Serge Thomann: Independant candidate for Lake Ward

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Join me for the ride for another 4 years!

Cr Serge Thomann

Deputy Mayor

As I write my 50th column for St Kilda News, I have taken a long time to consider my next four years: should I put my hand up again or should I pass the baton to others.

I see being a Councillor as a great opportunity to do good things for our community – especially in St Kilda, as I believe that my Lake Ward is most probably the most interesting ward in Victoria. It is a great area but full of challenges, where the right balance has to be found. In a period of gentrification, it is important to keep the past in mind. People come to St Kilda because it has been Melbourne’s playground for decades, and we should keep it that way. Unfortunately, the “games” in our playground have changed and might not appeal to some.

I have been a Councillor for 8 years. I never envisaged being a Councillor but the development that was approved by the Council before my time at Council appalled me and I felt a responsibility to do all I could to stop this massive shopping centre on the Triangle site – Chadstone or even Fountain Gate by the Bay, as it was called back then. The 180 shops and supermarket included in the development, along with licensed venues for over 5,000 people, would have done a lot of harm to all the current businesses. It would have killed Acland Street and made it even harder for Fitzroy Street to flourish again – which I am confident it will. I formed unChain St Kilda, got 3,000 people out into the streets, I pulled out a guillotine and ran for council. Five Councillors out of six got voted out.

I might have been a single issue candidate at the time, but it was a massive issue. I have learned a lot over the past years about the wonderful city we live in. Yes, we live in a wonderful place – I love St Kilda and Port Phillip. The harsh criticism I hear, and council decisions I often get blamed for, is very unfair on all. I don’t like when a beautiful place like ours is spoken down – mainly on social media – by these internet trolls or keyboard warriors. I don’t think there are that many of them, but they certainly make a lot of noise. I wish they would stick to facts and not fabricate endless conspiracy theories…

The election this time will be very different, with three Councillors elected in three much bigger wards – instead of seven Councillors for seven wards. I did not support this change proposed the Victorian Electoral Commission, as I prefer the current model, with a smaller number of constituents, where the Councillor must be more engaged and approachable. I do pride myself on returning the majority of my phone calls or emails – I might have missed a few, sorry – as I believe that to be available and seen by my constituents is very important. There were discussions recently about having one Mayor and then an additional “Night Mayor”: I certainly have been around at night and know the issues, especially in an entertainment precinct like ours.

I am only one Councillor out of seven, and only the Council as a whole can make decisions. I have been outvoted several times for items in St Kilda. I did try to convince the other Councillors but I failed a couple of times. I apologise for this. I am still very disappointed with Live Nation getting a 30 years lease for the Palais. And I still believe that the new tram stop on Fitzroy Street should not be in front of the school. When I hear people, especially those wanting to stand for Council, say that they can change everything, I would like to state the obvious: Councillors have to work as a team and one individual cannot achieve anything on his or her own. You don’t get to simply make decisions as you like – there is a Local Government Act, a Planning Act and many many other considerations to be taken into consideration.

First and foremost, a Councillor needs to adhere to the City of Port Phillip Councillor’s new Code of Conduct. I would just like to state the first paragraph. “The Primary Principle of Councillor Conduct – Councillors understand and will respect the primary principle of Councillor Conduct prescribed in Section 76B of the Act, which is that a Councillor must: (a) act with integrity; and (b) impartially exercise his or her responsibilities in the interests of the local community; and (c) not improperly seek to confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.” Hard to balance all needs sometimes, but I really try to do my best.

After months of thinking, I decided to run again. Yes, I may be crazy but I believe I have got another 4 years in me to serve my community – hopefully, you want me again. I do thank the many people who have asked me to forget about the abuse (even a death threat) and keep going. I’ll need all the help I can get as I am totally independent from any community group or political party. Go onto www.sergeyourvoice.com to see how you can help me. I thank you in advance.

As I did 4 years ago, I’ll not write a column next month to be fair to all other candidates.

Whatever happens on 22 October, it has been a fun ride – and no pun intended by alluding to the world-class skate park I am proud of having got off the ground!

Fondest cheers,

Cr Serge Thomann

Deputy Mayor

PS. Please come to my very exclusive screening of the great movie Monsieur Mayonnaise – the first screening after 2 sell out sessions at MIFF. A journey in the Mora’s journey through the war and after. An incredible true tale of mayonnaise sandwiches, Nazis and a hand-painted comic book! 26 September at 7pm at the Classic Cinemas in Elsternwick. Information and tickets: sergeyourvoice.com

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