The Giles government hanging by a thread and the town being far from assertive, northern development is off to a hesitant start. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. PHOTO: Alice Mayor Damien Ryan (left) and Chief Minister Adam Giles at Friday's information session in Alice Springs.
A stance on proposed changes to racial vilification laws, approving $25,000 for a master plan for public arts such as the Gathering Garden (pictured) and Cr Melky being coy about a motion of confidence in the Mayor – all in a night's work for the town council. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
The Alice Springs Town Council's elected members are split about whether the public should have access to statements by them and their senior staff about "pecuniary and other interests". ERWIN CHLANDA reports
Does Mayor Damien Ryan have conflicts of interests with the large number of positions he holds outside of his Town Council position? Do these jobs take up too much time, detracting from his mayoral duties for which he earns $100,000 a year? And do the fees he gets for these outside positions create obligations for him that may not be in the interest of the town and the ratepayer?ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
ABOVE: Room half full or half empty – the small turn-out for the mayoral Q&A suggests the town's flagging interest in all the talk. A few more than shown did arrive. Councillor candidate Matthew Campbell in the front row is not sleeping – in fact he was the first to arrive – we just caught him during a blink. BELOW RIGHT: Mayor Ryan and challengers (from left) Steve Brown, Eli Melky, Samih Habib Bitar, Dave Douglas.
Alice seems to be getting sick of talking. Last night's mayoral candidate question & answer session was a lacklustre affair and poorly attended. If candidates' family and friends, councillor candidates and media had been removed, the Andy McNeill Room would have been three-quarters empty.
The five candidates outlined their campaign message with no surprises. Steve Brown, candidate for mayor and councillor, was the one to come closest to making an speech intended to inspire, nominating the town's biggest single issue as "social inclusion" – a term usually coming from those who would count themselves as his opponents .
To offer residents of remote communities and town camps a way into our community is the "burning issue" for Alice Springs, he said.
Mayor Damien Ryan in his five minutes said creating community events makes the community more "inclusive", and that council is not given enough credit for its program of events. In its next term council should work on having more, he said. In collaboration with Indigenous elders they could include a biennial desert festival, which could be taken to world tourism markets.
The biggest round of applause for the night was reserved for Kate McMasters, a teacher and 5th generation Territorian, speaking from the floor. She said teachers must deal with negative behaviour in the classroom quickly and firmly, but their focus remains on positive behaviour, building it up with endless feedback. She urged candidates in tackling the issues to start with positive as "it's poisonous out there at the moment". KIERAN FINNANE reports on the mayoral candidates' Q & A.
Mayor of Alice Springs Damien Ryan has only served one term and has time on his side for a return to office in the March elections. Only once in the 41 year history of the Alice Springs Town Council has an incumbent mayor been defeated. That was in 1992 when the former Assistant Commissioner of the NT Police Andy McNeill unseated Mayor Leslie Oldfield, who had campaigned on her impressive track record but offered no new policies. This unique event is analysed for the lessons it may have for the current mayoral contest by long-time observer of Alice Springs and NT politics, ALEX NELSON.
In a process that began with the Planning for the Future forum in June 2008, the (hopefully) final consultation phase has arrived: the Town Council has put on display for public comment the proposed plans, although they have already selected the projects they want to implement with the $5m allocated by the NT Government.
Says Mayor Damien Ryan: “Because much of the plans involves public places we really wanted to get the whole community’s views on this. It’s an opportunity to literally help shape Alice Springs! So if you have some constructive comments on the plans, we’re eager to hear them.”
And if the public doesn't like what they see or proposes something quite different, what then? Back to the drawing board? That seems unlikely, so why doesn't council simply get on with it? – Kieran Finnane
The plans can be viewed at the Civic Centre or via council’s website. For full details go to the connecting @lice site.
All submissions must be made in writing, addressed to the Alice Springs Town Council - Chief Executive Officer, PO Box 1071 Alice Springs, NT 0871 by COB Friday 11 November 2011.
UPDATE: Realistically, revitalisation works could begin in Todd Mall by the middle of next year, says Town Council CEO Rex Mooney. Responses from the public to the current consultation will be considered by Council possibly at its November 28 meeting and if not, on December 12.
Council's decision to call for further public comment is in line with its public consultation policy, says Mr Mooney. He acknowledges that there has been consultation on the proposals but says when that happened Council had not yet indicated its priorities for implementation – that is, to open the northern end of Todd Mall to traffic and to develop the 'biodiversity corridor' in Parsons Street. (See Mike Gillam's creative brief for Parsons Street, this issue.)