Monday 13 October 2008

Where's Wally?

Two hours after Councillor Forsyth came off the Cairns Yacht Club building, in protest about the silence dished out from the State Government, the war room on Level 3, Spence Street went into defence mode.

They flicked out a media alert at 11:03am:
Interview Opportunity: Mayor Val Schier and CEO Noel Briggs @ 12:30pm.

However, what was interesting about the hastily called media confab, was who called it and who wasn't there.

Val sent in her chief foot soldier, who earns double her salary, to front the public spotlight. Let's not forget, Briggs is not an elected representative of this community. He's a paid servant of the elected representatives. However, I think that truth be told, he wears the high heals, and Val the gumboots, but not in a KB drag kind of way.

Briggs read a prepared sentence or two, with the help of his fresh-faced $120,000 p.a Communications Manager, Kerie Hull.

"Councillor Forsyth did this by herself," Cairns Regional Council CEO Noel Briggs told a media scrum this afternoon. "She does not represent the Council," he announced firmly.

Well, in my opinion, Forsyth was representing Council, or at least the decision to engage and talk with the Premier. She was motivated by Council's resolution to engage the Premier.

The big question is why didn't the Mayor front the media at 12:30pm? Just over an hour prior, she announced she would be there. What happened in those 86 minutes? Was it simply a cheap lure to get the media along? Val is now becoming known for not fronting to talk the tough issues.

One cameraman said that this was a typical weak Mayor. "We're loosing respect for her, us lot," he told me.

Why the Mayor didn't see the potential for a good media opp, nationally syndicated, is beyond me. It was handed on a plate, there for the taking. I've worked in politics for long enough now to know that this was an easy one - even if she wanted to disagree with what the Councillor did this morning.

Here's some suggestions Val. How about you came down and said something like...
  • "I disagreed what Councillor Forsyth did today. It was not endorsed by me, nor was I aware what she was planning to do. However this old building and it's funeral is a result of the last administration. It's Kevin Byrne's legacy to this city. He and his Council were complicit in not saving or protecting it. Heck he didn't even list it in Council's city walking trail of historic old buildings. My new Council is different, although we are new, we will approach such issues differently with a different outcome. I campaigned to get your vote by saying that this town was often run by the big end of town, and this is a clear example of this.
    I am sad that we didn't get an audience with the Premier as we voted, following your 11,000 petition. I tried but was snubbed. Our community was snubbed. This is a sad day for democracy in Queensland.
Val gave me an answer on the phone this afternoon, that I've heard her use more than once now. She doesn't see much point in supporting a motion or a subject that will hardly get the full support of her Council. "Why waste time if there's not sufficient support," she told me.

"I only would support things that would have a chance of success."

"I'm flat out getting on with things that need my attention," the Mayor said, deflecting her interest in Forsyth's roof-top action.

"To me, the battle was lost a long time ago. The State have made this clear they were not willing to change their mind," Mayor Schier said. "Had the building been heritage listed, we could have raised funds for refurbishment."

"Anyway, what was going to be achieved by this today?" Did she [Dianne] think that the Premier would all of a sudden have a change of heart? I tried to talk with with the Premier. Dianne sat outside her office, we didn't get listened to," Mayor Schier said.

Noel Briggs said that Councillors should be concentrating on the real issue of Council. A strategic planning workshop is on the agenda for Tuesday and that, according to Briggs, is more important to deal with than such antics of saving an old building, and, presumably, listening to the will of the people. Anyway, why on earth are we being lectured to by a highly paid public servant instead of an elected Councillor? This is all topsy-turvy.

Just before CEO Briggs left the Council foyer, he said "Now I'm off to do some real work."

In a bit of mirth, Cairns 1st candidate at the last election, and city architect, Mark Buttrose telephoned Val Schier, as she was heading into a breakfast meeting at the Cairns Colonial Club around 7:15am.

"Val, it's Mark here," Buttrose said. "Oh, Hi Mark," Val Schier responded.
"Were having a Cairns 1st meeting down at the Yacht Club building. There's Janine Aitken, and Paul Matthews here. Oh, and Dianne Forsyth. She's up on the roof," Mark said with a straight dead pan delivery.

"Are you serious?" Val responded. "I'll see if I can leave here soon and come down," Val told Mark Buttrose.

She didn't show, probably after taking advice from her media minders, and Briggs, no doubt.

At the conclusion of the media set-up at Council this afternoon, Councillor Gregory was waiting in the wings, hanging out to tell all about the feral dear, running rampant in the south of his Division.

However, the story of the day, was all about the animals loose within Council.


Anonymous said...

Re Val's inaction. In the "Cairns Eye" magazine of 1-7 October (published by the ComPost) was an article entitled "Smile, Be Happy" (page 8) featuring some local personalities & what puts a smile of their faces. Val was one of the respondents. There were some interesting responses to Cairns Eye's question of the 'ten things that make you happy'. One of Val's responses was (and I quote):

"Item 7: Changing perspective. If I can't change something that bothers me, I change my attitude towards it. I take note of this quote 'Offence is never given, it is only ever taken and if you refuse to take offence when it is offered, only offence intended returns to the one who offered it."

OK, now this is all very well in a Buddhist/Christian 'turn the other cheek' perspective, & very likely keeps Val's blood pressure down, but if this is the way she approaches her Mayoral duties, I think there is a basic problem. It explains her response about the Yacht Club: demolition was decided, it is happening, we can do nothing about it, so let's get on & look at other things.

Yes, in some ways a positive way to 'move forward'. Only problem is, it's not leadership, it's going along with what's happening around her. This would explain quite a lot as to her behaviour, & also her utter refusal to kick a bit of arse.

I voted for Val, & helped in the campaign. I wanted to see the end of Byrne, & I'm glad we did so. I, & many others were sick of his arrogance & non-consultative approach. However, I voted for Val thinking she was going to lead, not babysit the Council. It's all very well going for a consultative win-win approach, but sometimes leaders just have to lead, & not refer to all the committee the whole time. And especially not to hide behind the skirts of Noel Briggs & Kerry Hull.

Initially I thought Val's inaction was due to the settling-in period. Now, I'm beginning to think this is how it's going to be. I'm sad about that, because I really wanted to see some change in Cairns, & the culture of the Council. Perhaps Val has an agenda similar to that, but she certainly hasn't learnt to communicate it to the community.

williamtell said...

well said Lillian

Anonymous said...

I voted for Val because I thought she cared about issues such as Heritage. I didn't vote for Noel Briggs as I wasn't aware he was running. Before next election I will have to move so that I can vote for Di, as she has shown she stands for what I believe in.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article Lillian,you will have a sustantial number of people agreeing with you.
I voted for Val thinking she would change the way the council was being run,however it appears she is not up to it.It would be an honest move if she resigned and got off the council altogether.I would imagine it will only be a matter of time before Blake takes the opporunity to roll her and try to take over the council,heaven forbid.