortunately, the motion was defeated at the meeting on the 14 May. Councillors Anne Moran, Phillip Martin, Helen Donovan and Jesse Khera backed the plan but it was opposed by all other Councillors. The Lord Mayor was away and so the meeting was chaired by Deputy Lord Mayor Abiad. The vote was split on the floor of Council so he used his casting vote to defeat the motion. You can read about the debate in Indaily here and The Advertiser here.
At the subsequent meeting on the 28th of May, Councillor Moran proposed that a register be developed with voluntary disclosure of contact with members. This voluntary measure was opposed by the majority with Councillors Martin, Donovan, Khera and I all voting in support of Councillor Morans’ motion.
I am disappointed that such simple accountability measures were resisted by some of my colleagues and will continue to push for these.
Council investigates new greening opportunities
At our meeting on the 14th of May, Councillor Anne Moran proposed that we investigate opportunities to install gardens on top of roofs and carparks. This was supported unanimously. This idea has worked effectively in Melbourne and I look forward to seeing what comes next! You can read more about the idea here.
Lighting up North Adelaide
Following discussion with the North Adelaide Precinct Association, at the Council meeting on the 28th of May I proposed that Council administration investigate atmospheric lighting for O’Connell Street and Melbourne Street (similar to that on Rundle Street). This would make the streets more inviting for patrons and provide a boost for local businesses. Councillor Abrahimzadeh moved to amend the motion to include consideration of lighting as part of the ‘master planning process.’ I opposed the amendment on the basis that North Adelaide should not have to wait until the lengthy master planning process is concluded, before lighting in the area is improved. The amendment was defeated and the motion was supported unopposed.
Extending the City Dry Zone
At our Committee Meeting of the 4th of June, Council backed a 2 year extension of the Dry Zone. I remain concerned about the impact this has on vulnerable people and believe this policy stigmatises those dealing with drug and alcohol issues. Additionally, there was no evidence base to support the extension. Despite this, the extension was supported by a majority of Council, with Councillors Donovan, Martin and I voting against. It will come before Council for final sign off. You can read more about the dry zone here.
‘Gag Orders’ and changes to Council Standing Orders
Last week I was concerned to discover that Councillors would be prevented from talking to the media about our motions prior to meetings, under proposed changes to Council Standing Orders. Other changes include making the Deputy Lord Mayor chair of all committees and enforcing the wearing of robes at meetings, when requested by the Lord Mayor. I am concerned about many of these measures as I consider them to be an affront to local democracy. In particular, being able to talk to the community about ideas (through the media) is a fundamental part of a Councillor’s role. These restrictions will significantly impact on Councillor’s ability to represent our constituents and the community’s ‘right to know.’ You can read more about the changes here.
The changes were backed by a majority of Council at Committee on the 4h of June, with Councillors Donovan, Martin, Moran and I opposed. They will come to Council for endorsement tonight (11 June 2019).
New technology to improve pedestrian safety
Recently I spoke to Channel 7 News about some new technology being trialled in Melbourne and Sydney. Lighting up footpaths could improve safety for pedestrians (particularly those with vision impairment) and make our streets more visually attractive. I will look further at how this technology can be advanced in our city and would welcome your feedback. You can learn more about it here.
If I can assist you with a local issue, please do not hesitate to contact me on: R.Simms@adelaidecitycouncil.com.au or 0466 829 909. I am based in Town Hall on Tuesdays. If you would like to arrange a time to meet please let me know!
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Please note, the views in this newsletter are my own and do not purport to be those of Adelaide City Council.