REECE HARLEY is challenging Lisa Scaffidi for the lord mayoral robes of Perth.
A Perth city councillor for just two years, he is often at odds with colleagues over heritage issues: for example, he was the only councillor to vote to retain the Michelides tobacco factory.
His platform so far includes promising more freedom for councillors to speak their minds in public without facing the prospect of being hauled before the WA local government standards panel, abolishing elected members’ clothing allowance, which he describes as an “archaic” indulgence from “earlier years of excess”, ending fees on alfresco licences and renting out empty floors in Council House.
“Why should ratepayers foot the bill for our suits?” he says. “We have not kept pace with community expectations, and it will take fresh blood to bring us up to pace.”
He did cop heat from CEO Gary Stevenson for using council resources to issue flyers to ratepayers. Cr Harley countered that communicating with constituents was key to any councillor’s role. The CEO still wants the money repaid and the situation remains unresolved.
Ms Scaffidi backed Cr Harley’s run for council in 2013—he came first in that year’s field—but since then the relationship has frayed.
Most recently, the lord mayor told Cr Harley not to be “spooked” by the atmosphere around council expenses, and was critical of him for questioning the provision of freebies to elected members and council staff in return for favourable sponsorship decisions.
They also disagree over the city’s sponsorship of public art: when Ms Scaffidi’s casting vote killed a big mural project and she said she didn’t mind the occasional blank wall, Cr Harley posted his wedding photos, taken in front of a grand Wolf Lane mural with the hashtag #blankwallsrboring.
Asked about his relationship with the lord mayor, Cr Harley says: “I have no control over the way that others treat me, but I always try to treat my fellow councillors with respect. I will work constructively with whoever is elected in October.”
Cr Harley also plans to get precinct groups for East Perth, West Perth and City Laneways running to get locals more involved and make sure the activation doesn’t only focus on the CBD.
“Precinct groups work well in lots of jurisdictions around the world including New York City as well as here at home like the Beaufort Street Network. On recent travels to New York I was so inspired to see beautiful city-owned parks where community members had a say in how they were run. It was an opportunity for parks and precincts to develop their own identities, and to grow in ways that were in response to community needs and desires. West Perth and East Perth have both not seen any significant change for years. The urban villages of East Perth and West Perth both need a lot more attention and investment, but this investment should be community driven through precinct groups, not top down.”
Cr Harley grew up in public housing raised by single mum Ros, a councillor at neighbouring Vincent. He started the Crawley branch of the Rotary club, was involved in donating swags to homeless people, and currently works for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience which helps kids get through high school and into uni. His most recent project is the Museum of Perth, a nascent space in Grand Lane to document the city’s history.
by DAVID BELL