A COUNCIL WITHOUT A VISION

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By: Jon Langevad 

The Council is supposed to be our peak local governing body and responsible for the strategies taking Port Phillip into the future with growth strategies designed to protect critical elements of the city, to create an environment in which people queue to live and most importantly to create an international presence such as San Francisco or Antigua or many others.

This last objective is critical for Melbourne and for Port Phillip because we want and need tourism and we want and need to be the world’s most liveable city, forever.

Judging by Mr Wilson’s article in the previous edition of SKN (and others) there is a dearth of long term strategy to achieve these goals from the councillors who seem to prefer to focus on minutia such as beach cleaning, schools, childcare, the Grand Prix, clean streets and hard rubbish pick up as key objectives. This is from our peak local governing body?

Where is the vision from Council?  Where is the fire which creates a following and moves even the recalcitrant into believers of change and forward thinking?  Where are our leaders?  Where is the passion?

Several of the new councillors wax lyrical about responding to residents and local business owners yet I have personally written to each councillor twice as well as the acting management from The City of Port Phillip with ‘zero’ response!  Twenty three letters and no response from anyone.  So much for that promise and no change from the previous incumbents.  Incidentally, I have been waiting for well over a year for a response from Janet Powell [minister for local government].  Seems to be endemic?

Our councillors actively sought election to their posts and as a consequence have accepted a responsibility to all Melbournians to create the international face of Melbourne through and by the prime waterfront location that is the City of Port Phillip.

This is an enormous responsibility and I wonder whether or not our part time elected councillors are anywhere near up to being able to create that sort of future?  Focussing on minutia is easy but committing to strategic thinking and planning is much harder.  Remember that previous councils have already taken over 14 years to develop a design framework for our sea gateway to the world – with no end in sight.  However, there is a new play area being built for a few kids on the foreshore and the bike path has been resurfaced.

Unfortunately elected representatives are good at getting elected and not necessarily good at doing the job for which they are elected or indeed have the vision or capacity to see the 30 year jigsaw / strategic approach rather than an organic building block approach.

Unfortunately we are stuck with the Council; like it or not.  At the end of the day elected representatives need support from professional people simply because councillors don’t have the skill set or the time.

One such person is the, yet to be advertised, new CEO for the city.  This person needs to reshape the top three tiers of management to create a strategic springboard to support council and from which the city can leap into the future [sic].  A non bureaucrat. The fact that there has been an ‘Urban Design Framework’ for Station Pier area for 14 years with little positive action [albeit a lot of negative] says something about current and previous management.

The role of the CEO is not in minutia.  That can be handled by staff.  The role of the CEO is strategic and must focus on creating something special by giving the councillors a strategy they can’t ignore and can’t play politics with and must implement.  The CEO brings together the State Government, Port of Melbourne Authority, TT Lines, Arts Victoria, Major Projects and all and any past, future or possible stakeholders to create our spot in the world.

 

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