The City of Manningham has been infected with Labor Party factionalism for the first time in its history after Labor Mayor Charles Pick put together a 5 person group of councillors who actually signed a six page manifesto outlining how they would rule. The other 4 members of the ruling clique include fellow Labor councillors Meg Downie and Ivan Reid, along with small government advocate Graeme MacMillan and deputy mayor Fred Chuah.
The minority four councillors left out in the cold were Liberal Geoff Gough, Greens member David Ellis and the two Heide ward independents, Stephen Mayne and Grace La Vella.
The 25-year-old mayor worked with 4 first time councillors and their most common bond was that "something is rotten at Manningham" and an enormous amount of things need to be changed. Some thought it looked like "getting square" for perceived past grievances. With one of the strongest management teams in Victorian local government comprising more than 100 years of council experience, it was probably inevitable that problems would emerge as the inexperienced brigade went about attempting to change everything.
Almost two years later, here is the full list of examples where the 5-4 vote prevailed and Manningham's professional officers saw their advice over-turned.
11. September 28, 2010 - Public Open Space Strategy dispute
Adding two additional politically charged clauses to an officer recommending proposing an end to the sale of vacant lots caused a divisive 5-4 vote.
10. September 28, 2010 - Ruffey Lake Tea Rooms
Eliminating the proposed feasibility study for a tea rooms at Ruffey Lake Park was a pet issue for Cr Downie which the officers opposed and was delivered 5-4 by the Labor faction.
9. August 31, 2010 - Ruffey Lake Tea Rooms
With deputy mayor Fred Chuah absent, the mayor initially used his casting vote to break a 4-4 deadlock and reject the officer recommendation to pursue a feasibility study into the Ruffey Lake tea rooms. Meg Downie's controversial councillor resolution was then deferred to the next meeting so the absent Cr Chuah could vote. See agenda and edited audio highlights.
8. June 29, 2010 - Finance Committee
Graeme MacMillan's two pet topics were to attack council's nursing home and call in accountants to review everything. This 5 hour meeting included a very long debate on Cr MacMillan's proposal for a separate Finance & Governance Committee to be chaired by him. The officer recommendation to retain the status quo of regular Special Briefing Sessions (SBS) was rejected 5-4 along factional lines but then the councillor recommendation to proceed with a finance committee was deferred after an intense and spiteful debate. See agenda and edited audio highlights.
7. March 30, 2010 - On Luck Nursing Home
This 5 hour meeting was dominated by a spiteful 3 hours of debate after the Planning Minister intervened to allow the nursing home in the green wedge chaired by deputy mayor Fred Chuah to be tripled in size. See agenda and edited audio highlights.
6. February 2, 2010 - Franklin St unit development
The 4 hour and 20 minute meeting included the gang of five rejecting a modest 9 unit development in Franklin St behind a supermarket. It was defeated 5-4 despite a recommendation by the officers. VCAT approved it as expected and ratepayers wasted about $10,000 on the exercise.
5. December 15, 2009 - Hostile MCA audit
The 4 hour meeting was dominated by a proposed hostile audit of council's own nursing home which was endorsed 5-4 against the advice of officers. See agenda and edited audio highlights.
4. December 7, 2009 - mayoral vote
No officer recommendation but was 5-4 vote in favour of mayor Pick along the usual factional lines. Whilst not formally taken, the vote for the deputy mayor would have been the same.
3. October 27, 2009 - logging in catchments
The only contentious item saw a David Ellis motion about logging in catchments get defeated 5-4. There was no officer recommendation as such. See agenda and edited audio highlights.
2. September 29, 2009 - the Kiwanis raffle
What was expected to be a ho hum item recommended by the officers turned into a 4-4 deadlock with Fred Chuah out due to a conflict of interest. The mayor voted to end the raffle but then used his casting vote to allow it to continue. See agenda and edited audio highlights.
1. April 28, 2009: Without any prior consultation, the gang of five pushed through an amendment to the proposed indigenous policy which changed it to flying the Aboriginal flag permanently at the council officers. Cr Ellis was away and a procedural motion was forced through 5-3 to put the vote and then the substantive motion was passed 5-3 as well. I very much appreciated the symbolism at the flag raising ceremony and would vote differently today, but resented the complete failure to consult by the gang of five.
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