PERTH councillor Reece Harley says it’s bittersweet watching from the sidelines as many of the issues he’d pushed for come to fruition.
He and the rest of the council are suspended while the state government carries out an inquiry into the “serious and long term failure by the elected council to ensure the city performed its functions properly.”
Cr Harley says that under the old rules the state couldn’t just suspend lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi and the rest of council was collateral damage.
Last week the commissioners sitting in for the council signalled an easing of the city’s strict al fresco policy, prompting Cr Harley to peruse his 2015 campaign material when he ran for mayor, ticking off issues that have come to fruition.
Cr Harley had long wanted to get rid of the clothing allowance that allowed councillors to spend thousands of ratepayer dollars on designer labels. He couldn’t get enough support on council, with only Crs Steve Hasluck and Jemma Green agreeing with him. Commissioners scrapped the allowance in September.
His campaign letter said he’d move to “abolish alfresco licence fees” that charged restaurants big bucks to put chairs and tables on the footpath.
The fees weren’t abolished, but they have been lowered and commissioners committed to reviewing them at the October 30 council meeting.
Another one of his issues was vindicated last week, when the commissioners sacked City of Perth CEO Martin Mileham.
Cr Harley says “Myself, [Jemma] Green and [James] Limnios all voted against the CEO’s permanent appointment. We raised at the time various concerns about the recruitment process that let to his appointment…after viewing his performance in the role in the last eight months, the commissioners have said they don’t believe he’s the right person to lead the city into the future”.
Likewise, he’d pushed for council meetings to be recorded—that finally started in 2016—and after a long effort they finally got rid of the rule forbidding individual councillors from speaking to the media last year.
Soon after getting on council in 2013 he started to clash with Ms Scaffidi, and the majority of the councillors back then were firmly on the lord mayor’s side.
He says “I feel that many of the ideas I proposed were instantly rejected simply because I proposed them. I do have a feeling that whenever I raised an issue, it was immediately rejected for political reasons rather than being assessed on its merits.
“But, over time, when people have been able to consider them more and consult more fully with stakeholders, they’ve realised the benefits of those ideas and have come around to supporting them.”
He says “it’s heartening to me, but also frustrating to see this agenda being implemented” while he’s not able to be there. “I guess that’s a good thing. You want to come up with good ideas and set them free.”
by DAVID BELL