By ERWIN CHLANDA
Vocal law and order campaigner Steve Brown (pictured) is standing for Mayor and Alderman in the town council elections on March 24, although he says he will be “facing an uphill battle” against the “firmly entrenched incumbent,” Damien Ryan.
Mr Brown says he would bring a “much more vigorous approach” to the position: “Damien’s embrace of the NT Labor Government’s policies and his willingness to take up offered positions on every board and committee that came his way has often left him obligated and somewhat compromised, and the council in a position of being unable to criticise when criticism was absolutely due.”
He says he will not accept membership of “any committees or bodies or boards not directly associated with the operation of the Alice Springs Town Council”.
Mr Brown says if elected he would have a pro-growth “corporate Alice” approach, running the town as a successful business, aiming at attracting more permanent workers and giving incentives to business.
“We are in direct competition with other towns for tourists, workers and new business,” says Mr Brown.
“If we want to be successful, especially given our isolation and at times harsh environment, we simply must have more to offer.”
Mr Brown says he will be promoting a string of initiatives. He says some may not be directly within the council’s power, but the council can be a powerful advocate for the town, putting pressure on the government to implement these measures:-
• A government funded low cost housing scheme allowing tenants to purchase their rental house or unit at cost after five years, automatically qualifying for a NT Housing Loan with rental payments.
• Simplifying and fast-tracking the town planning processes with government assistance to developers.
• A development fund for entrepreneurs.
• Picking up the opportunities “that saw us promoted as one of Australia’s leading potential growth towns” and returning Alice to “the vigorous ‘can do’ approach of the ’70s.
• Return government departments in Alice and provide top-level advice.
• Re-define the privileges of local contractors to give them greater priority in the awarding of contracts.
• Take SIHIP out of the hands of the Alliance group giving local contractors a chance to directly tender for the works.
• Attract new airlines to Alice.
• Get facilities up to scratch and roll back the “nanny state approach” in national parks where “roads, park trails, facilities and climbs have been closed for the most trivial of reasons, along with unnecessary and often race based exclusions in complete disregard of the wants of our paying visitors”.
He will also work to:-
• use the “enormous lobbying power of the council in this election year” to the benefit of the town.
• involve the council as investor or facilitator in projects such as the Melanka site and possibly as a developer in the new Kilgariff suburb.
Mr Brown says: “What my wagon is selling are hope, inclusion, equality and opportunity tinged with a good smattering of common sense.
“Partially as a result of the world’s financial crisis, but absolutely as a result of the sheer and utter neglect of our region by the NT Government, we have a rapidly escalating crisis in business confidence, escalating closures, staff and old time locals leaving town, declining property values, dropping tourism numbers – all at a rate well above the national levels.”
Mr Brown, an electrician by trade and a member of the pioneering Brown family settled in the semi-rural White Gums area, has played a leading role in recent law and order campaigns and in the business pressure group, Action for Alice.
He says this has prompted the government to make the changes “which this year – touch wood – seem to be having some effect, but there is absolutely no point in solving that crisis if we then allow our town to slide backwards to becoming an under-serviced, welfare driven backwater.
“The fundamentals of our town’s economy haven’t changed.
“Alice is still a place of enormous promise and opportunity.”
MELKY STILL UNDECIDED, BUT AGITATING
Meanwhile Alderman Eli Melky, while still not declaring his hand for the coming elections, continues his attack on the actions of the current council.
He has given notice that at council’s committee meeting next Monday he will put a motion to abolish council’s “Removal of graffiti” by-law, which places the onus of removal on property-owners.
Says Ald Melky: “It is my view that the by-law to penalise the property owner, who is the victim of a graffiti attack, for non-removal of graffiti from their property, infringes one or more principles of the Local Government Act.
“[For example] a by-law must not infringe personal rights in an unreasonable way or to an unreasonable extent and should be consistent with other legislation applying in the council’s area.
“The Act also suggests that a by-law should not impose unreasonable burdens on the community.
“However the principle that I believe most strikes the message is that a by-law should be consistent with basic principles of justice and fairness.
“I think a property owner who has just had his / her property damaged by graffiti should not suffer further costs or the indignity of being treated as an offender by the council.
“Since the introduction of this by-law on February 1 2010, graffiti in the town has increased tenfold and is now spiralling out of control.
“Council has a role in this: we need to act fast and put in a removal of graffiti plan with an objective to remove graffiti within 24 hours of it going up. Graffiti feeds off itself as a self-promotion of anti social activity and is not the fault of the property owner.”
ED: See also Paul Lelliott’s comment on the story “Challenger for mayoral contest?”
By ERWIN CHLANDA