This has been a busy time in Town Hall as Council continues to grapple with the implications of the Coronavirus pandemic.
My focus has been on trying to ensure the city has a people-oriented response to this crisis. I have been advocating for measures to boost community health and wellbeing, including pop-up bikeways and growing fruit and vegetables in the Park Lands. I have also continued to push for increased support for our city’s homeless.
This newsletter summaries some of the key issues we have dealt with over the last few months.
Council Meeting 15 April
COVID-19 and Council finances
In recognition of the impact of the pandemic on Council’s finances, Councillors agreed to reduce our own allowances by 20 per cent over the next 3 months. The CEO and Council staff have also been asked to consider reducing their wages. Councillor Martin and I sought to amend the motion from Councillor Hyde so that it did not apply to staff (many of whom are on low incomes). We also proposed that the 20 per cent reduction apply to the additional allowances some Councillors obtain from board appointments. Unfortunately, this was blocked by the Team Adelaide faction – Councillors Martin, Moran, Donovan and I voted in favour of the amendment.
The 20 per cent reduction in Councillor allowances is applied on a voluntary basis. I have elected to apply this to my own allowance.
At a special meeting on 22 April Council requested that administration prepare a report with $20 million worth of savings. Clr Martin proposed that a special Finance Committee be established to work through the changes. Sadly, this accountability measure was opposed by the majority of Councillors.
Growing fruit and vegetables in the Park Lands?
In response to the pandemic, many cities around the world are looking at what they can do to improve food security for their residents and boost the use of public green spaces. In this context, I proposed that Council request that administration investigate planting seeds for edible plants (eg fruit and veg) in our public parks and gardens. Despite strong support from the community (eg: 77 per cent of readers on AdelaideNow backed the idea) my motion was opposed – with only Councillors Martin, Moran and Donovan in support. Despite this, I will continue to do what I can to promote community health and wellbeing at this time. You can read more about the debate here.
Protecting our Park Lands
Private corporations should never be able to bid for our city’s public space behind closed doors. That’s why I’ve been campaigning to remove the Park Lands from Council’s Unsolicited Bids Process. Following the Crows’ decision to withdraw their bid for the Aquatic Centre site, I moved a motion that would have finally achieved that outcome.
An amendment from Councillor Hyde (backed by the Team Adelaide faction) instead suspended the Park Lands from the process, pending a review. While I was disappointed Council didn’t embrace the opportunity to reform the guidelines, there is no risk of another private entity using this flawed process to bid for our public land… for now. I will continue to fight for open and transparent discussions about our vital public space and hope that the review will result in needed changes to Council’s process.
Council knocks back free parking for essential services workers
Council backed a motion from Cr Couros to consider options for more free parking for health workers in the city and North Adelaide during the pandemic, but blocked a push from Cr Martin to extend this to other essential workers, including police, ambos and firefighters. I was disappointed that Councillor Martin’s initiative was not supported.
Council Meeting 12 May
Promoting safety for cyclists
More and more cities around the world are opening their streets up to cyclists and pedestrians as part of their response to COVID-19. Paris, London, New York, Berlin, Milan, Melbourne and Sydney have all initiated pop-up bikeways to accommodate an increase in cyclists.
I moved for Adelaide City Council to seek federal funding to complete the city-wide bike network and to look at short term measures (like temporary bikeways) to accommodate increased cycling. You can read more about my motion here.
Sadly, my push for pop-up bikeways was defeated by an amendment from Councillor Hyde. A majority of Councillors however backed my call to seek federal funding for a city-wide bike network.
Closing streets to promote outdoor dining
In another effort to prioritize community wellbeing at this time, Cr Phil Martin moved to close some of our city streets off to traffic to encourage more outdoor dining and compliance with social distancing measures. You can read more about Cr Martin’s idea here. Council agreed to consider more support for outdoor dining, however the specifics of Councillor Martin’s proposal were removed courtesy of another amendment from Councillor Hyde.
Protecting Channel 44
Adelaide’s Channel 44 faces an uncertain future with its free to air broadcast license due to expire on 30 June 2020. Council backed my motion calling on the federal government to extend Channel 44’s licence. The Lord Mayor will be writing to the Minister for Arts and Communication on Council’s behalf. I hope that the Minister listens to the community and retains this vital community service.
Pushing to safeguard homeless funding
I was alarmed to see reducing Council support for the Zero Project included on a list of proposed saving measures to be presented to Council.
In 2019 Council agreed to increase support for the Zero Project, however this increased funding was contingent on State Government contribution. At that time, I sought to amend the allocation to ensure the money was provided – irrespective of the State Government. Unfortunately, Council did not back this call.
At May’s meeting Councillor Hyde moved to extend the funding for another 12 months. However he again made this contingent on the Government providing additional support. To ensure certainty of funding, I moved an amendment to remove the reference to the State Government. Sadly, this amendment was defeated by the Team Adelaide faction.
Council backs senseless review into Hutt St Centre
I was disgusted to see Town Hall back a motion from Deputy Lord Mayor Alex Hyde to review the Hutt St Centre’s compliance with planning law. As we confront the worst economic crisis in generations, the work of this centre has never been more important.
This senseless review is not only a waste of ratepayers money, it risks diverting the Hutt St Centre’s resources during this pandemic. Adelaide City Council should be doing all that it can to support the most vulnerable members of our community during this crisis, not investigating the organisations that provide vital services.
The move has been rightly condemned by many in the community. I have lodged a motion to rescind the review and this will be discussed at our next Council meeting on 9 June. You can read more about this here and here.
If you would like to write to your Councillors about this issue, you can do so here.
Welcome Councillor Greg Mackie!
On the 13th of May Greg Mackie was electedto fill the casual vacancy in Central Ward. Greg brings a wealth of experience to the Council table and has been a leading voice in our city for many years. I congratulate him on his election and look forward to working together. Greg’s first formal Council meeting will be 9 June.
COVID-19 and the Climate Crisis
On the 17th June, I’m looking forward to joining former Greens Leader Christine Milne for a discussion about COVID-19 and the climate crisis. This will be an online conversation on Zoom. It would be great to see you there! Join at: bit.lyf/covid-climate
While no registration is necessary, I encourage you to log in a few minutes early to secure your place.
Stay in touch
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!
My newsletter are bi-monthly. Sign up for more regular updates here.
Please note, the views in this newsletter are my own and do not purport to be those of Adelaide City Council.