Fellow Elected Members, it is an honour to return to service as a Councillor for Central Ward, but I do so, mindful that voter participation in city elections – and in local government through much of South Australia – is disturbingly, and unacceptably, low. Each Local Government Area shares with the Electoral Commission of South Australia the responsibility for engaging voters. We must do better.
So, what are my personal policy priorities for the remaining 2.5 years of this term of Council?
Many of my thoughts about future roles and opportunities for our City Council were outlined during my election campaign, plus blogs and audio interviews available on my personal website, and there are others too that will become apparent over time.
The major challenge facing Council and ratepayers is the sustainability and value proposition of our existing operations. While we face a sharp contraction in revenue on the back of depopulating our office towers and pandemic inspired self- isolation, we are also a capital city council, with capital city responsibilities. We have a balance sheet and asset base to leverage, and clearly have been doing so with some verve in recent years.
In this context, I am convinced of the value and future power of our cultural economy as a driver of economic prosperity for our capital city. My accumulated experiences over 40 years: as merchant; as shop-keeper; as an arts and cultural entrepreneur; as a city precinct and public sector leader – all point in this direction.
If we can come to better understand, and leverage, the demand drivers for culture, which is not only the arts, applied arts and entertainment – but also sport and recreation, education and learning, and even as consumers and members of social interest groups and faith communities – we can turbo-charge our city economy across all three cultural economy time zones daytime, evenings, and night-times.
To paraphrase from the classic Aussie movie, The Castle – ‘it’s about the vibe’…
During the election campaign I advocated for a ‘Adelaide City-State Summit’ to bring together thought leaders and experts across a range of spheres of city life – to consider how best to focus our economic recovery interventions and concessions. Such a summit would ensure that Elected Members can hear from a range of subject experts, so as to more fully flesh-out the feedback from online engagement and outreach that Council has commendably been undertaking. This summit would best be mounted under the auspice of the Capital City Committee – a symbol of the vital relationship between the two tiers.
Summits can also have a strategic communication dividend. An up-side from such a summit is that it could help us inspire new confidence and hope among our constituents and stakeholders.
On the planning front, I am very clear that we need to embark upon the development of a new City Plan. It is a quarter century since the last City Plan was promulgated.
At a time when wholesale reforms to state planning are well advanced and attracting a high level of community concern, we must be ready, as a capital city, to be in the driver’s seat to develop our own plan – both for the community and for the state government – underpinned by effective consultation effort.
And I believe that we must redouble our efforts in master planning – especially for the Greater Central West Precinct: from Tarntanyangga / Victoria Square in the east through to West Terrace, and bounded by Waymouth Street to the north and Wright Street to the south.
I also aim to practice a standard of ‘in-chamber’ civility toward fellow Elected Members that befits capital city governance, and that lifts community confidence and respect for their elected body.
In turn this will engender interest rather than cynicism, in what the Council is doing. And who knows, maybe this will encourage more constituents to exercise their vote.
We don’t need to love each other, and nor to entrench factions that can bitterly divide us, to provide our fair City of Adelaide with sound advocacy and inspired leadership.
Each Elected Member has a role to play in modelling leadership, and to that end I foreshadow that, as an Elected Member, I will not be accepting the free tickets to our city arts and entertainments that are offered to Council as part of old-mode negotiated sponsorship arrangements. We are a tier of government – not a private corporation – and I believe we should pay our own way as individuals.
It is time to end the ‘gravy train’ perception that undermines our legitimacy in the eyes of electors and artists – and to model values that can be better respected by citizens and ratepayers. As a cultural advocate, I believe this is the proper course. And so if – on occasion – diplomatic courtesy requires that I accept complimentary tickets – I commit to making an equivalent-value donation to that presenting organisation.
I have deliberately chosen NOT to place motions or questions on notice on this – my first Council meeting agenda.
I look forward to making a constructive contribution to our deliberations – and I look forward to a return to the Council chamber from July. Thank you.