Archive:  Mayor & Deputy Mayor

Last Updated 19/11/16

 

See also Councillor Performances

 

See also History of Mayors / Deputy Mayors in Macedon Ranges Shire (posted 19/11/16)

 

The Macedon Ranges Shire's Mayor & Officer Relationship (aka The Mayor's Affair)

 

Graham Hackett Is Macedon Ranges Shire's 2016 Mayor

(24/11/15 - C)   John Connor is Deputy Mayor.  John Letchford is bereft. 

Having the previous week had a stalking charge against him withdrawn by police in Kyneton Magistrate's court, and a misuse of a mobile phone charge dismissed, Graham Hackett last Wednesday replaced Jennifer Anderson as the Shire's Mayor.   Cr. Hackett aced out Cr. John Letchford who, the week before, was quoted in the Star Weekly as apparently assuming he would win. 

 

MRRA Says:

Ahhh... the vagaries of politics, and loyalties and... choice.    We hear those who supported Cr. Letchford (he and Crs Jukes, McLaughlin and Ellis) are not well pleased at the outcome.  Our guess is there will be pay-back aplenty in the Council chamber next year, given the past performances of some and disappointment with the Mayoral election result.  After a year of someone sensible and representative as Mayor, we fancy the community will soon notice some differences.  Congratulations to Cr. Anderson who, under trying circumstances and without majority support, did make a positive difference.  Her community-orientated and fair approach to being Mayor (and Councillor) will be a hard act to follow. 

 

Only 343 days to go before we can get a new council, and a new CEO.

 

Jennifer Anderson Is Elected Macedon Ranges Mayor

(20/11/14 - C)  A competent, honest - female - long shot gets up.  Don't expect miracles - it still takes 5 votes to make positive change, and until now they haven't been there 

Last night saw the almost unimaginable happen.  In a Council awash with what has been widely noted as bullying and misogynist tendencies, a woman became Mayor.  Cr. Jennifer Anderson gained 5 votes, Cr. Henry McLaughlin 3, and the other nominee Cr. Graham Hackett 0.  For Cr. Anderson:  Anderson, Piper, Mowatt, Hackett, Connor.  For Cr. McLaughlin:  McLaughlin, Jukes, Letchford.   Cr. Russell Mowatt is Deputy Mayor (also previously in 2013).  (Note: at this point Macedon Ranges Shire has only 8 Councillors, pending a countback on 24/11/14 to fill the vacancy left by Cr. Morabito's resignation)

 

MRRA Says:

For a community that despises its Council and has lost hope, news of Cr. Anderson's election is being received ecstatically - the first light to shine in a pit of deep darkness.

 

Over the last 2 years Cr. Anderson, a G.P., has shown in chamber and to residents that she genuinely cares about the community and environment, works hard, wants what Council does done professionally and well, and is prepared to stand up for what is just, fair and proper. 

 

But...  it would be both unrealistic and unfair to expect Cr. Anderson's election alone to be the cure-all for the multitude of evils and ills this Council is (in)famous for.  It's a damned good start, but others at Council must also change.   Rather than the burden of unreasonable community expectations, what Cr. Anderson needs is community support, and community pressure on those others that need to change.

 

All the same, there is no doubt this is a change the community has been waiting for, and wants.  "Brilliant",  "Fantastic"  is the cry.  Hear! Hear!  All power to Cr. Anderson's arm.

 

Forget the Stones!  This Is The 2014 Entertainment Event of The Year:  Election Of Next Macedon Ranges Mayor

(10/11/14 - C)  Wednesday 19th November 7.00pm, Gisborne Shire Office  

 

MRRA Says:

Go along and watch your democracy suffer another body blow.  The scuttlebutt going around is that Cr. Jukes may not want the gig again, and Cr. Hackett (who currently holds the informal position of Deputy Mayor) longs to get the nod as Mayor.  But who could predict?   It all often comes down to who makes the best promises to attract votes from around the table.  One thing's for sure, after the major fail of all things female at last year's mayoral auction,  the boys' club is on a hiding-to-nothing to keep its iron-fisted control of Council.  Not a comforting thought...

 

UPDATE  The Macedon Ranges Shire's Mayor & Officer Relationship (aka The Mayor's Affair)

25/3/14 - C  Too close for ratepayers' comfort?   UPDATE (12/5/14 - C) : The CEO's letter to MRRA in response to this article

MRRA has received a letter from the CEO of Macedon Ranges Shire, on Council's letterhead, objecting to and asking for this article be removed.  The points of objection appear to be three facts provided in the letter.  See the full letter.  Here's our original story, with MRRA's responses to the CEO's facts.

 

It's no secret that Macedon Ranges' Mayor Roger Jukes, and Macedon Ranges Shire's Economic Development Manager Kylie Lethbridge, are in a relationship.  To date neither has declared any conflict of interest when Ms Lethbridge's economic development reports and recommendations come before Council, and the Mayor votes on them.  Indeed, for the Hanging Rock development proposal (28/8/13), the Mayor exercised a casting vote to break the deadlock and approve the alternative motion to exclude community consultation.  

 

The CEO's first fact states the Mayor used his casting vote on an alternate motion.  Which is what MRRA said - the Mayor exercised his casting vote on the alternative motion. 

 

Ms Lethbridge accompanied the Mayor and some councillors on their controversial trip to Tokai in Japan last year.  Although  the Mayor and councillors were eventually forced to cover at least some of their Tokai expenses, it appears ratepayers may have paid the council officer's costs. 

 

The CEO's second fact is that all councillors on the Tokai, Japan visit paid their own expenses personally.  The Council motion* in the Minutes of the 22/5/13 meeting shows expenses to a limit of $1,500 were approved (i.e. to be paid by Council).  * Alternative motion carried on the Mayor's casting vote.  See 22/5/13 Council minutes

 

This fact also says  airfares, accommodation and some minor incidentals for the officer were approved and paid by Council.  This responds to MRRA's query and confirms that Council (ratepayers) did pay the officer's costs.

 

There are also unconfirmed reports that the Mayor and Ms Lethbridge may have taken other economic development research trips away together (additional to Tokai).  If correct, all ratepayers would be interested to know who paid for those trips.  

 

The CEO's third fact is that Council funds have not been used to pay for other research trips.  This responds to MRRA's query and clarifies that Council has not paid for other research trips.

 

MRRA Says:

 

The CEO's letter was considered at an MRRA Committee meeting on 5/5/14.   The Association's view is that the MRRA article addresses issues of public interest.  After due consideration of the letter's content and "facts", the Association maintains its view:  the Mayor and Ms Lethbridge's relationship, in terms of their Mayoral and Managerial positions at Council and in terms of potential for conflicts of interest in Council decision-making and expenditure of ratepayers' funds, is a matter of public interest.  Ratepayers can make up their own minds.

 

How can there be no conflict of interest, you say?  

 

It seems the Mayor's and Ms. Lethbridge's relationship is not considered to fit the Local Government Act's definition of 'domestic partner' (Section 78): "an unmarried couple in a relationship, where one or both provide domestic personal or financial support for the benefit of the other".   N.B. The Act does not specifically address conflicts of interest issues for a relationship between a Council's Mayor and its Economic Development Manager.

 

Councillors are expected to make decisions with an open mind.  If it is accepted - for the sake of argument - that Cr Jukes' relationship doesn't fall foul of the letter of the Act, does not declaring a conflict of interest meet the intent of the Act?

 

At  Division 1A "Conduct and Interests", Section 76BA, General Councillor conduct principles, the Local Government Act says:

 

"...a Councillor must: 

(a)  avoid conflicts between his or her public duties as a Councillor and his or her personal interests and obligations, and

(g) ... act in a way that secures and preserves public confidence in the office of Councillor" 

 

Cr. Jukes' problem is, if he won't declare a conflict of interest on votes relating to economic development matters (particularly those for which Ms Lethbridge has responsibility, such as Council's Hanging Rock development proposal, the Kyneton Mineral Springs recreational vehicle black water dump site, and now the emerging, rather large "world class equine facility"), how can anyone have confidence that he is in fact 'avoiding conflicts between his public duties and his personal interests', or acting appropriately as a Councillor? 

 

 

You can comment at https://twitter.com/RangesResidents@rangesresidents  or email mrra.sec999@gmail.com

 

CURRENT The Macedon Ranges Shire's Mayor / Officer Relationship 

25/3/14 - C  Too close for ratepayers' comfort? 

 It's no secret that Macedon Ranges' Mayor Roger Jukes, and Macedon Ranges Shire's Economic Development Manager Kylie Lethbridge, are in a relationship.  To date neither has declared any conflict of interest when Ms Lethbridge's economic development reports and recommendations come before Council, and the Mayor votes on them.  Indeed, for the Hanging Rock development proposal (28/8/13), the Mayor exercised a casting vote to break the deadlock and approve the alternative motion to exclude community consultation.

 

Ms Lethbridge accompanied the Mayor and some councillors on their controversial trip to Tokai in Japan last year.  Although  the Mayor and councillors were eventually forced to cover at least some of their Tokai expenses, it appears ratepayers may have paid the council officer's costs.  There are also unconfirmed reports that the Mayor and Ms Lethbridge may have taken other economic development research trips away together (additional to Tokai).  If correct, all ratepayers would be interested to know who paid for those trips.

 

MRRA Says:

 

How can there be no conflict of interest, you say?  

 

It seems the Mayor's and Ms. Lethbridge's relationship is not considered to fit the Local Government Act's definition of 'domestic partner' (Section 78): "an unmarried couple in a relationship, where one or both provide domestic personal or financial support for the benefit of the other".   N.B. The Act does not specifically address conflicts of interest issues for a relationship between a Council's Mayor and its Economic Development Manager.

 

Councillors are expected to make decisions with an open mind.  If it is accepted - for the sake of argument - that Cr Jukes' relationship doesn't fall foul of the letter of the Act, does not declaring a conflict of interest meet the intent of the Act?

 

At  Division 1A "Conduct and Interests", Section 76BA, General Councillor conduct principles, the Local Government Act says:

 

"...a Councillor must: 

(a)  avoid conflicts between his or her public duties as a Councillor and his or her personal interests and obligations, and

(g) ... act in a way that secures and preserves public confidence in the office of Councillor" 

 

Cr. Jukes' problem is, if he won't declare a conflict of interest on votes relating to economic development matters (particularly those for which Ms Lethbridge has responsibility, such as Council's Hanging Rock development proposal, the Kyneton Mineral Springs recreational vehicle black water dump site, and now the emerging, rather large "world class equine facility"), how can anyone have confidence that he is in fact 'avoiding conflicts between his public duties and his personal interests', or acting appropriately as a Councillor? 

 

You can comment at https://twitter.com/RangesResidents@rangesresidents  or email mrra.sec999@gmail.com

 

 

Macedon Ranges' Mayoral Election Success

(17/11/13 - C)  Females Excluded - Job Done!

At last week's mayoral election, Roger Jukes was elected Mayor again, and Graham Hackett "Deputy Mayor" (this isn't an official position), on the back of the other boys' votes.  Not all of them though, two male Councillors (Morabito and Letchford) weren't at the Special Council meeting, but the rest held firm.  Sally Piper was nominated for Mayor by Jennifer Anderson.  Henry McLaughlin seconded the nomination but didn't vote for Cr Piper: only Cr. Anderson did. 

 

MRRA Says:

Wonder if this means the bullying will continue...

 

 

Change At Council As McLaughlin Misses Out On Mayor

(16/11/12 - C)  Jukes / Mowatt are selected instead 

At a Special Council meeting last Wednesday night (14/11), Roger Jukes (West Ward) became Mayor for the next year, and Russell Mowatt (South Ward) was named Deputy Mayor.  Cr. McLaughlin, Mayor for the past two years, was an apology.

 

MRRA Says:

Congratulations to Crs. Jukes and Mowatt, who now have responsibility for leading the way on making the changes at Council the community expects.  We wish them well, and look forward to seeing those changes put into place.  More accountability, transparency, direction and community engagement, and improved performance in planning, local roads and value for rates, are high on the list.

 

 

Election Of Macedon Ranges Mayor For 2012

(24/12/11 - C)  Will 2012 be better or worse than 2011? 

Early December saw the election of the final Mayor and Deputy Mayor for the current Council term, at a Special Council meeting at the Gisborne Administration Centre.  Immediate past incumbents in those positions were (respectively) Henry McLaughlin and Joan Donovan (both of East ward).

 

Thus far in this Council term (2008 - 2012), John Letchford (2009), Rob Guthrie (2010) and Henry McLaughlin (2011) have been Mayors. 

 

This time around, a split 5/4 vote got Henry McLaughlin over the line as Mayor again in 2012. Henryka Benson was elected as Deputy Mayor.

 

MRRA Says:

Ah, the annual 'great race' for the Mayoral role, lobbying for which has been known to start six months out from the election and continue almost up to when hands are raised in the air!

 

With Cr. McLaughlin back again, what can we look forward to?  Well, a lot of improvement in the transparency and accountability of Council would be a great start! 

 

There have been some memorable disappointments around Council's performance in the last twelve months.  Some big decisions were made, not for the better. For example, Council: 

Then there was the shaky 'we can't do anything to stop it' McDonalds' approval, despite 10,000 signatures saying don't do it; kafuffles over the Macedon place of last resort and kinder; and will anyone ever forget Council's ghastly attempt to gag the public at a public meeting in Woodend... 

 

An additional wave of uneasiness comes from the growing perception that Macedon Ranges Shire seems to have a Council (or perhaps a majority of councillors) which seems too amicable to allowing officers a freer and freer - but less and less accountable - hand in making decisions for Council.  Hmmm... could be a problem there.  It surely could be said that most voters elect Councillors in the hope that they represent and protect community interests, and make decisions on the community's behalf?  We wonder if a 'finger off the pulse' attitude delivers that, or is prudent, since such an attitude has been known historically to dramatically bite practitioners on the bum?

 

You don't have to be uber-observant to sense a "don't let anyone rock the boat" approach has crept in.  Just tell 'em the good news...  or is that no news?  People are remarking how little Council tells us these days.  It's more a perception than an established fact - the sort of thing that isn't easy to nail down, but which evokes an edgy feeling in your water that's something's going horribly wrong.  It's a familiar feeling.  It's happened before in Macedon Ranges.

 

2012 is going to be a busy year, not only because it's a council election year, but because all of the above - and more - dictates that a close watch must be kept on Council practices and performances, and critically, on whether there is any further deterioration in openness, accessibility and accountability, and yes, democracy.

 

Still, all credit to Cr. McLaughlin for taking it on, despite the last-year 'poisoned chalice' theory. He must be a brave soul because a number of Macedon Ranges Shire's 'last-year-of-term' Mayors have been voted out at the Council election later that year.

 

Macedon Ranges' Mayor For 2010 Is Cr. Rob Guthrie

(11/12/09 - C)  Cr. Henry McLaughlin Is Deputy Mayor 

Another piece of Macedon Ranges' history has fallen into place after Wednesday's Special Council Meeting which saw some new faces fill the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor.  After 7 years on Council, Cr. Rob Guthrie's service has finally been recognised with his election to Mayor.  'Newcomer' to Council, Henry McLaughlin, who was elected for the first time at last year's ballot, will be Cr. Guthrie's deputy.  Both were elected on a 5 votes to 4 show of hands.  Those for the elected combination were Crs John Letchford (2009 Mayor), Neil Manning, Rob Guthrie, Joan Donovan and Henry McLaughlin.  Cr. McLaughlin's small children attended the meeting and passionately supported their father with enthusiastic hand raising as the vote for his election was taken (it could be said he recorded an 8 to 4 vote!). 

 

Cr. Helen Relph nominated Cr. Henryka Benson for Mayor but she failed to receive sufficient votes.  Cr. Roger Jukes then nominated Cr. Henryka Benson for Deputy Mayor, with the same result.  Those Councillors who supported Cr. Benson (and opposed Crs. Guthrie and McLaughlin) were Crs. Helen Relph, Roger Jukes, Henryka Benson and Joe Morabito.

 

Prior to the election, out-going Mayor Cr. John Letchford made a positive and gracious speech summarizing Council's achievements in the past year.

 

MRRA Says:

 

2010 is a critical year with both a State and Federal election, climate change, bushfires, water issues - and that's just for starters. 

 

We congratulate Crs. Guthrie and McLaughlin - and Cr. Letchford for his year as Mayor - and look forward to working with Council in 2010. 

 

There's Change In The Air In Macedon Ranges As Letchford Becomes Mayor With Guthrie As Deputy

(16/12/08 - C)  Who would have thunk it!

After years of being on Council without more than a lone run as Deputy Mayor way back when, last Wednesday, after Rob Guthrie moved and Henry McLaughlin seconded a motion (which also gained support from Joan Donovan and Neil Manning), John Letchford was elected Macedon Ranges' Mayor for 2009. 

 

Helen Relph was also nominated for Mayor, and gained support from Joe Morabito, Henryka Benson and Roger Jukes, but was defeated.  Helen was then nominated for Deputy Mayor but was again defeated when a motion moved by Joan Donovan, seconded by Neil Manning and supported by John Letchford and Henry McLaughlin saw Rob Guthrie elected to fill the Deputy position.

 

MRRA Says:

 

It's a good start, and it signals a break with the past we believe many residents will welcome.  Well done to those who lived up to community expectations for a new direction in Council, and supported this change. 

 

We hear the 5 votes to 4 result surprised the 'Relph camp', but let's hope they take it in their stride and move on to more important matters.   Equally, let's hope the change in thinking that this change in leadership should represent is delivered.  Our expectation is for a more open, more accountable, more consultative, more equitable, more financially responsible and more visionary era.

 

Election Of Macedon Ranges' Mayor On Wednesday 10th:  Will It Signal A New Era?

(10/12/08 - C)  Dear God, bless this Shire with an independent Mayor who hasn't sold their soul to get there...

This Wednesday 10th December, at 7.00pm at the Shire offices in Gisborne (Robertson St), history could be made.  Macedon Ranges Shire might, just might, elect a Mayor on merit.  Unlike last term, where the successive Mayors over the term were stitched up within days of the election, can we hope that this time someone who deserves it could get the nod? 

 

There are two Councillors who between them have served 5 terms and have never been Mayor:  Rob Guthrie and John Letchford.  Rob Guthrie has put his hand up several times, but the pre-ordained winner always won and he missed out.  John Letchford was Deputy Mayor in an earlier term. 

 

In comparison, Helen Relph, a relative newcomer with only 1 term and 1 year up her sleeve, was Mayor in 2007.

 

MRRA Says:

 

Voters have sent a firm message - out with the old, bring in the new.  New faces, new thinking, new priorities, new ways of doing things.

 

Macedon Ranges Shire needs a forward-thinking person as Mayor - think 2050 not 1950 - who also has the requisite knowledge and experience to bring the council together in the first year, always the most difficult time as new councillors hit a steep learning curve.

 

The drums are saying Helen Relph wants to be Mayor again but, with all respect to Helen, in MRRA's view the Shire needs someone with a broader understanding of the big picture, community values and contemporary issues to have a go.  In selecting a Mayor, MRRA believes Council must show a new maturity and demonstrate to the community that it can move forward, not just stay in the same place it has been in recent years. In this regard, we believe Guthrie and Letchford have earned a seat at the Mayoral table. 

 

One of the key things that this new council must deliver is a different direction - a different culture - to that which the electorate has so comprehensively rejected. The opportunity to not only change, but be seen to change, is available now that some of the more dominating personalities of the past are gone.  One regret with the election outcome is the defeat of Tom Gyorffy, who spent much of his time as Councillor trying to lift the Council's sights above mediocrity, party politics, in-fighting and personal agendas. 

 

MRRA also believes the Mayor's role needs to be redefined from what it presently is assumed to be, something we put before the last Council as part of MRRA's presentation on Councillor allowances.  A Mayor should be the Shire's formal representative and leader of the Council group not, for example, Chairman of the Board, social director and publicity officer.  For too long the role of Mayor has seemed to be treated as a series of photo and public relations opportunities, at times giving an impression of having been crafted to suit the interests of the incumbent.  Community too must review its expectations of a Mayor.  It is not, and should not be, a full time job.  Hey guys, this is rural Macedon Ranges, not the City of Melbourne!!  Trimming the role back to where it's within reach of Councillors who work during the day would boost participatory democracy.

 

The practice of a few players playing keepings-off with the Mayoralty must also end.  Ample doses of democratic thinking must be injected into the Town Hall to flush out the taint of dictatorship and executive decision-making that has plagued and tarnished our Councils over time.

 

Councillors, take a deep breath...  your moment in history has come.  Tonight is about more than hands in the air. It's about meeting community expectations for a Council that puts broad community interests first and operates openly, accountably and democratically.  It's about hope, and positive change, and the future.  It's about a new era, a new direction, for Macedon Ranges Shire.  The first step on this momentous journey is electing the right Mayor for the job.

 

No Surprises But No Confidence Either In 'Election' Of Mayor

(9/12/07 - C)  Seven Councillors vote for Noel Harvey, two vote for Rob Guthrie

At last Wednesday's special Council meeting, seven Councillors voted Noel Harvey into the role of mayor for 2008.  Those Councillors were:

That left two Councillors, Tom Gyorffy (West) and Rob Guthrie (South), to vote for alternative mayoral candidate, Rob Guthrie.  This is the third consecutive year Rob Guthrie's nomination for Mayor has been knocked off by the majority of his fellow Councillors.   

 

John Connor (West) beat Henry Bleeck (East) for the deputy Mayor's position on a five to four vote.  The five votes for Cr. Connor came from:

Tom Gyorffy (West), Rob Guthrie (South), Geoff Neil (East) and Henry Bleeck (East) unsuccessfully supported Henry Bleeck's nomination for Deputy.

 

MRRA Says:

 

This is the first time both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor have come from the same electorate (West ward).  Some may see this as an unbalanced and unrepresentative result.

 

Well, we dared them to be different, but as they say in the classics, they didn't have the balls.

 

Instead, the rumoured deal that had been struck as long ago as 2005, just after the last Council election, about who would be mayor and when, has played out.  All has gone to plan, with the baton of power passing smoothly to another 'safe' pair of hands, or two, if the Deputy is included (we would be astounded if there are any 'nasty' surprises with the casting vote in 2008!).

 

Wednesday's decision seems to lock Macedon Ranges into a chillingly familiar pattern, which MRRA believes is a step that takes the Shire well backwards - a ghastly regression into the ghastly past.  Not surprising really, when you consider how many of our current Councillors are... well... are a blast from that past. 

 

The hair on the back of our neck is already standing up.  In Friday's Guardian newspaper, new Mayor Harvey says his key priority will be reviewing Council's Financial Plan because it's about "making sure that the shire's got a sustainable future".  Hmm... that could mean anything.

 

Over the years, Noel has gained something of a reputation as being a supporter of big borrowing, big spending, big taxing government.  Residents have already seen some big borrowing and spending fervour with Noel's avid support for the financially unviable Kyneton pool project, so how can anyone be sure any review of the financial plan isn't going to be used as a way of justifying the pool and shoring up the enormous debt it lands on ratepayers?  Or could it be to wipe off community spending on other things to pay for the pool?  Or massaging the budget for other costly, one-off special interest projects?  Are we being too hard?  Don't think so. This community is still paying for some of the big spending indulged in by Council way back in 1999 on another project strongly supported by Noel then, and now - the Kyneton bowling club pokies venue debacle (i.e. a $1 million loan in this year's budget to refurbish the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute). 

 

There are in fact lights flashing in several directions for MRRA.  The Shire has a new CEO coming, and even if he turned out to be the best CEO ever, for the first 6 months he will be on L plates (so to speak), and according to the Guardian another priority for Mayor Harvey will be "welcoming and settling in" the new CEO.  There is a Council election coming up in 2008, with most Councillors no doubt looking to bestow lavish gifts in exchange for votes (er, as you do).  MRRA still has the mental image of last-time-around Noel, as Mayor, speaking both against the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) and for Timbertowns - on the same day. 

 

 We recall the 1999 Hunt Report findings that much of Council at that time was dysfunctional, secretive, lacked accountability, operated as an executive decision-making body, didn't consult properly - and then of watching nothing happen with the recommendations in that damning report during Noel's two years as mayor in 1999 and 2000 (in fact, nothing happened with the report until CE Ian Morris and the 2003 Council came along).  Then there's this current Council's already well-established and well-evident penchant for winding the clock back to behind-closed-doors meetings, refusing to stop meeting with developers, only letting some people (usually developers) address ordinary council meetings, and so on. 

 

Just in case you haven't picked it yet, we will speak plainly.  MRRA does not have confidence in Noel Harvey as Mayor, or in John Connor as Deputy Mayor. 

 

In 2005 Noel Harvey received no stars (of a potential 5) in MRRA's 'Star Rating' of Council candidates, while John Connor received only 1 star.  Of the Councillors who supported Cr. Harvey for Mayor, John Letchford and Henry Bleeck likewise scored no stars, Geoff Neil 1, Sandra McGregor 1.5, and Helen Relph 2.  In contrast, Crs. Rob Guthrie and Tom Gyorffy, the only two Councillors who opposed Cr. Harvey's election, scored 5 stars and 4.5 stars respectively. 

 

If Macedon Ranges is on a path back to the 'good old boy' days of Macedon Ranges' dark history, MRRA could probably predict what comes next.  It was ugly last time around and it will be ugly again - we'll be watching for it and will make sure you get to know about it so that in November 2008 there will be major changes in Town Hall personnel.

 

Next Mayor To Be "Elected" Tomorrow, 5th December

(4/12/07 - C)   Don't we wish...

Wednesday 5th December 2007 will see the transition to a new Mayor, the final 'election' of a Mayor for the current 3 year Council term.  The event will be held in the Council chamber at Council's Kyneton office, starting at 6.00pm.

 

MRRA Says:

 

If ever there was a likely farce, it would have to be the 'election' of a Mayor in Macedon Ranges.  Forget democracy, the deals are usually done well, if not years, in advance.  While some improvement has been made in recent times that currently sees an open vote in Council chamber, there are some who would seem to prefer reverting to the past practice of doing it all behind closed doors, with a confidentiality embargo on who voted for whom.  Ah, liberty... transparency... democracy...

 

The point of political deals, of course, is to ensure votes go the right way throughout the year, and power is kept in the 'right' hands through mutual 'back-scratching'... a la 'you vote for mine and I'll vote for yours'. 

 

While sometimes a Mayor can come across as a bit of a show pony, flitting about from one social highlight to another, there is an abiding and serious truth about Mayors: they hold a casting vote, and that's real power.  

 

Word on the street has consistently been that the next Mayor will be the same old same old, yet another from the 'trusties' who have held power for the last two years. 

 

So here's the challenge.  How about giving someone else a go?  How about sending the community a message that we really do have a democracy, rather than a foregone political conclusion?

 

GO ON, WE DARE YOU...

 

Helen Relph Is 'Crowned' Mayor For 2007

(10/12/06 - C)  Cr. Noel Harvey has 'lady-in-waiting' role of Deputy Mayor as Cr. Tom Gyorffy warns Council a Deputy Mayor has no legal standing or authority

At last Wednesday's Special Council meeting, there was again evidence (as last year) that Macedon Ranges' Councillors are split on who should lead the Council as Mayor, with the winners having only 5 of 9 votes both times.  This year, it was Helen Relph's turn to emerge victorious as Mayor, but not without competition. Cr. John Connor nominated Cr. Relph, and Cr. Tom Gyorffy nominated Cr. John Letchford.  Cr. Relph, in addition to her own vote, won with support from Crs. Harvey, Bleeck, Connor and Neil.

 

A Deputy Mayor was also elected, although Cr. Tom Gyorffy warned Council it was merely a ceremonial, in-name-only position that carried with it none of the authority vested in a Mayor.  If an Acting Mayor is required, Council will need to appoint someone to fill that position at the time the need arises if it is to comply with the Local Government Act.

 

Cr. Geoff Neil nominated Noel Harvey as Deputy Mayor, Cr. Gyorffy nominated Cr. Rob Guthrie and Cr. John Letchford nominated Cr. Sandra McGregor.  Cr. Harvey had the numbers in the first round, with Crs. Neil, Connor, Bleeck and Relph supporting his own vote to get him across the line (coincidentally, the same 5 votes elected both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor: Relph, Bleeck, Connor, Harvey and Neil).  Once Cr. Harvey had the 5 votes needed, voting stopped without testing support for the other two candidates.

 

MRRA Says:

 

It will be interesting to see how the year pans out, and whether Council continues to treat the role of Deputy Mayor as having legal standing.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy argues that the role was deleted from the Local Government Act several years ago and doesn't exist.  In fact, this is also supported in the Council Business Papers for last week's meeting.

 

The Local Government Act certainly makes no mention of a Deputy Mayor, and at Section 73 (3) says:

 

"If there is a vacancy in the office of Mayor or the Mayor is absent, incapable of acting or refusing to act, the Council must appoint one of the Councillors to be the acting Mayor."

 

Council's Local Law 5 (Meetings and Common Seal), on the other hand, at Clause 7 (5) says:

 

"If the Mayor is unable to attend a Council meeting for any reason (a) any Deputy Mayor will be acting chair and (b) if no Deputy Mayor has been elected, an acting Chair may be elected."

 

Clearly there is a conflict between Council's Local Law and the Local Government Act.  So which takes precedence?  The Local Government Act, at section 111 (3) gives guidance: 

 

"A local law is inoperative to the extent that it is inconsistent with any Act or regulation."

 

On that basis, the Local Government Act (where Council needs to appoint an Acting Mayor to temporarily fill any Mayoral gap) should prevail.  But will it, in Macedon Ranges?  We hope so. 

 

Congratulations to Cr. Helen Relph, who some may see as a 'softer' option than the at times 'stern', retiring Mayor, Geoff Neil.  Cr. Harvey's elevation to Deputy Mayor is not unexpected and many would not be surprised to see him throw his hat in the ring for Mayor next year, in the lead-up to the next Council election.  He was Mayor in 1999 in the lead-up to the 2000 Council election, and held on to the role in 2000 after being re-elected in March of that year.

 

"Vote" For Next Mayor Scheduled For Wednesday 6th December At Kyneton, 5.00pm

(1/12/06 - C)  Off to a bad start - 5.00pm time doesn't impress - and that's before the anticipated circus antics and sham democracy start...

Yes, it's that time again, when our elected representatives themselves come together to elect as Mayor the one amongst them who will best lead, best put the Shire's and community's interests before their own, is the most altruistic, honest, ethical, intelligent, responsible, visionary, dedicated, non-partisan and fair.

 

MRRA Says:

Would that it was...  The reality is the decision is unlikely to be based on any of the above.  Typically, the deal has already been struck well before the charade of voting in public takes place.  It isn't usually about getting the "best" either, but who is owed the most favours, or whose 'turn' it is, or who holds the most sway over the others.  And if most of the 'others' don't like someone, merit won't come into it - the unpopular one might as well not bother being there. 

 

Is it time to let the community elect the Mayor?

 

Macedon Ranges Council: MRRA Asks Residents Is It Time For The State Government To Step In? 

(22/8/06 - C) We live in a darkening democracy but the government won't act unless you say 'Enough'!   More...

 

Mayor Geoff Neil Does It Again

(12/7/06 - C)  Drops 'dandy' clanger on 'Yankee Doodle' day

Macedon Ranges Mayor Geoff Neil seems to have sucked his shoe again, this time while officiating at a citizenship ceremony on 4th July.  Seems our Geoffrey thought that it being American Independence Day and all, was good enough reason to let one fly at the Americans, and, according to last week's Kyneton Guardian, said  "This is your opportunity to shove it right up the Yanks".   An American was amongst those taking up Australian citizenship at the ceremony.

 

Council In Uproar With Claim Of Recycled "Bullies" Trying To Take Control

(30/5/06 - E)  Cr. Tom Gyorffy calls for Mayor (Geoff Neil) and Crs Noel Harvey and John Letchford to resign

It has been a fairly tempestuous week in local politics, but the explosion has been brewing since Council elections last November. Cr. Geoff Neil, whom MRRA called on in March to resign as Mayor and who has built something of a reputation for putting a foot or two in his mouth since he was re-elected, went full on into Councillors Guthrie and Gyorffy at last week's Council meeting, suspending standing orders to do so.  It seems the Mayor, Cr.Noel Harvey and Cr. John Letchford were fairly adamant that the two 'G's (Guthrie and Gyorffy) are responsible for a cost (?) of $160,000 to Council because they were supposedly parties to a recent enforcement hearing at VCAT.  The hearing was instigated by a community group contesting Council's ability to provide sufficient parking spaces to meet VCAT requirements for the Kyneton Bowling Club pokies expansion.  Seems the Council triumvirate were fairly set on trying to put those two 'upstarts' very publicly back in their places - that is, on the outer and outside the circle of power at Council. It's just a pity one or the other of the aggressors didn't check their facts before lurching into it. 

 

For example, Crs. Guthrie and Gyorffy were actually called as witnesses at VCAT (i.e. they weren't 'parties' to the hearing); the Mayor's version of 'costs' apparently includes compensation to Council for losses incurred through delays to construction claimed to have been caused by the VCAT hearing (the only problem with that is Council only got the green light from Minister Hulls and Heritage Victoria to go ahead a week or so ago -  well after the VCAT decision was handed down). 

 

It's also a pity those behaving as if they were the Three Musketeers didn't duplicate Cr. Guthrie's concern for behaving in a manner more redolent of the Councillor's Code of Conduct.  Or is that just so much paper?

 

MRRA Says:

 

Beam us up, Scottie...

 

Now let's see:  Is a Council chamber a place where Councillors who aren't liked by grand-standing self-proclaimed powerbrokers and/or control fiends go to be baited and berated? 

 

Are some of our Councillors trying to take Council back to the horrible ways it was (in)famous for before some of our present Councillors were thrown out by the people in 2003?  Are we back in 2002 when a former Councillor publicly criticized Noel Harvey for bullying?   Do we have a 'kitchen cabinet' operating, as was suspected back in the dark old days when some of our present representatives were last Councillors?  Are decisions made behind closed doors at afternoon briefing sessions by whoever happens to attend? 

 

Is this where democracy is at in Macedon Ranges?  Is this where you want it to be?

 

Some members of this 'new' Council have already 'distinguished' themselves by blaming Gisborne residents for over-development at Helensville; is the community again to be blamed for everything the majority of our Councillors get wrong? 

 

Are we overdosing on testosterone?  Will self-promoting publicity stunts make a comeback (can we ever forget that photograph of a former Mayor inside a trolley bin)?   As arrogance increases, will the community be subjected to ever-increasing doses of the mushroom treatment?  It was last time around... 

 

 We hate to say it, but MRRA did try to alert the community when it assigned zero stars to Noel Harvey (0) and John Letchford (0), and only one star to Geoff Neil (1), before last November's Council election.  The types of behaviours that are now coming to light, with which MRRA was already familiar, played a key role in determining how many stars candidates received.  Click here to see how MRRA rated candidates.

 

MRRA Calls For Macedon Ranges' Mayor To Resign

(11/3/06 - C)  MRRA says: “This Shire desperately needs a leader (and Councillors) with vision.  The Mayor’s comments are seriously out of step with current thinking and put Council in conflict with its own planning scheme and community values (e.g. Vision 2025).  They shame Macedon Ranges and in MRRA’s view are completely out of order.  Cr. Neil should resign as Mayor immediately.”   Call to residents to tell Council they don't support the Mayor's comments and want rural land protected

Macedon Ranges Residents' Association is calling for the Mayor, Geoff Neil, to step down from that position after comments he made in State and local newspapers that VCAT's over-ruling of a Council refusal - and Amendment C48 -  was "terrific".  There are plenty of other examples of 'clangers' the Mayor has dropped during his short time in office, and we hear there are more yet to come.   We don't think this is acceptable behaviour in a Mayor, and we say he should step down immediately.  Click here to see MRRA's press release.

 

The Association urges residents to let Council know (email: mrsc@macedon-ranges.vic.gov.au or fax 5422 3623) that they don’t support Cr. Neil’s comments, and want our rural land protected.

 

As Predicted, ‘Old Timer’ and ‘New Chum’ Get Mayor and Deputy Mayor

(10/12/05 – C) But not without a split vote

Wednesday’s Special Council meeting didn’t really present any surprises for those with their ears open.  Rumour consistently had ‘old timer’ Geoff Neil getting the Mayor’s job and ‘new chum’ Helen Relph the Deputy’s role.  And that’s how it turned out, but not without a challenge.   While John Letchford nominated Geoff Neil, Tom Gyorffy put Rob Guthrie’s name in the race for mayor.  Similarly, while once again John Letchford nominated Helen Relph for Deputy, Rob Guthrie put forward Henry Bleeck’s name.  In the end, the winners (Neil and Relph) only received support from 5 Councillors (Connor, Letchford, Harvey, Relph and Neil) while the ‘losers’ were backed by Gyorffy, Guthrie and Bleeck, producing a 5 to 3 split on both occasions.  New Councillor Sandra McGregor was absent from the meeting due to a sudden family health problem, but it is believed she would have supported the Guthrie and Bleeck camp, signalling a 5 to 4 split on Council.  PS  THEY DID IT BY SHOW OF HANDS, which is how we know who voted for what.  Brownie points for that… Note: ‘Old timer’ Cr. Neil has previously served many years as Councillor while ‘new chum’ Cr. Relph was first elected in a by-election in January 2005.

 

The Heat’s On As New Councillors Sort Out Numbers For Mayor’s Job

(2/12/05 – C) Hold the testosterone!  What we want to know is will it be decided by a public ‘show of hands’?

 

Electing a mayor is always a testy and testing time, but with 7 men and 2 women on Council this time around, we hear there’s plenty of testosterone as well as hats in the ring.  Perhaps the mayor should be elected by ratepayers – it’s a scenario that would relieve Councillors of the pressure of deciding who gets the extra vote and $50,000 for a year.   What MRRA is looking for is the novelty of a ‘public’ election.  Our Councils to date have been reluctant to let us residents see who’s voting which way when it comes to settling on a mayor and deputy mayor.  There are plenty of stories about deals being done, but it surely that doesn’t happen every time, does it?   In past years the ‘ballot’ has simply been a formal recording in Council chamber of a decision made well before the meeting.  Maybe this time will be different and we’ll at last have a public show of hands in the Chamber.  The Mayor and Deputy Mayor positions will be ‘announced’ at a Special Council Meeting at the Kyneton Town Hall, next Wednesday (7thDecember),  starting at 6.0pm.   You are welcome to attend.  May the best… er… ‘man’ win!