Complimentary email

This is a uniquely worded and complimentary email I received in 2015. It is about councillors’ executive assistant.


Thank you for the attentive listening and inspiring words offered when I helplessly approached the council office in extremely distressing circumstances. Such an outcome was least expected in a nearly time run out the issue. Your commendable action by seeing things effortlessly deeper and clearer beyond the common intellectuals made it possible.

Disregard of the outcome, the issue was addressed by you with uncommon degree of wisdom and compassion without even slightest hint then, that a weak and volatile stranger’s issue could eventually meet such a resolve. The humanitarian gestures, the ethos and the attitude you maintained towards a fellow resident’s grievances are self explanatory to your praiseworthy nature, and the underlying great traditions, cultures of a growing organization. Such sensible and insightful action also defines the fine quality of brain stocks, fuelling the impressive performance of a city council that is second to none in the world of its category.

I am sorry for my delayed responses due to my ongoing circumstances. Surely it is nothing less than a social crime on my part, if such exemplary official decorum’s are left unacknowledged. In situations as this, where action speaks louder than the voice, I cannot find a word good enough to express my innately simmering warm emotions and feelings of gratitude.

Farsighted visionaries of a role model Council had again displayed how core elements of social justice are vibrantly maintained in the premise in perfect harmony. My undertaking on compliance with council’s effective parking policies has already been submitted and I am grateful that genuine serving spirit and human emotions are not overridden with regulatory provisions.

Even if patrons could have allocated 25 cents per hour for the months together volunteering services rendered, this fine should have been easily settled. The least they should have informed the facts appropriately, to help to avoid a promised issue getting dragged for so long.

As growing up, I had actively carried out various charitable disaster relief and human services projects. Now in the prevailing circumstances your celestial intervening act made me feel repaying my karma in many folds. I remain committed to put back to the society the respite authorities extended to me with enhanced vigor. Please feel free to call me for any opportunity to volunteer and serve the council and its community.

I humbly express my sincere thanks and gratitude to Cr Sean O’ Reilly, the Mayor of City of Greater Dandenong and all council officials who expedited the issue by granting me the leniency.

You are a too good citizen to the world and indeed nature’s wonderful gift to the people around. Opulence and prosperity will always surround you all. Last week after meeting you, I returned home with deep imprints of seeing an immaculate creation of the Almighty God and whether we meet again or not that will remain ever lingering in my heart.

Thoughts on planning

The drafting of a Planning Scheme; State, Local and Municipal planning policies, as well as the determination of what land within a municipality gets which zonings, are all undertaken as part of a democratic process.  This statement is not an invitation on the relative virtues or not of a democratic system (or our democratic system), it is simply a statement of fact.  The Greater Dandenong Planning Scheme is an example of but one of many Planning Schemes state-wide which are part of this land use management and development process, which includes the rights to apply for the development of land in accordance with those democratically developed process, or to object to them through a fair process if one feels aggrieved at what is being proposed or approved.

On art and architecture there are widely divergent, subjective, and often passionately held viewpoints.  Just as with the outcomes of a democratic process, which leaves some unhappy with the result.

So, developments have been through the required democratically determined legislation and processes, and found acceptable in a professional assessment and approved in a (democratically elected) political one.

To quote Winston Churchill “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”

When council rate relief is bad

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, some local councils have announced, or are planning, an across-the-board rate freeze.

A rate freeze is a bad idea for these reasons:

Council rates are a “wealth tax”, not an income tax. Rates are calculated using property values. A general rate freeze gives most of the benefit to the wealthiest property owners.

Victorian councils are already subject to a maximum small percentage increase in total rates collected. Due to rate capping, a rate freeze lowers rate-raising capacity not just for the current year, but for future years. This will reduce local government services permanently.

A better idea is to target relief, here are some suggestions:

Relief for the most affected in the residential community. Pensioners that are asset rich and income poor. Unemployed property owners. Easier to access financial hardship rate deferments. Increased material aid (food and care) packages.

Rather than grant relief to the wealthiest landowners, it’s better to target those most in need.

Increased support for the most affected in the business community. Refund street trading permit charges. Rate rebates for retail traders.

Summary

When the impacts of the pandemic were first known, many councils responded quickly with broad-brush relief. In order for the limited amount of relief to be most effectively and fairly applied, relief should now be as targeted as possible.

While a rates freeze such as that announced by the City of Melbourne is politically popular, most of the benefit goes to the wealthy, with any resulting debt burden borne by the whole community.

Reference

Greater Dandenong $4 million COVID rate relief

“Social distancing” is the problem.

Most people won’t keep their distance. I have been in a few public places in the last few days and haven’t witnessed any discernible difference in people’s behaviour.

That is why the “social distancing” policy is mostly ineffectual because:

  • it’s seen as rude to deliberately distance yourselves from others, particularly in a social setting.
  • personal risk of the virus won’t hit home to many people until someone they know has the virus.

Unfortunately, shut-down is the only next step worth taking. This removes places that people can come together and transmit the virus.

Masks are the new fashion.

I wear a mask whenever I come within two metres of another person. If you come within two metres of another person, you should be wearing a mask.

People are infectious with the virus for four days before symptoms appear. The most common transmission occurs not from surfaces or hands, but from breathing. It surprises me that more in my local community are not wearing masks – in other countries, it is default behaviour to wear a mask even if you have no symptoms. Given that there are now projections for 50,000 to die in Australia, you could save a life by wearing a mask.

A four day incubation period with no symptoms. Act as if you have the virus.

Coronavirus and social media

The way that news is propagated to the public has changed.

Before social media

Before social media, important government announcements in Australia were efficiently transmitted via:

  • two newspapers in each city; and
  • five television channels in each city.

The situation now

Now, a large proportion of the public’s primary source of news is via social media channels. News-related posts are mixed in amongst posts about cats and selfies.

This makes it more difficult during crisis situations for government to communicate a consistent message to the public. There is no consistent timing for social media posts to appear in a user’s feed, so it can happen that news stories can be out of sequence in a user’s news feed, resulting in misinformation and confusion.

What needs to happen?

In future, government should legislate so that in a crisis:

  • Government posts are mandated as highest priority across the main social media used in Australia; and
  • Mandated SMS text messaging should be used for official government information.

Coronavirus in Australia should be contained

My inexpert guess is that Coronavirus infections will be contained within the next 6 months.

The basis is the following:

  • Australia is a sparsely populated country. It is one of the least densely populated countries. Therefore people coming close enough to each other to be infected is less likely.
  • Australia is an island and can more easily control its borders.
  • Australia has a strong health system to support virus testing and remediation of the infected.
  • Australians are well informed of hygiene, and infection mitigation.
  • The virus does not cope well in the hotter temperatures in Australia.

The risk

The ongoing risk is mass infection triggered by a single event, example as follows:

An infected individual attends a mass event. The infected individual comes into enough sustained contact to infect a large number of people. The whereabouts of this large number of infected people are untraceable after the event.

If this single event occurs, then all bets are off and contagion will be much more widespread.

The consequences

The most likely consequence for most of the public in Australia will not be health-related. The effects will be damage to the economy due to loss of confidence; disruption in international trade; less international tourists due to restrictions; and a shortage of some goods.

Disclaimer
Personal opinion only. The infection rates of the coronavirus are impossible to predict accurately and most affected by the public’s actions.

What does a local councillor do?

I still find it is not commonly known what exactly a local councillor does, and that there are quite a few misconceptions by the public. I will try to explain as simply as possible:

A councillor is a member of a “board of directors”

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Chief Ex…
councillors
counc…
 appoints 
 appoints 
day-to-day
council staff and operations
day-to-day…
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  • Councillors provide input and give final approval to council policies.
  • Councillors provide input and give final approval to the whole of the council’s annual budget.

A councillor represents the community

  • Councillors are elected by the public and are expected to listen to residents’ feedback and any issues that a resident may have with something about the council.
  • Councillors provide input and give final approval to the whole of the council’s annual budget.
  • Councillors can attend local events and community group functions.

How much does a councillor get paid?

A councillor in a metropolitan council gets paid around $30,000 per year.

How many hours a week does a councillor work?

  • There is generally one important council meeting per week that goes for around four hours. Councillors should have read the agenda papers prior to the council meeting.
  • In elected positions, there is no “boss” as such. Councillors are expected to do a good job otherwise they will be voted out at the next election.
  • Some councillors also working a full-time job so have to fit councillor duties around their full-time job.
  • Generally, I find that on average councillors work from 6 to 10 hours per week, depending on what is happening, and the circumstances of the individual councillor.

Planning application flowchart

I’ve put together a draft guide on the council planning process. Please don’t hold me to the complete accuracy of it. I’ve just done it to try to explain the quite complex process when residents object to a planning application.

1 objection
1 objection
2 or 3
objections
2 or 3…
4 or more
objections
4 or more…
How many objections?
How many objections?
Decision made by council planning department
Decision made by council planning…
decision to approve
decision to approve
decision to refuse
decision to refuse
Decision made at public council meeting by elected councillors
Decision made at public council meet…
Recommendation made by council planning department
Recommendation made by council plann…
Meeting between applicant and objectors
Meeting between applicant and object…
residential
residential
non-residential
non-residential
Type of application?
Type of application?
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by objectors?
Decision appealed by objectors?
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by applicant?
Decision appealed by applicant?
Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal
(VCAT)
Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal…
Final decision
Final decision
Yes
Yes
Decision appealed by applicant?
Decision appealed by applicant?
Application received
Application received
Advertise the application:
newspapers
letterbox drop
Advertise the application:…
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
Council receives objections
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Postal vs attendance voting


Postal voting

All voters receive a ballot paper through the mail. They are required to complete the declaration and return their vote through the mail.

  • Easier for mobility-impaired voters.
  • Easier for multicultural English-challenged voters. They have day rather than minutes to seek advice and help from family and friends
  • Increased window to vote. Some voters forget to return their voting papers.
  • More likelihood of “dummy” candidates being used to direct preferences to main candidates. This has been mitigated somewhat by candidate preference lists no longer included in the vote pack.
  • Public perception that votes are easier to manipulate than attendance elections.

Attendance voting

All voters are required to attend a polling booth on the election data. Other options are early voting (aka pre-poll), or voters can apply for a postal vote.

  • More likely to be person-to-person contact. Candidate might be at polling booth (note that there are around 9 voting booths per ward).
  • Local schools can run fundraising BBQs on election day, colloquially known as democracy sausage.
  • More difficult for genuine grass-roots community candidates to run a campaign. Newer candidates find it hard to staff around 7 polling booths from 8am to 6pm on polling day.
  • Some voters feel intimidated by having to “run the gauntlet” of people handing them how-to-vote cards outside the polling booth.
  • Waste of paper. A lot of paper is used for candidates’ how-to-vote cards.
  • Voters have to stand in queues on a Saturday.
  • Voters generally make a quick decision after receiving how-to-vote cards from candidates.
  • Bad weather.

References

Greater Dandenong attendance vote to cost more than $200,000

Election information


Note
The information presented on this website does not represent a final position. All viewpoints will be considered up to the point where a final decision is made.