By ALLISON HORE
As the City of Sydney elections approach, more challengers for the top job are emerging.
This week, Labor councillor Linda Scott announced her intention to run for mayor and to “build Sydney back into a fun, fair and sustainable city for the future.”
Ms. Scott, a member of the Labor party, was first elected to council in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. During her time on the council, she says some of her achievements include advocating for more affordable housing and green spaces, increasing early education and care centres, new skate parks, and boosting city funding for climate change action.
No stranger to the top job, Ms. Scott served as the City of Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor for one term in September of 2018. She defeated fellow councillor Christine Forster of the Liberal party to take out the position.
As well as serving on council, Ms. Scott is the first female, and first Labor, president of Local Government NSW. And, in November last year, she was elected unopposed to be President of the Australian Local Government Association, having been a board member since 2017.
Councillor Scott told City Hub these roles have given her valuable insight into how local governments can best work with other levels of leadership.
“They’re really fantastic roles where I’ve developed a lot of experience in understanding not only the ability of local governments, but also how to do so best in conjunction with state and national governments,” she explained.
“It’s very important when people are elected to leadership roles that they focus on delivering for the future.”
Ms. Scott says she is unashamedly progressive and should she be elected, she will be “a Lord Mayor for Sydney’s future, not our past.” At the same time, she says through her roles in the local government peak bodies she has been able to work effectively with politicians across the political spectrum.
“I would bring progressive values to the role and I am not ashamed of being a progressive leader. But, it’s also incredibly important to be able to work with other levels of government and all stakeholders to deliver outcomes,” she said.
Commitment to climate action
Among the progressive policies Ms. Scott takes pride in, is her commitment to climate action.
It was Councillor Scott who was first to move a motion for the City of Sydney to declare a climate emergency, leading to the city adopting stronger climate policies. She said there is not only work the council can do to reduce their emissions, but also more work can be done to support individuals in the community who want to minimise their own carbon footprint.
One practical way she thinks the city could enable people to reduce emissions is by allowing terrace houses and other historic buildings to install solar panels.
“It’s 2021, and if you wish to put solar panels on your terrace house roof, there are many parts of the city where our planning controls still prevent that,” she said.
“These regulations have to be removed to enable people to take the action they need to take.”
Another key part of Ms. Scott’s mayoral platform is social justice. She said supporting vulnerable people within the community is especially crucial as the city moves on from the pandemic.
“We need to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are protected and supported, I’ve long been an advocate for people who are sleeping rough to receive more support, and those in public housing to ensure that they continue to be able to live in the city,” she said.
Culture and vibrancy
Through her role as president of Local Government NSW president Councillor Scott successfully negotiated for a doubling in public library funding for every council across the state.
Ms. Scott said this is part of her commitment to creating spaces and cultural institutions which celebrate the diversity of the city and where people can come together.
In 2016, Ms. Scott promised to transform the T2 building at Taylor Square into a museum celebrating the city’s LGBTQI+ history. This followed a motion she put to council to begin storing and documenting artefacts of Sydney’s LGBTQI+ community, laying the groundwork for a museum. Unfortunately the idea was knocked back.
“I’ve long advocated for an LGBTI museum in the City of Sydney, although that also was rejected by a majority decision of council,” she said.
But should she win the election, Councillor Scott says she will do what she can to support cultural institutions and to revive the city’s struggling nightlife and live music scene.
“I’m very committed to making sure Sydney is a fun city for the future, and very passionate about live music as a drummer who doesn’t get to play very often anymore,” she said.
“As the city we should do everything we can to ensure that we have a great global, cultural city.”
In the race for mayor Ms. Scott faces stiff competition. Incumbent Lord Mayor Clover Moore is a campaign power-house and she’s seeking a historic fifth term as mayor. Also in the running this year is independent councillor and former member for Wentworth, Kerryn Phelps.
Ms. Scott said she acknowledges many of the reforms made by Lord Mayor Clover Moore have had a positive impact on the community, but said after 17 years in the role it’s time for a fresh face in the top seat.
“As we need to drive the city of Sydney’s recovery from COVID, it’s time for new leadership,” she said.
“We know that COVID was an enormous shock, especially for global capital cities like Sydney […] The city needs new leadership to ensure we build the city back to the best it can be.”
Local government elections in NSW are held every 4 years but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the 2020 elections were postponed. The City of Sydney council election will be held on Saturday 4 September 2021.