Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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HomeIssue 4Mayor Ryan set to run and win?

Mayor Ryan set to run and win?


Mayor Damien Ryan seems to have given his clearest indication yet that he will contest this year’s local government election.

Last Monday it was announced that he has accepted appointment as the LGANT representative on the NT Heritage Council. LGANT is the Local Government Association of the NT.

The Heritage Council appointments are for three years and the Alice Springs News has confirmed through Minister Chansey Paech’s office that this is the case for Mayor Ryan.

So, having been defeated at the NT polls – as a CLP candidate losing narrowly to Robyn Lambley in Araluen – it appears he not only intends to run, but is confident of winning a fourth term as mayor.

He has not replied to the invitation to comment from the Alice Springs News.

The Heritage Council provides advice to the NT Government on matters affecting the Territory’s cultural and natural heritage.

Of its 11 members, 10 are appointed by the Minister, and one is the nominee of the Chief Executive of Territory Families, Housing and Communities.

Apart from Mayor Ryan, the other appointments nominated by organisations are  Grace Foulds (National Trust), Robert Pocock (Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority), and Seraphine Bray (Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT).

Following an expression of interest process, the Minister’s appointments are Allan McGill AM (reappointed as chair), Stephen Ashford, Katy Moir, Tom Pauling AO QC, Rachel Perkins and Randle Walker.

Dr Ilka Schacht was chosen by the Chief Executive of Territory Families, Housing and Communities as his representative on the council.


Photo at top: Mayor Ryan in 2014’s Bangtail Muster. From our archive.


  1. Ryan has exposed himself as yet another (unsuccessful) CLP hack.
    And increasingly out of touch with the people of Alice.
    Bow out gracefully Damien, or the people will give you the flick.

  2. Mr Ryan probably will be re-elected as Mayor. But I hope there will be a big enough vote against him to send a clear message that not all ratepayers are happy with the lack of accountability of the ASTC.
    I was recently in a conversation with Manager of Infrastructure who informed me that he is responsible for road verges and he doesn’t care what the ASTC regulations on verges are. He decides!
    Nor does he care about written agreements struck with the ASTC via the NT Ombudsman. “The NT Ombudsman has no jurisdiction.”
    There is no point complaining to CEO Jennings because all such matters are ‘operational’, meaning confidential.
    Under Mayor Ryan we have reached a situation where managers at the Council have unprecedented power and there is no recourse.
    Nor do they always seek the approval of our elected representatives.
    Looking back to the solar powered streetlights in Hartley Street – the matter had not even come before councillors.
    Was this an operational matter?
    How did this ‘operational’ secrecy provision creep into our town council?
    Why have our elected representatives allowed this?
    For some managers, like the recently departed Kevin Everett, with good listening and negotiating skills, the lack of accountability hardly seemed to matter. Kevin would always make a fair decision.
    But accountability should not rest with the hope that reasonable, fair-minded people will be in the decision-making roles.
    And being unaccountable isn’t good for shaping managerial behaviour.
    The lack of accountability is now a structural problem.
    This has all happened by stealth, right under the noses of our elected representatives on the Council, or perhaps with the complicity of some?
    I sense that Mayor Ryan feels secure enough in his position to not be at all concerned about ratepayers whinging about ASTC decisions and the lack of accountability.
    He appears to brush off community backlash as a trifle, a mere annoyance.
    In this upcoming election I do hope he gets the message that the ASTC must be responsible to ratepayers.

  3. @ Ralph Folds. You make some disturbing points that ring all too true to me.
    ASTC managers are actually not above the Council by-laws.
    They are supposed to be implementing them rather than making them up as they go.
    As for the NT Ombudsman not having jurisdiction, they most certainly do.
    These are serious issues you raise.
    Unfortunately, the ASTC does not seem able to get its own house in order.
    Makes you wonder what the financial costs of dysfunction are, that we ratepayers fund.
    I suspect that a candidate with courage and a platform of making the ASTC accountable and transparent, probably starting with a full independent review, would do rather well against Damien Ryan.

  4. A long time ago, during the supposedly bad old days of Commonwealth control, Alice Springs (and the rest of the NT except Darwin) enjoyed a far superior model for the provision of municipal services.
    These services were provided by the Municipal Branch of the NT Administration with senior officers appointed to oversee the branch functions of each major town.
    Contrary to the self-serving propaganda of NT self-government we’ve been subjected to for decades, this model of governance across the NT worked extremely well – in fact, it’s never been bettered.
    Far from being disregarded by remote Canberra control, the NT Administration was remarkably responsive to the requirements and demands of Territory citizens – most certainly as far as Alice Springs was concerned, at any rate.
    My ongoing review of recent Territory history indicates that we’re never satisfied with contemporary circumstances at any given point of time, that we’re always seeing the grass is greener over the other side of the fence.
    That was certainly the case half a century or so ago when in reality most people at the time failed to appreciate how well the Territory was managed under Commonwealth control.
    It’s only now after several decades of self-government, when both local and Territory tiers of government are increasingly proving dysfunctional, that it’s clear to see we took a seriously wrong turn in governance and administration all those years ago.
    The Northern Territory today is the living embodiment of the sage old warning: Be careful what you pray for, as God may grant you what you wish.

  5. Commenting as a ratepayer, I wish to thank you Ralph for your very considered and thought provoking comments. You mention at one point that the lack of accountability has “all happened by stealth”. An interesting observation!
    Being too long in a role can lead to ‘friendship complicity’ and the “operational” responses we are expected to accept may just be another way of simply covering up.
    Then there is the entrenched culture of nepotism among certain groups in this town, which is frequently evident in regional centres.
    The alleged incident as reported by Ralph, showing such disregard for “all authorities” demonstrates the lack of accountability at Alice Springs Town Council and for those who are less inclined to stir the pot and just get on with life, irrespective of this manifest lack of accountability, it is still incomprehensible.
    Commentaries following on from this article raise awareness but unfortunately, only to those who are familiar with the Alice Springs News online, who see benefit in them.
    So c’mon Erwin and Kieran, get our top local news (online) outlet out there for the WHOLE community to get benefit from.
    What about an Alice Springs News bar-b-que on the council lawns or maybe an Alice Springs News get-together at a chosen venue.
    After all, certain power brokers, as I read it, avoid providing you with the factual news information and partake in isolating you as a local business entity from advertising what the locals would benefit most from, employment opportunities.
    Who knows, maybe even the NT Ombudsman would benefit, if not already!

  6. It is time for Mayor and Councillors to have performance measurements for values, goals, targets, competencies and behaviour like in any work place
    The Council is employed by the ratepayers, like it or not they have the same duties and responsibilities than any “normal” worker.
    We are the owner of the “business”. The buck stops with us.
    Employees (even good ones) tend to focus on the here and now we need a Council that focuses ahead.
    Employees avoid risk. Process is risk taking. Great. Unforeseen opportunities often come from risk-taking.
    To paraphrase Lenin, a strategy without measurement is blind; measurement that is not anchored to strategy is arbitrary.
    The Mayor, in communication with the CEO, needs to put community needs and priorities first, and have the council operations worked around addressing those needs.
    I do not want to hear how many meetings they have attended, but the results of those attendances.

  7. @ Relieved: We’re glad you see the clear benefit of our reportage and thank you for your frequent comments.
    You raise what you see as the need to get the Alice Springs News out to “the WHOLE community”. After more than a quarter of a century of local publishing and marking this year a decade of publishing online, the News is well entrenched in the community. This is supported by a range of evidence: the speed with which reports are responded to, the debates they stimulate, the follow-up by other news organisations and of course our readership statistics provided by Google Analytics over which we have no influence.
    Last year, as we started a substantial upgrade to the appearance of the News, we had per month just under 24,000 individual readers who made more than 188,000 page views.
    The current readership statistics are still adjusting to the new site as they climb back to the historic heights: Over the past two months reader numbers increased from 12,000 to 18,000 and the page views from 49,000 to 82,000.
    We’d be pleased to attend any barbecue or get-together you or others may care to organise. Meanwhile, we’ll keep our heads down, doing the reporting that has made our reputation as a fearless independent source of local news.

  8. Is it true or just rumor that Ryan’s armed stormtroopers will attend the poling booths to ensure re-election?

  9. An important tool of Nazi terror was the Protective Squad (Schutzstaffel), or SS, which began as a special guard for Adolf Hitler and other party leaders. The Alice Springs Town Council has now its own SS (storm squad) this could bring back a lot of bad memories for some of us.

  10. As I have said before: Damien may well be our town’s longest serving mayor, but I’d argue that he has also holds the record for having achieved the least in progressing the town.
    Can anyone say that today’s Alice is better than the town which Damien inherited all those years ago? Time for change, I say.

  11. How many terms can a mayor serve?
    As the Council increasingly seems to be modelling itself on totalitarian regimes, can we look forward to Damien Ryan arranging to become “mayor-for-life” along the lines of Vladimir Putin and Deng Xiaoping?
    The attitude certainly seems to be there, that of “Daddy knows best” and loyal henchmen making decisions “because I say so”, with no explanation rationale or appeal.
    “First they came for the tree-planters.”

  12. Yes Frank and Alex: First they came for the tee trees and I did not speak out — because I was not a nature lover.
    Then they came for the hills climbers, and I did not speak out — because I was not a bush walker.
    Then they came for the outspoken, and I did not speak out — because I did not have an activist voice.
    Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

  13. I was once at Council. The previous CEO would stamp out innovation, effective leadership and efficiency measures in favour of double handling, lackadaisical application and limited commitment – it was a dreary place to be.
    It required modernisation, positive energy and new blood. The current CEO came in but didn’t have the leadership skills to address the needs of the workforce and the rebuilding task at hand. Now he has blocked transparent review of his team’s actions due to the internal mess brewing.
    A community leader who promises to modernise, review and improve the mental and physical health of the employees of Council has my vote.
    Damien is a good operator and get things done if there is something in it for him or his family, sneaky and easily bends any situation in his favour.
    Is he to be trusted? Your call.
    He is very clever, well read and able to articulate his position. He is well versed in playing off his competitors against each other and he often wins the battle.
    It’s time we found someone from the other side of town – energetic, healthy, genuine and in touch with a modern progressive outcome based plan.

  14. Damien, just remember that the Boss is always the dumbest p**** on the job. As for Charlie Carter, just another drop kick ex public servant.

  15. Old Manager, you are so on the money.
    By the sounds of it, you may have had a gut full but, not before you got to work out the dumb from the dumbest!
    Yes, those you refer to may have believed they were the chosen few but, like everything else in life, when it comes your time to go and the encore is finished, wouldn’t it be nice to be still remembered for the good things you did.
    I believe there is still time for the new CEO to redeem himself (he certainly would have reams of exit reports to inform him) and as you so aptly suggest regarding new blood at council, he could reflect on a healthy and genuine way of transparency and keeping in touch with the community, devoid of the would be party apparatchiks who care more about how they come across at council irrespective of the community they all represent. Party politics is not what we want at council.
    I believe a politician in the Federal government this week said, in regards to being informed of the alleged rape of a young staffer, that he didn’t inform the PM because it was an “operational matter”. Says it all about operational matters!
    Is this where we are going? I hope not.

  16. @ Old Manager and Relieved
    The Council has an old guard of long-term managerial staff.
    Of course, they strongly support “operational silence” because it stops criticism of their actions.
    They would say it gives them the space to get on with their jobs.
    To be blunt, it does not appear that the amicable CEO Jennings is really a match for the old hands at the Council.
    The old guard have a lot of power to do things without being held accountable to the CEO, Mayor or elected members.
    The solar lights, the dangerous parks, storming Cassia Ct are just a few recent examples.
    Operational silence also suits Mayor Ryan who enjoys power without close scrutiny.
    Boycotting this medium, the only one that publishes critical comments, is one example.
    Councillors just fall into line.
    None have been willing to consistently stand up and be counted when issues of Council transparency and accountability to ratepayers arise.
    I’m not convinced that the Council can modernise itself.
    It would need to have an administrator appointed to force through the changes.
    But I will not vote for Mr Ryan.

  17. Is our Town Council under Mayor Ryan’s leadership a little too cavalier when it comes to our all important relationship with the Gunner Government?
    As we all know, the ASTC is already at war with the NT Government over the potential acquisition of the Anzac Oval to host the art gallery.
    But now we have a credible claim that the ASTC has ripped up an agreement with the NT Ombudsman over trees in Cassia Ct.
    It appears that a council manager has denied that the NT Ombudsman has jurisdiction.
    These are fighting words we can all do without.
    Our town’s relationship with the government of the day is important and the ASTC represents us.
    These fights with the ALP Government are especially poor optics given that Mayor Ryan is a CLP supporter, having just represented the CLP in an election.


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