By ERWIN CHLANDA
If the council election ends as it started yesterday with the primary vote count, Alice Springs may well be looking forward to breaking with 10 years of stagnation – a fantastic opportunity.
The people are gone who, while rarely making a mark with their own initiatives, time and again cynically used their five to four vote majority in the chamber to block the initiatives of others.
Mayor Damien Ryan is to try his hand in Federal politics, contesting Lingiari for the CLP.
Mayoral contender Matt Paterson yesterday with a hands-on demonstration of electoral rolls.
His anointed successor Jamie de Brenni, CLP president, pulled out of the council race.
Jacinta Price will be inflicting her half-baked ideas on the Senate.
Tag-along councillor Glen Auricht didn’t stand again.
As far as frequent fifth vote provider Matt Paterson is concerned, he nominated for Mayor only this time, not councillor, after serving just one term, but may have miscalculated: Jimmy Cocking has his neck in front in the mayoral race – on Saturday’s last count by some 600 votes.
Demonstrating his commitment to remaining in local government, he nominated for councillor as well and top scored, his somewhat general platform notwithstanding.
Staying in front depends on the distribution of preferences, of course.
As the votes to be distributed from other candidates are close, it could be that candidate Melky’s 1832 votes will need to be allocated.
Should they all go to Mr Paterson, as Mr Melky’s how-to-vote-card suggests, Mr Cocking could be in trouble. (On the other hand, should Mr Melky pick up a lot of second preferences he could become a contender.)
The Mayor, a full-time salaried position with built-in opportunities to interact with all segments of the community, has a unique opportunity to lead, but must take council with them.
In the chamber the vote of the Mayor is not worth more than the vote of a councillor (except on the very rare occasions of using their casting vote).
Looking at front runners in Saturday’s field of potential councillors, Mr Cocking as Mayor, with undoubtedly a progressive agenda, could well have the support of six or even seven votes.
The success of women candidates will be critical to this. Their primary votes are disappointing – it seems Alice Springs women have not solidly backed women in their number one choice – but preferences could get some or all of them across the line, the front runners being Marli Banks, Emily Webster, Allison Bitar and Kim Hopper.
Amongst the men, Eli Melky (10 and a half years on the council) and Mark Coffey have each scored more than a thousand primary votes and look assured of a seat in the chamber. First timer candidate Michael Liddle and former councillor Steve Brown are the next highest scorers.
Mr Coffey and Mr Brown are firm conservatives, while Mr Melky has shown himself to be swinging voter, and my expectation is that Mr Liddle would be also.
Mr Cocking turned the Arid Lands Environment Centre into an influential community force.
He helped set up the blossoming community garden in Eastside, now followed by a second one in Gillen. He performed diligently during his four years as a town councillor. Is involved in the supra-regional 10 Deserts organisation. Cut off his dreadlocks and auctioned them.
He is one of the key figures behind the highly successful Wide Open Spaces festival at Ross River.
Not doing things by halves, he resigned his ALEC job to devote himself entirely to the campaign.
There is also a troubling aspect to the primary results in this election:-
The top five candidates are blokes – in a year when the issue of representation by women in government has been in the national spotlight.
Kim Hopper’s voter survey, attracting more than 250 answers, provided an important contribution to the available facts. She is running 9th in the primary count (before preferences) and may miss out on a seat in the chamber.
We’ll know about this and more when the preferences are distributed in a few days, and the winners are announced.
PHOTO at top: The main polling booth yesterday – no big rush as 5276 early votes had already been cast. Total enrolment is 15,756 but participation is usually poor.