Tuesday 9 September 2008

My unusal Tuesday

There's something always kind of exciting when you get up in the morning, no matter what time it is, and you don't know where your day will take you.

Today was one of those days.

I hadn't caught up with Councillor Pyne, MSO, OA, QSM, BA Hons, VC. for some time now. (nb.: some letters may be made up to enhance this story). Prior to the election, I just knew him as Robbie. In fact, truth be known, he'd respond to a wolf whistle at a hundred meters, by the right girl. I should know, I went door knocking with Robert on one occasion.

Robert and I set up a high-level lunch at Council's ground level staff cafe. Something was already out of whack. Never mind, I was allowed in without incident, free of any of the previous strip searches and sniffer dogs I'd endured under the Byrne-led Council days when I dropped off chocolates for the then Mayor.

If I had a shovel to lean on and a Council swipe card, I could have been mistaken for just another employee in the hive that is the central nervous system of the city's brain.

I hadn't sat down for five minutes when Robert was already grabbing passersby to say hello to me. I mean, I'm but a mere blogger, and these are all mighty and powerful power brokers of Queensland's northern most city. I immediately checked to see if I had my best pair of underpants on, just in case there was an accident. You never know.

I invited my good mate and business brain, Richard Webb along for a bit of tete a tete, with the good Councillor. Richard only gets back to Cairns every couple of weeks, as he's based in Gove on the Northern Territory coast. He's got a sharp mind and I always enjoy and admire his observations of all things political.

Robert invited Councillor Kirsten Lesina over to dine with us. Kirsten has the honour of being the youngest Councillor on Planet Earth. I guess, in retrospect, Pyne's dining establishment of choice wasn't the best place to plot World War Three. With all those hungry bellys and ears hovering around the infamous and legendary, if not notorious, Blog boy, it was hardly a place to do any real strategy.

Regardless, it is always good to get some good chin-wagging in with those well-connected.

Kirsten, freshly bruised from another stint on John McKenzie's 846AM, where she defended the newly converted McLeod Street single lane alongside Cairns Central, was brimming with green ideas. She explained to me, that the decision to narrow the road to a single lane was taken some time ago, before the current Council. She's sounding more like a politician every day.

However, the new road configuration, aimed to accommodate cycle lanes, has my endorsement. I'm a cycle fan and any attempt to get some of the bloody cars off the street is a good thing. However I did ask why the lines hadn't been painted along McLeod as yet. "It's only a trial," Kirsten told me. Well, people like some sense of order, otherwise they'll do stoopid things. I'll write more about this debacle separately.

Kirsten went on to tell me about her Facebook profile, which has been a hot topic for public celebrities or those in public life recently. Some have been caught out over recent months. Last week the Cairns Post was doing some real investigative journalism and wanted all the dodgy dirt it could muster about hidden photographic secrets of our new Councillors. However, there wasn't an Ecstasy-fueled snap of Kirsten to be found on her profile. "Couldn't you find some old Uni pic half cut and half naked in a toga dress?" I asked. However, the former JCU Law graduate was squeaky clean on the Facebook front, and therefore no story insofar as the Cairns Post feature was concerned. She did point out though, that her dog Benji had a Facebook profile. This still was of little interest for the Cairns Post. "We'll get on to Val's," said the reporter.

Meanwhile, Cr Robert Pyne was in deep conversation with Richard, about life in his power wheelchair around Council. He interrupted to introduce me to another closet CairnsBlog fan, the amazing Factman, aka Murray Langdale. Murray is an investigator at Cairns Works and Services at Council. During the nine months prior to the March election, he was a regular, vibrant and anonymous commenter on CairnsBlog, defending everything about the incumbent former mayor. He was a protagonist of all things that leaned to the right. Murray gave the Blog a great dynamic and he often kept debates going. We all miss him greatly. Maybe he should consider returning, even with a different pseudonym. Suggestions are welcome.

Then there was Councillor Linda Cooper, decked out in a scant white number, with her signature sparkling red square corporate glasses. She gave me a warm greeting, as she chowed into her Council lunch. Linda and I tried unsuccessfully to meet up prior to the election on a number of occasions. We were both notoriously busy, yet she was the only mole that I'd been able to connect with from the now vanished Unity Party. Remember the Unity Party? She's since officially renounced any involvement and is an independent Councillor. No one from Mayor Byne's party made it across the line. Not even a lab rat. Unless, of course if you count Sno Bonneau or Paul Gregory, who were both re-elected. They often supported Major General Byrne. Anyway, the past is now the past.

"Mike, I want to introduce you to someone else," Robert exclaimed as he seconded a tall distinguished looking bureaucrat, who looked part of the furniture. "I'd like to you meet Peter Tabulo. This is the Blog guy," he said. This was all starting to feel like a dating agency, and I didn't welcome the choices so far.

Peter was someone I would like to sit down with sometime. Of course, I'd seen him many times before, perched high up on the Council bench at many a Council meeting. He sits alongside the Mayor and advises and prods. As Planning and Environment manager, Tabulo wields an important and powerful broker role in our Council. He acts as a conduit between Councillors and his 'clients': the developer. Last week, I raised some serious questions about a dodgy development near Palm Cove, of which he should be across by now.

I believe that the region's top planner has a great deal to answer about the False Cape debacle. Tabulo said on Friday that a recent audit exposed a majority of building sites failed to meet the minimum industry standard to ensure control on building and development sites. I find this astounding, following his endorsement two years ago that allowed wet season works to be allowed on False Cape. Cr Pyne told me that Peter does have to advise according to state laws, and that he is limited in terms of being able to "exercise discretion to yield what we would all consider to be the ‘best result’ on a lot of these issues." I beg to differ.

I do hope that Peter gets up to see Foley Road. I also will have three more critical sites that I will video over the next couple of weeks.

"I expect you have a bucket of sediment under your desk Peter," I cheekily quipped. "I have sediment everywhere," he told me. Never more eloquently spoken, I thought.

To top off my lunch date, our lovely Mayor, Val Schier, power marched past our table, as the early wet season poured down into the Council courtyard, adjoining the cafe dining area. Sporting her mayoral investiture blood-red dress, she was wearing the colours that any true Laborite should be proud of.

"Well, this is an interesting mix," Val commented on my dinning companions of Councillors Lesina and Pyne. She extended her hand to me, for a warm and firm shake, something we hadn't done since around midnight on March 15th. Luckily, I hadn't washed my right hand since that auspicious historic occasion, when we welcomed in out first lady mayor. We are still trying to co-ordinate diary's for a coffee date. "Make sure your lunch is low fat and no cholesterol," I insisted to my busy Mayor. "It is Michael, it is indeed."

For the record, I had the Roast Lamb, which I can attest, was rather tasty. Councillor Pyne picked up the bill and assured me it wasn't on the Council purse. What a good fella. Just 226 more free lunches and I will recoup my rates for the year. Which Councillor wants to take me on a hot lunch date next? Come on Linda, I'm still hanging out for you.

I topped the day off on Bryan Law's Fearnley Street balcony, enjoying an evening dinner of his home-cooked stew, fresh herb bread, and watermelon desert. Coupled with a great collection of dinner guests, including his 8 year old son, who commanded the end of the table. I see the beginnings of another rebel political activist. Socialising at the 'in-Laws' is always a fun debate, where no topic is taboo.
It was truly a day of unexpected people, with plenty to chew over.

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