Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Five versus five plus one

from w
There's plenty of hot air in the Geelong Council meeting this week when one item was voted five for, five against, then the mayor cast a vote.  It's all about that budget of $2 million for Christmas decorations - six months away from now, particularly that bling Christmas tree meant to float on the water and bring zillions of dollars to Geelong in tourism. I don't think so!  So far there's no data and as one councillor reckons, it's 'secret men's business'.

Geelong  councillors  split  on  ‘secret  men’s  business’

·         DAVID CAIRNS
·         JUNE 24, 2014 11:21PM

Geelong mayor Darryn Lyons with bright pink dye in his hair and beard.
THE Geelong council is at war over the Mayor’s Christmas plan for Geelong and the need for transparency. Divisions surfaced at the council meeting last night, with accusations of secrecy, bullying, hijacking and “bonehead” strategies exchanged across the table.
At one point Cr Andy Russell quipped the budget had been put together on the back of a napkin.
Cr Michelle Heagney, who is responsible for the Central Geelong and planning portfolios, expressed frustration about an apparent lack of transparency in the council chamber, adding she found it “very concerning”.
The war erupted after Cr Jan Farrell sought to have a matter which had been placed in camera, moved into open council so it could be discussed in front of the gallery and media.
That item is understood to relate to the mayor’s vision for Christmas in Geelong, which includes expansive street lighting and an iconic, floating Christmas tree.
Cr Farrell moved that the item — listed at number 16 on the agenda — be discussed openly as no preferred supplier had been identified and the matter had been broadly discussed in public arenas previously. Cr Farrell did not reveal what the confidential item was but said she was concerned the scope of the project was being extended and that shouldn’t happen in secret.

She called the process “secret men’s business’’.  Etc etc.
And the Age also ran the story today:

Geelong's $2m Christmas display 'wrong message' for axed workers

Date  June 25, 2014 - 2:20PM   Caroline Zielinski


Geelong council will spend $2 million on Christmas decorations and lighting after mayor Darryn Lyons overruled a vote for the funding details to be made public.
The decision to spend up to $500,000 on a Christmas tree and $1.5 million on a lighting display comes just weeks before hundreds of local Alcoa workers lose their jobs.
Alcoa's Geelong smelter will shut in August, with 500 jobs going. Alcoa’s rolling mills, which employ another 500, will also shut by the end of the year.
On Tuesday night councillors engaged in a fiery debate over the $2 million Christmas project for the coming festive season.
Cr Jan Farrell, who represents the Beangala Ward in Geelong, sought to defer the $2 million allocated to the Christmas tree and lighting until the project was investigated by an independent external auditor. Citing concerns - shared by five other councillors - over initial and recurring costs of the project, Cr Farrell said she disapproved of spending $2 million on Christmas decorations at a time when many Geelong families would be feeling the pinch. ‘‘I have talked to the good people of Bellarine, and they are not supportive of spending $2 million in the [Geelong] CBD on a tree and lights,’’ she said.
Cr Farrell said the initial proposal for the project stated that the tree would remain up all year and not just for the amended time of six weeks. It is understood that when Cr Farrell also moved a motion to publicly release a report regarding spending on the Christmas tree, mayor Lyons used his casting vote to keep the report confidential.
Another councillor, Andy Richards, who also voted to defer the $2 million, said it was wrong to spend $2 million on Christmas “when people are unemployed and other costs are increasing”. “It just sends all the wrong messages,” he said.  “That money could be better spent on employment invested through Enterprise Geelong, because what’s most important right now is that people have a job to put food on the table.”
Cr Richards said he had not supported the Christmas tree idea when it was first proposed to the chamber, because it was “too much money for too little result, has no business plan and no report to tell ratepayers what you get for the money”.
“The key issue in Geelong right now is jobs and employment,” he said.  
Fairfax Media tried to contact mayor Lyons several times on Wednesday, but he did not return the calls.


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