Tuesday 21 April 2009

Blake Vs Schier: gloves off

A public bitch-slapping, that has been brewing for months, is now making it to the surface, as the Mayor-in-waiting, Councillor Alan Blake, rolls out another Code of Conduct inquiry.
This one, following last Thursday's fiasco of Councillor Di Forsyth's kangaroo court, will appear before the full Council meeting on Wednesday.
Although there have been signs since last year's March Council election, Councillor Blake has never hidden his angst about Mayor Schier's style of management and the fact that she's on the opposite side of the political fence.
The latest Code of Conduct football, started a few months ago, when the State Government offered $2 million to spend on a Northern Beaches community centre. The only condition was that it be sited on community Council-owned land at Smithfield, where the current sporting facilities and library are (see nice Google pic above).
However, the gang of six refused to support the Labor government offer that had 'strings attached'.
Both local Divisional Councillors Bonneau and Cochrane did not support it. They, along with others, had their own idea where they wanted a community centre built: across the highway, in a well-known flood prone park.
The vote was lost and the Mayor was incensed that such a large financial offer was simply being refused, and a much-need community resource would not go ahead. "We don't want your money!" the motion effectively said. Councillors Lanskey and Bonneau said that the State Government will 'come back with another offer', but they didn't.
When asked about the decision, Val Schier said that it was "an irrational decision" by those that opposed it. Councillor Blake took this as a personal and professional insult. He quickly fired off a Code of Conduct breach to the CEO, who wasn't busy at the time policing Facebook or illegal stickers on Council cars.

Just last week, the good Councillor Blake was all over local media, announcing that rates will need to go up to support a larger cash injection to the local tourism operators.

The topic of a tourism levy is far from new, however, hot on the heels of last year's massively unpopular rate rise, the first budget for the new Council, any rise this year will set this Council on the path to further ridicule and denigration. Whilst there's a desire to make a larger contribution to TTNQ, realigning priorities could be one way of achieving the same outcome, and not place more burden of the ratepayer.

Blake's comments are a clear departure by speaking on behalf of the Council, over something that was only internal discussion.

"I, and the heads of the committees, will be asking [Blake] for an explanation," Val Schier told Margo Zlotkowski at the Post. "It is outrageous that he has misrepresented the Council in this way."

Schier had a strong desire to not increase rates, a claim she made prior to her inaugural election win, and various explanations did not ward off many disgruntled ratepayers, myself included.

Both Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast Council ratepayers pay towards a local tourism levy, at a substantially larger contribution than Cairns.

Schier is angry that Blake has simply made a lot of personal statements without any support of the Council. "Without policy being formulated," Schier says.

Councillor Rob Pyne was horrified to read Blake's statements, that Council would raise rates across the city to pay for a tourism economic development fund. "This is not on!"

Such a tourism levy could be funded from the State and can also be collected, like the Great Barrier Reef 'tax," that every passenger pays to operators.

The Barron Gorge National Park, the second most-visited park in Queensland, welcomes over two million visitors a year. To get there, every passenger on Skyrail and QR's scenic train to Kuranda, pay $1 towards a local tourism levy to the Kuranda tourism body. And they still haven't got any loos at the Barron Falls viewing walkway. Take a rubber band with you.

The innovative mayor of the Cassowary Coast Council, has invited nominations to form a community consultative group. This will look at rates and a variety of other things they want their Council to look into. Imagine our community doing this?

This week's Code of Conduct hearing against Val Schier, is likely to be quietly over-turned, if the Mayor simply makes an apology to the full Council, for her "irrational" statement.

Welcome to Cairns Irrational Regional Council, where the way to solve any issue, is to mount a Code of Conduct inquiry.


Alison Alloway said...

Alan Blake as the Divisional Representative for Westcourt/Manoora/Manunda, if he was a genuine Councillor, should have grabbed that State Government money for his division. I tried to contact him over the matter, after having a letter of mine published in "The Cairns Post." That money could have gone on another sports centre for this division, which has a high proportion of under privileged children OR it could have gone to building A NEW SENIOR CITIZENS CENTRE, which we desperately need. Councillor Blake did not bother to answer me.
I don't give a damn about the personality conflicts within the Council but I do expect a well paid Councillor to answer his constituent's calls. I never had any problems with Alan Blake's predecessors in the Council. Both Kathy Plath and Bob Burgess, whom I met many times, were approachible Councillors with a genuine interest in meeting, getting to know, listening to and serving their constituents.

Jan from Kewarra said...

Yes, Allison, you have hit the nail on the head precisely.

Many of the old school in Council are left overs from a previous regime that promoted self-serving, pro development at any cost and not interested in resident's concerns type behaviour. Alan Blake is amongst the gang of 6 who says one thing and usually does another, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

Something must be done about those that we elect to do a job and pay well to do a job and who continually fail to live up to what is expected of them as Divisional Councillors.

Perhaps we should be calling them "Divisional Criminals" instead as that seems more apt lately.

Quickie said...

Holy crap Jan and others ...
It is NOT a "Gang" of Six".
It is an elected majority of six, that is making the sound and sensible decisions these days..
Thank god for the fact we live in a democratic society.
Otherwise the "Gang of Four" would be running the agenda that was not voted for by Cairns ratepayers.
When you look at the results you will see that these six councillors fared better than most of the other other four.
In fact Sno received nearly 1000 votes more than the Labor party candidate, Janine Aitken.
So let's have bit of objectivity in your postings instead of these emotional outbursts.

Sue E said...

There was nothing democratic about the former Byrne led council and partisans of that regime and the culture that goes with it are still embedded in council. Only a fool would believe otherwise. Sno jumped divisions and that’s the only reason he survived. His “modus operandi” was unknown but “oh how the times they are a changing.”

Enough Rope said...

So we’ve got Dennis Quick who’s biggest claim to fame is a sinking fund called the “Duffken” costing the ratepayer of Cairns $300,000.00 per anum. While still clinging to the apron strings of Kevin Byrne in hope of reboarding the gravy train, thus putting a glimmer of light back into an otherwise dull existence:
We’ve got Alan Blake running around shooting his mouth off in an attempt to raise funds to support a group (TTNQ) who have rarely demonstrated anything other than poor management practices to justify their existence.
Mr Blake, a question, what are the salaries of the executives of TTNQ?
Perhaps Mr Blake could contribute the balance of his salary he should not be entitled too for not working full time as a councillor, my guess would be about 80%.
How much effort have these TTNQ executives put into lobbing the State Government to reduce airport cost at Cairns Airport, believed to be the second most expensive airport in the WORLD!!
Mr Blake; get a grip, you’re not very good at the job you’re doing so keep your nose out of other people’s effort poor they may be.

Enough Rope:

Dutchie said...

So, Blake can make a public comment that kept the town talking for a week, leaving everyone thinking that the Council wanted this, while it was his personal opinion (and he did not seem to make an effort to clear this up), Val publicly reprimands him for this (how strange) and now he puts in a complaint. Wow man.

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

I reckon it is high time we had the formation of a proper community consultative group - a la the Cassowary Coast above - to review rates especially.

We had a huge rate hike under Byrne (well, some of us did - mine went from $2,200 p.a. to $5,000 - yes, very ugly). Others were expected to pay $10,000 & $13,000 p.a. These untenable amounts were exacted all along the Northern Beaches to anyone owning a beachfront property, or anyone with a bit of a sea view. (Yes, I've got a big block of land & a bit of a sea view - OK? - & yes, I worked bloody hard & long to afford it, & I am very grateful for my lot in life).

I think Byrne & Co's thinking on the incredible rate hike was to force the pensioners out of their beach properties (even if they'd bought them 30/50 years ago) so developers could buy them up & get going on a new Gold Coast.

Mysteriously, my rates dropped $500p.a. six months before the last Council election!! Wonder why Fat Kev?

However, unfortunately, under the new Schier Council they went up again in 2008 (mine went up $500 to $5,500 - ugly again - quite a tad more than the "just a loaf of bread a week" that Val chammpioned). And dear citizens, I get not one whit of service more than those paying the base rate of (I think it is) $1,112.

And for those of you not owning homes, & think I am just whingeing - you still pay for rate rises in your rental cost.

I was an active part of one of the community rates reference groups (no, I am not affiliated with Selwyn Johnston or John Babet, although we were all in contact at the time) who presented to Byrne & the previous Council about unfair rates - to no avail.
To give a little contrast, I recall the annual rate for a waterfront property in Rose Bay in Sydney at the time (2006) was $800 p.a., at the same time mine went from 2,200 to 5,000.

Why can we not work out how much it costs to basically run this community, without all the bells & whistles, chop it in to equal shares, & leave it at that. I am very happy to contibute towards the efficient running of our community - but in an equal share.
Are rates an amenity tax or a form of wealth tax? If the latter, it is grossly unfair.

I also reckon Council should currently put on hold any non-essential works, & restore the rates discount to this community. I reckon they would get about 500,000 Brownie points. I mean, if Val can even be thinking about $100,000 for a peace park (nice idea as it is), then if we have that much spare in the kitty, can that not go to restoring discounts for early payment. As we know, there is a recession and reduced hours & unemployment out there - every dollar counts in many households, including mine. Any relief would be welcomed.

The silly part of destroying the early payment discount is that: that money can be put on to the short-term money market [if it still exists] or similar & EARN INTEREST for the Council. I dare say 90-95% of ratepayers in Cairns would pay with an early discount, & this is a KNOWN AMOUNT the Council could invest.

In my own situation, I have of course requested that Council issue me with a gold-plated wheelie-bin, & that the garbos stop, & come up the drive to collect my garbage, & rinse out the wheelie-bin before they continue on. [Oh, & handsome hand-picked garbos too, with magnificent pecs, of course! Think Beckham, think Obama]
However, Council so far have not yet seen fit to fall in with my plans. And having the incumbent Marg Cochrane (of Forked Tongue Fame) is no help at all in scoring a gold-plated wheelie or a gold-rated garbo.

Alison Alloway said...

Thank you Lillian at Yorkeys Knob for your thoughtful comments and revelations about beach view rates. I was just appalled at the cost! (I pay $2,200 per year for my modest little home at Westcourt.) Yes Lillian, times are tough for many people in our community with reduced hours of work, redundancies and rising unemployment causing an overall drop in personal incomes. In a city with a large proportion of tourist industry workers, we are being particularly hard hit.
For that reason, I too believe the Council should put on hold all non-essential works, pare down its operations to core community business, bring back the early discount and look at reducing rates where applicable. The community needs a helping hand through these hard times by its Council.

Thornton's Peak said...

I am really tiring of all this anti Blake comment, i mean this man is probably the greatest financial controller this city has ever seen. Not only that, he is also incredibly generous and compassionate - I remember as if yesterday when i bought the El Rancho Deluxe 5 burner off him at BBQ's Galore, he threw in not one, but two folding chairs!

Janine Aitken said...


I only joined the Labor party this January, So last March when the election was I was not a "Labor party candidate", I have since joined the party as I feel I have something to contribute. I hope you can now move on from the fact I’m a Labor party member and hope one day you to can be honest about your affiliations.

On a further note Sno's percentage dropped from 75% to 57% not about effort for a first go.

Jan from Kewarra said...


I cannot resist this one.....

If Blake the Snake is the best financial controller this city has ever had, then how come our Council is broke?

Alison Alloway said...

I have just received a phone call from Cr. Alan Blake who has advised me he has been negotiating with Blue Care etc over the future of the Cairns Senior Citizens Centre. He has explained just what the difficulties were, but that he is very hopeful of a successful outcome for all parties. Thanks to Cr. Alan Blake for that! Also thanks to Mike for enabling a response for me.

Unknown said...

You mention Noel Briggs and Barron Falls toilets - mmmm

Both were linked to the previous Mareeba shire council (MSC)-

The Mareeba shire council was administering the funds collected by the tourist levy, and Noel Briggs was given the responsibility for accounting for the expenditure of those funds - One of the primary reasons for the implementation of the tourist levy was to fund the building of Barron falls infrastructure such as toilets and drinking water. When the Kuranda Chamber of commerce was able to force the MSC to show its books after 10 years or so of collecting the money (and spending it elsewhere) - Noel Briggs became unavailable (the excuse given by Mick Borzi and all staff contacted was - Noel is on stress/sick leave indefinitely) - for several months the Chamber attempted contact - however Noel never returned to work. It was my surprise to hear him taking the position of CEO at the Cairns regional council - Now that the MSC is no longer and replaced with The Tablelands Regional Council and further investigations of these misappropriation of funds is now impossible.

Was Noel just a pawn in a corrupt council or was he complicit ? When councils have influence on business owners in their jurisdiction it is foolhardy for any of them to push too hard on a sore point - The State govt amalgamation plan had the possibility of cleaning the corruption out of local councils - but it would seem that it was just re arranged !