Monday 15 September 2008

I was elected to lead, not to read

This morning, Mayor Val Schier responded to the open letter to her about the action required to save the Cairns Yacht Club building.

I was, to say the least, disappointed.
  • "You gravely over-estimate the power of the Council and of myself!

    When none of the local state representatives, or all the protests over the years and recently, have been able to change the mind of Cairns Ports or the government, it is very surprising that you think that this new Council and I are going to be able to turn decisions around.

    I will do my best. Val”

Bryan Law, who wrote to the Mayor, says he's happy with this response as an 'acknowledgement of responsibility'.

However, like me, he's concerned about a level of hopelessness and uncertainty over the Mayor's reply. "It’s a good thing she has the support of the community on this," Bryan Law says.

And indeed she does. She also has the will of the people. 10,000 of them signed a petition, the third such petition in five years. This is, and could be, a defining moment in her mayoralty.

Mayors should not be seen as 'just one vote'. They need to be a skilled negotiator. They need to be able to advocate and represent. That is why they are elected.

For Val to suggest that we over-estimate the power of the Council of the Mayor's role, is mis-guided. A Mayor commands attention. A Mayor can lead debate and influence thinking. She can also persuade and get the undivided attention of the Premier.

Her Council has now twice resolved that they want the Cairns Yacht Club building to remain and be preserved and enhanced. It is time for her to speak loudly and passionately and demand the State Government heal to the wishes of the Cairns community.

We expect nothing more. We expect nothing less.

Bryan Law points out that the community now urgently needs to help the Mayor to optimise exploitation of the current opportunity that presents itself. A meeting with the Premier, Anna Bligh and the community should now occur without delay. This would also involve other groups like tourism, business and community organisations.

I know this is a difficult issue for Mayor Schier. I'm sure Val would rather this be a decision of the past and not bother her. However, sticky issues like this are part of her role as the city's chief negotiator.

The retention of the old Yacht Club building has a complex and long history. However, saving it is a win win for everyone. The building is retained and integrated into the City Port development. This is do-able. Our Mayor can, and should be our chief king player.

Val needs to pick up the phone, put aside her Labor pressures from Desley et all, and say... "Anna, we have a problem. You need to listen to my community. They are very upset on this issue of the Cairns Yacht Club building. We can make this happen for us all, and still move ahead with the primary aims of the CityPort Development."

Regardless of what's gone on in the past, while the building still stands on the site, as it has for over 100 years, we owe it to our community and those that have gone before, to retain this piece of our social and marine history.

Val needs to communicate to Anna Bligh, in no uncertain terms, that this issue is seriously damaging the Labor State Government, and their many local Labor members. This is a decision that can be accommodated. Val will be a true community hero, if she negotiates this with the State Government. She will also show defining leadership, that the past bulldozing decisions were wrong, and have not respected the will of the community - the custodians of our town, and those that are to live here and enjoy our waterfront for years to come.

Any Simpson's fan, who watched their landmark silly movie will remember President Schwarzenegger who was presented with five options to save Springfield. He dumbfoundedly said he was 'elected to led, not to read'. Mayor Schier is also presented with a similar dilemma. We expect her to lead on this issue.

And she is not 'just one vote' any longer. She has the vote of the Council to pursue this matter at State level. The Cairns Regional Council, in a majority decision, has voted to stop the current plans that Cairns Ports are hell bent on doing. The will of the Cairns people is to keep our Yacht Club building. Enhance and strengthen it's presence for all the community.

This is a hard call for Val. Labor are there whispering in her ear. However, she needs to now stand up for the community that elected a different leader than we had prior to March 14th. We wanted a change in direction for our heritage. We wanted a more sensible and balanced approach to development. These were the values espoused by Val, and her Cairns 1st team in the eight months running up to the election.

It is now my hope, and the hope of many thousands in our community, that Mayor Val Schier will rise up to this challenge. She needs to take a strong defining and positive stance and lead on this issue for the community.

There are no lost votes in this for anyone. It will even give some credibility back to Desley, if she were to represent her community on this issue. It's still not too late. She will not lose face, only gain respect for finally listening. There's nothing wrong, in saying: "I underestimated this issue and the value the community has placed on this building and it's place in the history of Cairns."

It will display strength in her character, and also of the Labor party. They need to listen clearly to the Mayor, whose Council speaks for their community. Val Schier has a mandate. Now she needs to act on it decisively.

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