Councillor’s Update (August)

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Welcome!

This last month has seen some progressive outcomes delivered in Town Hall with an investigation into a developer contact register and Council banning pokies in future lease agreements.

New investigation to find temporary accommodation for city homeless

On the 26th of June, Council backed my motion to investigate options for temporary shelter for homeless people in the CBD, including consideration of Lot 14. The motion was based on a call from Clr Anne Moran for churches to open their doors but looked at government buildings as well.

The motion was opposed by the Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad and Cllrs Simon Hou, Mary Couros and Jessy Khera. The precise reasons for the opposition are not clear to me. The motion was carried with the support of the rest of Council. You can read more about the debate here. In addition to looking at temporary relief, I will continue to argue for structural reform like increased investment in social housing to provide accommodation for people who are homeless.

Council rejects renters’ rights campaign

On 16 July, I moved for Council to back Shelter SA’s ‘Make Renting Fair Campaign.’ The campaign is focussed on 3 main aims:

– Landlords and real estate agents should welcome pets

– No cause evictions must be abolished

– Resources for tenant education, information, advice and advocacy must be increased.

I also called for Council to hold a public meeting to hear about the experiences of renters in the market and share these with the State Government. Given almost 60 per cent of residents in the city are renters and the Council is aiming to make Adelaide a liveable city, I considered it to be appropriate for Council to take a position on this.

Unfortunately, Council refused to back the initiative with Councillors affiliated with the ‘Team Adelaide’ faction claiming it was not core business. I plan to hold my own public meeting later this year so that I can advocate for residents’ concerns. You can read more about the debate here. 

Push to reduce the number of Council meetings

I was alarmed to learn that some elected members would like to reduce the number of Council meetings held each year. I consider regular meetings to be an essential part of keeping Council accountable to the community.

Additionally, concerns have been raised by some Councillors regarding the costs associated with Council dinners. I share these concerns and would like to see this expenditure reduced. At our meeting on the 13th of August, Council supported a motion from Clr Phil Martin asking administration to review these costs and identify potential savings.

I proposed a variation to an amendment from Clr Abiad, maintaining the current frequency of meetings. This was supported. I am hopeful that this is the end of any push to reduce meetings and community oversight.

Third Time Lucky on developer contact register!

In May I first proposed that Council develop a register to log Councillor contact with developers. I consider this to be a sensible transparency measure that would increase community confidence in Council decision making. This was opposed by the majority on Council who argued that it was unnecessary. Clr Moran proposed a week later that we develop a voluntary register, but this was also blocked.

On July 31, I was delighted that Council finally agreed to investigate the idea. I look forward to receiving the outcome of administrations’ investigation later this year and implementing the new guidelines. Clrs Franz Knoll and Abrahimzadeh voted against the proposal. You can read more about the debate here.

Action on derelict properties

At its July 31 meeting, Council also unanimously supported a motion from Councillor Anne Moran to write to the State Government urging them to give Council new powers over derelict heritage properties. This is a significant issue for our city, with many beautiful heritage buildings being left in disrepair. I supported the call however believe that any action on this must also consider the financial circumstances of a home owner and ensure that those on low incomes are not punished.

Gawler Place Cost Blowout

At Committee on 6th of August, I was disappointed to learn that the cost of Gawler Place redevelopment has blown-out yet again. The latest blowout is due to a failure of the previous Council to include a contingency in its budget. Regrettably, I believe Council has been put in a position where we have had to approve the additional expenditure. This will come at the expense of  other worthy capital works. You can read more about the issue here. 

Council bans pokies from future leases

Last month marked 25 years since the introduction of pokies in SA. Pokie machines have caused enormous social harm and destroyed many lives.

At Council’s meeting on the 12th of August, I moved for Council to investigate measures to reduce the influence of pokies in the CBD. This would have involved:

✅ potential changes to policies relating to Council activities and events to preference venues without gaming (pokie) machines;

✅ potential changes to Council policies to restrict street advertising of gaming machines;

✅ potentially phasing-out gaming machines from Council owned premises by considering future occupancy/lease agreements.

I argued that Council should not be associated with the pokie industry. Some Council members expressed concern that my motion was “anti-business” and did not support placing restrictions on pokie advertising. Clr Abiad amended the motion to “set a policy position to not allow any pokies/gambling style uses under any new lease agreements.”

I argued for the full suite of measures I proposed, but was pleased that Council at least backed ending pokies in future lease agreements and regard this to be significant win.

E-Scooters coming to North Adelaide?

Council backed a motion from Clr Hyde to lobby the state government to allow scooters to move into North Adelaide. Given the positive environmental impact that flows from encouraging alternatives to cars, I’m all for the idea!

‘Team Adelaide’ campaign against land tax changes

I was surprised to see some members of Council’s ‘Team Adelaide’ faction arguing that Council should campaign against the state government’s changes to land tax. During my time on Council, I have proposed action on a range of matters including homelessness, climate change and renters rights and been told that this is beyond Council’s scope. Why then is state government taxation our core business? You can read more about the debate here.

Time for tiny houses in Adelaide?

Last weekend I spoke at a workshop on tiny houses in the CBD. With housing affordability and homelessness being such big issues in Adelaide, tiny homes could present an opportunity to build more housing. Prefabricated housing is also made from environmentally sustainable materials and is more energry efficient. I’m looking forward to talking to my Council colleagues about the issue in coming weeks. You can read more about the push for tiny houses here. 

Contact me

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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Disclaimer

Please note, the views in this newsletter are my own and do not purport to be those of Adelaide City Council.

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