Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Communicating Councillors

One of the most important roles as an elected member of the community, is to stay in touch with those that elected you, and also those that didn't.

It's the most common complaint, come voting time: 'I've hardly heard from them since the last election.' I really don't know why, with such cheap and efficient methods to keep in touch with thousands these days, that every Councillor or MP does do it more often.

If I was an elected representative, I'd set up an email distribution system, which is easy and almost totally free to run. Mayor Val Schier had such a system for her Cairns 1st supporters. Robert Pyne has been building up his email database for over 2 years now. I see in Kirsten's latest newsletter, she's keen to do the same.

We are a cynical bunch when it comes to politicians at the best of times, and when they hardly say boo, until they want us to support them for another term in the public purse.

Whilst there is no allowance for individual Councillor's newsletters, the benefits are obvious. It's good insurance for a job that pays very well, and it's questionably not a full time role.

Cairns Regional Councillors Robert Pyne and Kirsten Lesina, have both put out a community newsletter. Here's Robert's March Rock News, and Kirsten's new Division 4 Voice.

Over the while, I've also noticed what I see a worrying trend. It may be 'legal', but ethically I think there's some questions. Local community residents' associations and giving huge amounts of space to local MPs, with political columns simply being copy and pasted in.

The Machans Beach Machanations is a case in point, where MPs
Jim Turnour and Steve Wettenhall, take up nearly a whole page, with less that two pages left for real local news and views! A number of people have approached me over recent months to highlight this issue. I recently wrote to the Yorkeys Residents' Association , sharing my concerns.

These large columns are repeated in the Yorkeys Knob 'Matters' newsletter. This is the December one, however the February issue has nearly a full page dedicated to these two politicians, leaving precious little space for local community neighbourhood issues. Everything from the stimulus package and state issues are listed, hardly the place for such 'vote for me' crap.

Maybe they feel an obligation to run such pro-political columns as Wettenhall 'sponsors' the photocopying of these newsletters in his Electorate office. There's a notice saying is "produced with the assistance of Steve Wettenhall MP, Member for Barron River".

Now I'm not blaming these MPs for such massive pieces of propaganda appearing in these free advertising vehicles, but I bet they're really happy all the way to the polling booth. I'd say the same about candidates running for office, and any other MP or Councillor. They are paid substantial money to represent and communicate with their constituents, they hardly need to rest on the back on a local news sheet that hundreds of residents walk the streets to deliver themselves.

These community newsletters are a forum to tell local stories, that otherwise wouldn't be heard anywhere. A local 10 year old tale from school; the activities programme from the community hall; what social groups are up too; photos of achievers in the neighbourhood, and so on, and so on.

We can go online these days and find plenty of political stuff, so we don't need to go down to the letterbox and find our community newsletter filled with all this stuff.

It's enthusiastic representatives like Kirsten and Rob, that make the effort to really communicate, that deserve your support. The ones that hastily throw a leaflet together in the last six months of there term, almost certainly, don't give a toss. You know who they are. So toss them out.

1 comment:

Jude Johnston said...

Good to see that Rob Pyne and Kirsten Lesina are making an effort to communicate with their constiuents. I think you will bge waiting a long time for the "Old Guard" Councillors to engage with theirs. Too many years of running rough shod over the Communities they represent. Julia Leu needs to be included in the "Good Guys". Rob and Kirsten have a very small area to look after, and with communities expecting the normal type of council amenities. Poor Julia has a huge area to cover with many different expectations from a variety of communities. Julia would have a full time job putting out a newsletter that covers all the issues in Div 10. Clifton Beach to Wujal Wujal. Julia communicates, responds to emails and is a breath of fresh air after our last Councillor.