Leichhardt Labor Councillor Darcy Byrne has a knack at getting media. Admittedly, it seems to be in Fairfax press, the ABC and the Inner West Courier, which are very welcoming to a certain political view.
So he has used all the time he has while working for Federal Minister Anthony Albanese to promote a 30 minute free parking policy across his Rozelle ward. His flyers hit Rozelle letterboxes this week.
Pity Cr Byrne voted against 30 minute free parking in the same week (see voting record and flyer below).
Yup, given the opportunity to actually make his policy real, supported by comprehensive research and analysis from Liberal Councillor Gordon Weiss, Cr Byrne sided with the viscerally anti-car Greens and voted against his own policy.
This is just appalling hypocrisy driven by a desire to keep an ALP policy angle for the Council election in September. Rather than make a difference and apply the policy across the board, Cr Byrne would rather play tokenistic politics that delivers no real change. But hey, so long as it gets mentioned in the SMH and on the Drum, right?
Local businesses have been calling me and emailing me, and uniformly they are fed up. This is on top of a 12 month Economic Development consultation process that has seen Council ignore every comment from local business, follow box-ticking processes, claim for their own a Placemaking initiative proposed by the Leichhardt-Annandale Business Chamber, do nothing and deliver a report a student could have written 12 months ago.
Fixing the debate
Equally disturbing is the way a Council officer report on the 30 minute parking motion (below) was delivered before debate – something completely out of the norm and quite improper – and which indicates the fix was in from Council officers and the Greens. It included this revealingly ideological line:
The proposed policy promotes car usage and will make it harder to park
A trite restatement of Green conventional wisdom, without evidence, and standing alone as some kind of trump card. No consideration of trade-offs and benefits. No mention of the effects on local business. On the life of our main streets, the convenience of locals, the attraction to destination shoppers essential for our streets. Nothing. Just rejection and a flick to yet another token research effort (more below image).
Research as Barrier, Officers as Ideologues
Yes, our Council Officer proposed another study [correction below]. A trial for 3 months, at large cost, in small pockets, for 25 meters selected non-transparently by Council Officers. The same Officers who have exhibited such obvious distaste for the concept, and lack of interest in the effects on street life. Greens, the ALP (and Cr Stamolis, as usual) rejected the extension to a meaningful 6 months and insisted the report look at options that only apply to local residents. Thus ignoring the core fact that our main streets are only viable as destination strips. It is a myth that they are local ‘villages’ and can survive as such on local business alone.
It is an approach and an ideology that will see Darling and Norton Streets reduced to hosting convenience stores, Chinese massage rooms and newspaper-covered vacancies.
No. If there is to be a trial of 30 minutes free, it has to be for at least 6 months, in large contiguous blocks on Norton and Darling Streets, selected transparently by a committee including representatives of local business chambers. This event in the Council Chamber, and the Economic Development farce, have shown that Council Officers cannot be trusted to consult appropriately or to manage research in an objective manner.
That’s a big call. But the rot at Leichhardt isn’t just hardcore ideology from the Greens-Stamolis coalition, and principle-free politics from the ALP. It is clear that core questions of ideology and competence have to be asked not just about Councillors, but also about Council Officers in areas of traffic, parking, economic development, business engagement, and, above all else given their appalling record, planning and assessment.
I understand that it was not the Council Officer who proposed the trial, but a motion made and seconded by Greens Councillors. My apologies to the Council Officer involved.