THE council minutes show how we voted but they can’t note the tears and cheers. It’s a small community, our Bass Coast. We know one another, or know of one another. Three degrees of separation and councillors vow to act in the best interests of the shire. The whole shire. We need to commit to plans and projects that will benefit our community, while balancing the budget, but how many hearts do you have to break in one night? Can you put a number to that?
Go to the link, read it and weep, as they say. Reports and recommendations can list the facts. Motions to support retention of paper bills and consider recycled plastic benches bear my name. In a shire so poorly served by the NBN and so reliant on the environment, they were quick and easy decisions. “Unanimous” proudly underlines many motions in those 151 pages. The telling parts are the votes that split.
Community groups, individuals, council staff, put everything into projects like the Blade Park or a highball stadium. Days and weeks of planning, meeting or petitioning for the benefit of all of us. How many Saturday morning fundraisers? So much effort goes into applying for grants. The costs are high, in money and often unrewarded effort.
Competitive tendering pits council against council and grants are often leveraged – they might give us dollar for dollar or better. "Give" is the gentlest verb I can think of here. They might not grant us anything. This year there is a pool of $4 million dollars for grants for libraries – across the entire state. As well as a great library, everyone deserves to live on a bitumen road. To convert the 120 kilometres of our township dirt roads would cost at least $150 million. More than double our annual budget for everything.
So the procedural items and the consensus votes pass. Then we get to the highball stadium. Those minutes show the vote went 5-4 and I was one of the five against. Sport means so much to this shire and it teaches us to aspire. I feel like I let the team down and I don't need Facebook to remind me. I have run into a lot of people since that meeting. A few, just a few, hate me, really hate me - though many reckon it was the right thing. Running 70-30 in favour at the moment but you can’t govern by plebiscite.
And that beautifully ambitious blade park – a potential tourist icon. The vote was 6-3. The minutes show I was one of the six who voted not to proceed with it. In fact I love the idea of the blade park but don't think it benefits the whole shire by being placed in Wonny. So many towns across the shire lack even basic playground facilities. You know, there isn't a playground in Dalyston - where do all those parents go with their toddlers? Grantville has a playground that still needs a fence around it to stop the kids running onto the highway. How about putting the blades at Grantville, the gateway to Bass Coast? The highway at Jam Jerrup is where the shire and the ward actually start.
And then there is the Inverloch tip, oops, transfer station and closed landfill. You don't often get a chance to rewrite history. How much anger did that generate and was the closure premature, at least? That 8-1 vote to retain it nearly got a standing ovation. Sometimes it is all about roads, rates and rubbish. The petition that sought the stay of execution lists people across the shire eager to keep this icon open as the housing estates encroach and the wildlife looks on enviously. Interesting that it includes a lot of names from the Island. And given that Grantville has no supermarket but the best tip in the shire, you might wonder why people from The Waterline communities signed a petition to keep the Inverloch tip open. Its a broad community.
The local press freely publishes letters and comments from readers. Geoff Ellis, Wattle Bank was always happy to post two bob’s worth into the debate. Even had a Muppet moment as I whinged from the back row in the council gallery. Lots of people smirked along with me, an unemployed farm labourer and former union delegate, sitting in judgement of the great and gallant. Now, as one of nine, I make choices that will affect people for a generation and it's my fellow benchwarmers’ turn to judge me.
There's only three years and two months till the next council caretaker period. Then I can sit back, blessed with 2020 hindsight, as would-bes and could-bes and should-bes jostle for nine seats in the chamber. I'll be up here in the hills, putting a number to the precious moments when there are no angry messages left to answer.
* Recently I was criticised for saying "2% rate cap" when it is actually a "cap of 2% on rate increases". My friend told me he would be happy to cap his rates at 2%. You have to laugh, sometimes.