Security called in petition spat

A PETITION over malfunctioning public toilets has seen Stirling mayor Mark Irwin call security on a former councillor at last week’s council meeting.

Just before the meeting former councillor Paul Collins had presented Cr Suzanne Migdale with a petition from users of Yokine Reserve asking for automatic loos there to be fixed.

Mr Collins had heard from reserve users during his election run in October that the toilets constantly backed up, had malfunctioning locks and weren’t kept clean, despite requests to council. His election campaign fell short – 1,970 votes to Cr Migdale’s 2,079, but he told the Voice “even though I didn’t win, I thought I should do something” to resolve the problematic loos. 

Since some park users had already lodged individual complaints to little avail he advised them a petition was the best way to get action, and he helped collect 600 signatures in a week asking council to fix the autoloos and budget for a permanent toilet block with proper plumbing for the future.

Mr Collins contacted Cr Migdale the day before the meeting to advise her of his petition and handed it over in person just before proceedings started. Two other petitions with unverified signatures were tabled at the meeting, but Cr Migdale remained silent. 

Mr Collins says he’s never seen a councillor refuse to table a petition, even if they disagree with its contents. Petitions aren’t voted on but staff verify signatures, act on the request, or draw up an item for councillors.

Mr Collins asked in question time why Cr Migdale had not presented his petition; Mr Irwin replied “there’s no obligation on the councillor to present it”. 

The mayor asked Mr Collins to take a seat, but he persisted, calling the situation “disgraceful”.

He asked for the petition back and requested the mayor accept it instead; Mr Irwin said he’d check with the governance officer if that was possible.

Mr Collins seemed content problem would be solved”. But Mr Irwin was unhappy with another interjection: “Mr Collins, take a seat. No, I’m not even going to bother now. Take a seat. You had your chance, I was about to check. You were being rude, take your seat.”

“I just said the problem would be solved, Mr Mayor, I haven’t been rude,” Mr Collins protested.

When Mr Collins wouldn’t return to his seat the mayor called for security. “We’ve got people here with real concerns Mr Collins, not here for political grandstanding,” he said.

A guard approached Mr Collins, who remained at the lectern; Mr Irwin adjourned the meeting and councillors left the room. Mr Collins said his petition “wasn’t political… I felt sorry for the people down there because I really did notice that the toilet was in a really bad state”. 

Cr Migdale said she hadn’t tabled the petition because “the lead petitioner did not give me any time to read the petition so I did not have an opportunity to consider it before presenting it to  council. Due to the urgency of the situation, it is disappointing that the lead petitioner did not present the petition to me earlier or otherwise contact the city so action could be taken sooner.

“Presentation of a petition is a procedural formality. The city is already looking to resolve this issue, there is no need for it to be formally presented. 

As the elected member I will be monitoring progress and ensuring this is resolved promptly.”

by DAVID BELL

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