Letters 4.7.20

Who’ll come out clean?

THE initial findings of the state inquiry into the City of Perth states there’s 39 adverse findings and 23 possible prosecutions.

Also some witnesses were “obstinate” and many “obstructionist”; this while all under oath. Inquirer Tony Power also found that if the elected members were still in council he would recommend dismissal.

It is now three months or so until we vote in the City of Perth on the elected members of, what is after all, our local government authority.

To my knowledge three of those former councillors have stated their intention to nominate in October. 

We should know now, at least this month, if any adverse findings were stated against any candidate for the October election. 

If any referrals are breach of the Local Government Act it is as important as criminal or other as to eligibility.

We need to know well before in assessing which of the nine candidates we will have to elect best serve us going forward, now with a roadmap from the inquiry on best practice.   

Terry Maller
East Perth 

DJAPs anti democratic

WHILE I am not totally ‘in sync” with Gordon Westwood (“We are not a democracy,” Speakers Corner, Voice June 27, 2020) about whether or not we are a “democracy”, there is one aspect of undemocratic governance ruling over all of us, that I feel must be called out. 

And that is the Joint Development Assessment Panel otherwise known as JDAP.

These unelected groups have a huge sway over whether or not certain building development applications go ahead within a local council area. 

The individuals who sit on them and look through plans are often drawn from building industry groups and are biased towards developments going ahead. 

If they hear testimony from local residents (who must pass a challenge test to even give local evidence) that evidence is often down played and scrubbed from the hearing.

State governments have been keen to do away with “red tape” in building applications and through this guise there have been installed unelected proponents of never ending developments that are seen as fantastic extensions of life (read, crammed in residential living, in small spaces) and a fix for stupid over-extended population growth. 

The people on the panel are all from industry, and governments get around this by saying…”well, who else is better qualified to look at building plans?”. Well, maybe local people are!

If we want to consider the issue of democracy and having locally elected people who are elected by a majority and make decisions for us, then consider the reverse is true in that having JDAPs in existence is akin to local communist authoritarian rule over a local population. 

In such a situation, the normal process of communicating with your local councillor about a concern is basically null and void.

JDAPs are NOT a democratic system and should be done away with.

The non-democratic rot sets in with such systematic decisions that influence lifestyle in a neighbourhood being taken away from us, by unelected JDAPs, and all of us being told it’s for our benefit. Absolute rubbish.

Colin Scott
Deague Ct, North Perth

What a clear contrast

YOUR story about the “Hollywood” sign for Northbridge (“’Hollywood’ moment for Northbridge,” Voice, June 27, 2020) demonstrates the clear contrast between the City of Perth and the City of Vincent when it comes to openness of decision making.

The report which went to the City of Perth council identified the project, who the recipients were, what would be delivered, and that it would cost the city $35,000.

As well, Perth staff assessed the proposal against 12 criteria and included both the scores and a comment for each criterion.  Their report also addressed eligibility criteria such as community benefit, community support, and alignment with the city’s Covid-19 response.

in the public domain prior to the council making a decision.

Compare this with Vincent’s recent approach to grants for local artists as part of a proposal to spend up to $500,000 on arts projects as part of the city’s Covid-19 response.

Three reports have been presented to Vincent’s Covid-19 Committee. All three reports have been confidential and the only public information released is that artists 1, 2, 3, 4 etc have been successful. There is no indication of who the artists are, what they will produce, or how much they will receive.

The reason given for the secrecy is that it may “reveal information that has commercial value to a person”.

This is a clear abuse of the provision in the Act which seeks to protect some commercial interests. How it can be stretched to cover an artwork, for which one of the requirements was that it be in the public domain, is beyond me and reminds me of a quote from the federal auditor general. 

In a presentation to a conference in 1999 which concerned the excessive use of “commercial in confidence” as a reason to keep information secret he quoted “defence (that papers were commercially sensitive and should not be released) 

is over-used by governments trying to avoid scrutiny and embarrassment, and often represents arrogance of the first order”. 

Sadly the level of secrecy at the City of Vincent has increased in recent years.

A classic example is the annual budget. The latest budget shows just under $23 million to be spent on “recreation and culture” operations. There is no further information of how this will be spent other than $5 million will cover depreciation. 

Hopefully council members would be aware of where the other $18 million was to be spent as it would have been discussed at one of their ‘secret’ council budget workshops.

Contrast this to the level of detail that was previously publicly available in former CEO John Giorgi’s time.

Those budgets showed details of individual projects and programs as well as staff costs. It could be argued that there was too much detail but I think it demonstrated that the city had nothing to hide, and it was advertised for public comment.

I do have some sympathy for newer council members who have not seen anything else and naturally assume the level of secrecy is the norm.

It isn’t, and it should not be. 

Dudley Maier
Highgate

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