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.
3/3/2017 02:54:43 amGeoff so very well written, much easier looking from the outside in.......but hey, we are privileged to be representing the community to the best of our abilities. We have got a few things right.
3/4/2017 03:45:20 amMuch appreciated Brett and I totally agree.
3/3/2017 07:59:26 pmWell done councillor. So good to get a first hand account from an insider. Do hope there will be progressive reports during your term and that we also hear from your fellow councillors as to their thoughts and aspirations..
3/4/2017 12:42:10 pmThanks Bob, much appreciated!
You get to see us in action every day; We are out there. And the council meetings are being held in more towns this year - As well as Cowes and Wonthaggi there will be a meeting in Inverloch and, on August 16 GRANTVILLE HALL will host a meeting.
And don't forget the Community Connection session on the Wednesday prior to each council meeting, a great opportunity for groups and individuals to share their ideas with councillors. Further details at www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/.
3/3/2017 09:08:56 pmCongratulations Geoff ..... an excellent insight into the present Council. It is so refreshing to read and hear your thoughts regarding some very controversial decisions that have been taken in recent times. I stand and applaud the Council's consultative approach and the boldness in making decisions that are unpopular for some but as has been demonstrated recently, supported by a large number in the community.
3/4/2017 12:56:07 pmThank you Joy, your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Those minutes also list SOME of the community groups that councillors have met with during that month.
That records one aspect of our commitment to community consultation and connection - sorry about the alliteration but this is a pre-coffee comment - and to support individuals and groups who passionately and tirelessly donate so much of their time to benefit people across the shire.
3/3/2017 11:36:16 pmI reckon you're a brave person Geoff - both for taking on the responsibilities that come with being a councilllor as well as writing your impressions for us all to see. Both will get you brick bats no doubt, but hey not from me! I hear your empathy and heart ache about those broken hearts in which some of your votes resulted. And we all know that's inevitable when there's a limited amount of money to share out - just like most of our households really.
Then there are those poorest of the poor people who live in poverty on less that A$2 a day with no Centrelink support. These are the just under a billion people on our planet who have no access to basic services like education, fresh water, health care and sanitation. They are the ones that break my heart - it's just luck that I'm not one of them.
So thank you Geoff and all the other councillors for doing their difficult work keeping our 'basic services' running - and then providing extras to make us even happier!
3/4/2017 12:27:18 pmThanks Sue, more honest and open than brave! And its easy to share my thoughts and opinions with such a great community.
That's the massive upside of my role, every day I meet brilliant people doing great things. I wish that I could list them all and there are so many groups across this shire quietly working for the good of the community. It's to help them build on what's strong.
And as well as great people we have such a beautiful shire. It really is a privilege and pleasure to represent the people of Bass Coast. Everyday.
3/4/2017 08:35:47 pmGeoff, It's all about running a business, that's the role you have taken on and worked hard to win.
When you run a business you are more than aware your decisions affect everybody you employ , often their extended family and you can also impact the lives of both your customers and suppliers but the task is to do the job to the best of your ability, if your looking over your shoulder or trying to please al the people all the time you are not the person to be doing the job and will fail.
In the end in any job your not the person who decides if your the best person for that job its somebody else. Be true to yourself and be well prepared and present your views and beliefs. Unless your names Rupert Murdoch you have to accept that if the management group decide something you don't agree with the whole group is locked into supporting that decision and get on with implementation of that decision. Next time your idea might be supported by majority then you would expect support from the rest of the group. That applies in business and Council is a business.
3/4/2017 11:39:27 pmThanks Christopher, I appreciate your advice.
3/7/2017 02:22:53 amI realise that it is impolite to double dip and thankfully, I am as far removed from ex-comrade Rupert as possible. A freelance writer and photographer in the dairy industry, I make my own business decisions.
In my meanderings between farms across Gippsland I study the merit of all manner of business models - from families earning a living from 200 hand raised cattle to multimillion dollar high tech corporate enterprises and, my observations confirm that hard work, a collegiate approach with the best advisors and good judgement are the keys to sustainability.
3/5/2017 02:04:01 amGeoff, I love your writing, your honesty and your ethics - I love working with you. You have so much to contribute.
3/5/2017 02:28:00 amThanks Pam, much appreciated and trying not to blush! It's great to part of such a talented and dynamic team under your tireless and inspiring leadership.
And, if I do say so myself, isn't this a great example of our approach to transparency and openness?
3/7/2017 10:26:20 pmThank you Geoff for sharing your story. Now you have an idea what the previous councillors were subjected to under difficult circumstances, trying to please everyone. It is also warming to see councillors supporting one another, a crucial requirement of any smoothe running team. Having said that, could we have a little less self congratulation. Evaluation of performance is perhaps best left to non elected ratepayers, and as you pointed out, your term in office is still in its very early days. The kind of transparency ratepayers require is to keep being informed of council decisions and the relevant details associated with any moves the council makes. Eg. When it is announced that a report is being prepared for council, we need to know who is preparing it, and at what cost. Consultancy was a major criticism of the last council.
To all the new councillors, keep up the cohesion in the midst of vigorous debate. Good luck, and may your term continue to expand you.
P.s. If you can get hold of a copy of the grade three reader from the 1960's entitled "among friends", there's a story called "trying to please everyone". It's such a good yarn, they used to tell it to 8 year old children. Keep up the good work. While you process the hate, remember those who admire you for all the right reasons.
3/13/2017 06:01:53 pmThanks John,
I'll take your comments on board - much appreciated.