The efficacy of Leichhardt Council meetings was called into question on Tuesday night after councillors lamented they were increasingly unable to cover all motions at the ordinary meetings.
Several recent Council meetings have run well into the night – sometimes as late as 2am. Mayor Darcy Byrne launched a three-month trial in which Council meetings were to finish at 11pm with the prospect of adding another half-hour to the meeting time if deemed necessary.
Now two months into the trial, Tuesday night’s Council meeting saw an additional 13 items as carry-overs from the last meeting that could not be covered by the 11.30pm deadline. It took until 11.15pm to cover the motions of residents in the packed gallery. By 11.30pm only half of the night’s motions had been covered.
The night began with a furore over wording of a motion from March’s meeting in regards to the continuation of 30-minute free parking in the district. It became apparent an email fight had been brewing behind the scenes among several councillors over the wording of the motion.
Greens Councillor Rochelle Pourteous implied that Mr Byrne was tormenting councillors in the email exchange in arguing the wording of the motion was muddled.
“I am referring to a series of emails going between councillors that were threatening in nature,” she said. Mr Byrne said there was no basis to Ms Porteous’ claims.
Ms Porteous said: “It’s been put into words by you in the email.” Mr Byrne replied: “I don’t think that the email constitutes intimidation.”
Liberal Councillor John Jobling read from a prepared speech affirming his support for the wording of the motion and hence Mr Byrne’s position. Ms Porteous said other councillors present too had a problem with the wording but, like Mr Jobling, had “backed down”.
Wording of motions has created ongoing tension between parties with the Greens insisting on rewrites of motions, much to Mr Byrne’s dismay. The confusion over the wording of the motion was widely espoused to the lethargy of councillors owing to late-night meetings.