By JOHN MOYLE
A week in politics is a long time and for Woollahra Council last week must have seemed like eternity as Councillor Anthony Marano’s comments about objectors to the Rushcutters Bay skateboard park being “old people with nothing else to do with their time… who will be dead in ten years’ time,” continues to resound throughout the sedate eastern suburbs.
At the Woollahra Council meeting on 22nd July, Cr Marano issued an apology of sorts when he said “The concern for some of the elderly residents is that I spoke disrespectfully about elderly people.
“When I did the interview with Sue Walker (sic) from the SMH I was very clear in what I said and she didn’t write it how I said it.”
The SMH reporter was in fact Sue Williams, a highly respected journalist who is not known for getting it wrong.
Cr Marano told the City Hub “I was misquoted in the Herald and the majority of people who want the park are families with kids who will be around a long time.
“I have no issue with older people, especially when they agree with what I want.
“I am most definitely the whipping boy for the anti-skatepark people because I am the one trying to push it along and if people have chosen to single me out, so be it.”
Whipping boy courts controversy?
“I think he has been able to get away with it despite the Code of Conduct for councils,” Dixie Coulton, barrister said.
This is not the first time that Cr Marano has been at the centre of controversy.
In 2018 he described skatepark objectors The Darling Point Society as “ladies strolling around the park in long crinolines and parasols.”
Darling Point Society president Charlotte Feldman said “I always thought he was a nice guy and all of a sudden he just became so aggressive and rude.”
It seems that skateboard parks cause temporary lapses of the facts, such as in February this year in an email to skatepark objector Robyn Hall, Cr Marano said “I was talking to Clover Moore just four nights ago and she is fully supportive of the skatepark and our staff are working with City of Sydney staff with a view for the City contributing to our facility.”
Ms Hall replied “Lord Mayor Clover Moore confirmed to me that they had “no intentions of funding such a large park.” In March Ms Hall sent a letter to Mark Driver, Parks and Recreation Planner at City of Sydney, who reconfirmed that the Council would not be contributing to a skatepark.
Controversy has surrounded Cr Marano since he was first nominated for Woollahra Council in 2013 when his entitlement to stand was challenged in NCAT as he did not live in the area given that his residential address was in Elizabeth Bay.
He was found eligible to be nominated and was voted in on the non-residential business roll, which soon led to an alleged conflict of interest when it was found that the nominator was a brother of a developer who had planning applications before council.
The DA was eventually granted.
September elections looming
That Woollahra Council remains silent on Cr Marano’s indiscretions might have something to do with the upcoming September elections for mayor and deputy mayor.
While Mayor Cavanagh did not respond to City Hub’s questions it has been speculated that he wants another term and is prepared to do deals to get it.
One scenario is that ex-mayor, Toni Zeltzer, another Liberal, will also run so Cavanagh is looking for allies and Cr Marano may just be one.
“I have been on council for six years and I feel that I am experienced enough to perhaps nominate (deputy mayor) but we have to see what happens,” Cr Marano said.
When City Hub questioned the council about objections to Cr Marano’s statements, a Woollahra Council spokesperson said “We haven’t received any complaints regarding Cr Marano’s comments.”
“I know Gary James (GM) has received my emails and letters,” Charlotte Feldman said.
Meanwhile the skatepark has unlikely support from Greens’ councillors Matt Robertson and Megan McEwan, who both failed to respond to questions.
It has been suggested that against perceived Greens’ values they are pandering to a youth vote that may or may not deliver for them
Rushcutters Bay Park is currently under an Interim Heritage Order that expires in January 2020.
Even if Heritage finds in favour for the park Cr Marano does not see this as an impediment to the skatepark when he said “If they say that it is worthy of a listing it still won’t stop us from proceeding with the skatepark, it just means that we have to go through further red tape and further studies.”
In the meantime, objectors could do worse than to find a suitable alternative.