Kevin Hillier issues a challenge to our under-fire mayor
The new mayor hasn’t been in the big chair very long but she has already made a few statements that have people talking. Her comments on current and past councillors’ age and relevance were seen by some to be disrespectful. I was critical of the ‘I’ rather than the ‘we’ approach, while letters to the editor in this paper described her as an MIA councillor and called on her to step down. I’m going the opposite way; I want her to step up. In a press release last week announcing the launch of a new website knowyourcouncil.vic.gov.au, the mayor, Cr Adele Hegedich, made this statement: “Wyndham City has been on a concerted campaign to improve transparency and community engagement.”
You could have fooled me. What about the way the announcement on the naming of Eagle Stadium was handled and the refusal to open up documents explaining the process? A Freedom of Information request was denied because, according to council FoI officer Joy Painter: “It was contrary to the public interest and would be likely to reduce open and robust deliberation in council’s decision-making process.”
This paper requested details of the Wyndham Leisure Services business plan to run the city’s three major public facilities. That was also refused. And what about the non-disclosure of the cost of the land bought for a carpark in Cherry Street? When I wrote that I believed it would be parking for council and not the general public, a council officer contacted me wanting to know the source of my information. Does that sound like the workings of a council on a concerted campaign to improve transparency?
Cr Hegedich, here’s my challenge to you – don’t just pay lip service to being transparent, actually do it. This is your chance to act and then, perhaps, that legacy you spoke of in your mayoral acceptance speech will be that you made this council both transparent and accountable. Step up and back your own words or do everyone a favour and step down. ■
If you have any news or events, let me know at kevin@howdypartnersmedia. com.au