By Joe Bourke
Independents have called for local councillors aligned to political parties to shift their concerns from the upcoming state election and focus on their LGA.
Leichardt Councillor John Stamilos said the time spent on the state election in last week’s meeting was “excessive”.
“Usually it’s tolerable but on occasion it simply becomes unproductive in the council chambers when they’re bringing their state election campaigns, their one upmanship, their turf wars to the council meeting.” Clr Stamilos said.
“Not all of us are part of political parties, we’re trying to work hard on council, get the best outcomes for our community, and if they want to run state elections and use up large amounts of time in that process, by all means go forth and do that but don’t disrupt the council meeting in doing so, playing charades and putting up motions that are silly and unproductive.”
At the last council meeting, City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas said it was a shame the major parties’ councillors couldn’t “leave their political hats at the door” and forget about political point scoring.
“Inevitably, because there are mainstream political parties in local government, I can see where issues would cross over (local to state) and no doubt political concerns of different state and federal natures will be addressed, but we aren’t there to run state or federal governments.”
“We are there to address the concerns of the local community and to administer the business of the council of the local community,” Clr Vithoulkas said.
Leichhardt Labor councillor Simon Emsley said he believes state election debate is “healthy for local council” as it helps hold the major parties accountable.
“People are disagreeing with each other and they could call that unproductive, but from my point of view it’s actually healthy to have vigorous discussion on council about policy direction and record and accountability,” Clr Emsley said.
“The advantage of it is that people – the public – take notice, and of course there’s issues as a result, but I think that’s positive.”
Clr Stamilos said the quality of debate in last week’s meeting was so disillusioned that councillors weren’t even talking about election issues.
Insteas, he said they were making decisions based on their parties’ campaigns.
“You’re not getting the quality of thought and the quality of decision making because they have the imperative to their candidates to be running campaigns,” Mr Stamilos said.
“It’s not good for the community and it’s not good for councils.”
Clr Emsley said independent councillors may be frustrated because the discussions are irrelevant to them.
“I guess to a large extent, because independent councillors aren’t aligned to a political party, these discussions are irrelevant to them, so I can see why they’d be frustrated, because the matters at stake will pertain to positioning of political parties both at local government and state levels,” Clr Emsley said.
Both Clr Stamilos and Clr Vithoulkas said the focus should be on the local residents and that state election debates are taking away from council business.