October 22, 2015

Horse 2012 - Mosman Council: A "Not Fit" Council

The IPART report found about 60 per cent of the state's councils were not "fit for the future", according to IPART's criteria.
The list included Clover Moore's City of Sydney Council, which was considered fit on the criteria applied to other councils, but did not meet the tougher test of a "global city council".
In Sydney, only 12 of the city's councils submitted proposals to IPART deemed to be fit. Most of the 29 deemed unfit failed on the basis they did not meet the scale and capacity criteria.
- Jacob Saulwick, Sydney Morning Herald, 21st Oct 2015.

As indicated by the above article, the Baird Government intends to make sweeping changes to local government in New South Wales; and by sweeping they mean 'streamlining' and by streamlining they mean 'axing'.
This is obviously a cost cutting exercise, which more than likely lead to a reduced quality in services and whilst I feel sorry for the inevitable job losses and the families who will suffer as a result of the axe being wielded, I do not feel sorry for the organisations which are being reorganised out of existence.
One of those local councils which the Government probably intends to axe is Mosman Municipal Council and golly, gosh, darn and gee, haven't they been kicking up a stink about it?

To Mosman Municipal Council, if you should suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and suffer an existence failure, to you I say: good! Good riddance to bad rubbish! In the more than a decade that I've been working within your environs, I've found you to be  most troublesome and annoying thing. Your staff are excellent but they have had to carry out policy which was enacted by jackaninnies.

Mosman Municipal Council is probably unique among local government in Australia in that within its borders there is only one suburb and only one postcode. Places like Balmoral, The Spit, Spit Junction and Chowder Bay are all localities but they have never been afforded suburb status by the office that determines geographical place names in NSW. The last time that Mosman's status was threatened, the council threatened to split the suburb into five; which it hoped would defer the chop but that never happened.
Within this one postcode, one council, is either the first, second or third richest suburb in the country and I put it that it is precisely this which has caused so much of my ire over the years. It is not the politics of envy which bothers me but rather my attempts to do really simple things within the suburb.

In the days that I used to drive to work, I faced a morning battle to find a parking spot. Mosman Council had lovingly put up signs which restricted parking to two and one hours across the suburb, which is fine if you want to keep traffic moving but terrible if you need to park somewhere all day. The exemption to this was a resident parking permit which makes sense but because I am an employee of a business, I was not allowed to apply for a parking permit. As a business, even though we are ratepayers, we still weren't allowed to apply for a parking permit.
This just seems like crazy stuff to me. Businesses generate... business. That business puts money into the local economy. Mosman Council doesn't really give a rip about this and when this was expressed by several business owners at Council meetings, the response was that because they weren't residents, they shouldn't be entitled to parking permits. The opinion by the council is that in maintaining a 'village feel' they felt that residents should be the biggest benefactors of council decisions. One of the unintended consequences of restricting parking though, is that people tend not to stay and spend a lot of money. There are a few really expensive boutiques which cling on because they have been there for years but there are more shop fronts which have been boarded up due to lack of tenants than there are operating businesses in some parts of the high street.

Parking II:
Mosman boasts some really stunning beaches; the biggest being Balmoral and Chowder Bay. However, Mosman Council in all its stunning wisdom had decided to install stunning parking meters next to those beaches. Again, local residents are exempt from paying because of their parking permits but the council would prefer that everyone else stay away.
I have been to places in southern France where there are private beaches and I can tell you that its very annoying indeed. When you are told to move on or are threatened with a fine for trespassing, it ruins your day. Now admittedly, Mosman hasn't sold the beaches to private hands ( if they were allowed to I suspect that they would) but by putting up parking meters and parking restrictions, they have in effect erected barriers to entry. This means that from the outset, people who live in suburbs which don't have beaches are less likely to even consider a day out to the beach in Mosman, which I suspect suits the council and its residents down to a T, if it keeps the riff-raff out of the area. I bet that if some bypass could be built underground and sent the traffic that currently goes down Military Road elsewhere, that the council would be fine with that too - in fact anything which could keep the scum class (which begins in neighbouring North Sydney Council) out of the Most Serene Republic of Mosman, which would include armed border checkpoints and immigration checks at Mosman Ferry wharves (and sending boat arrivals to Shark Island), would also be voted for in a heartbeat by Mosman Municipal Council.

Even though the business that I work for is a ratepayer because we don't have a streetfront, we aren't entitled to a rubbish bin. Despite not being entitled to a rubbish bin, we aren't given a discount on council rates. This means that in effect, we are paying for a service that we're not even entitled to. Under most normal circumstances you wouldn't pay for literally nothing but with council rates, you have no choice.
The obvious trade off would be to allow us to put our rubbish into council bins but no, Mosman Council sneakily designed the covers of their bins so that you can't fit anything more substantial than a single plastic bottle through the opening. If you do have a football sized bag of rubbish, then you have to open the bag and place each item in the bin separately and without a council ranger from spotting you doing it because they can and will issue a fine.
Yes I realise that litter is a problem but this convergence of factors has led to situation of great annoyance. Even if you try to be tidy, Mosman Council lets no good deed go unpunished.

Council Rangers are efficious at the best of times and their job demands it but Mosman's rangers have taken this efficiousness to a standard of their own. In Horse 1606 I told the tale of how one of them stopped small children from pulling coins from a fountain but it doesn't stop there. I've seen the rangers tell off children for kicking balls on the Village Green, riding scooters through Mosman Square and most ridiculously of all, playing cricket on Mosman Oval. They're quite supercilious and pugnacious and all too quick to chalk people's tyres if they happen to overstay parking limits by even two minutes.

Usually it is a good idea that someone serving on a council should live within that council area but in 2012 Belinda Halloran only resigned her post as Deputy Mayor after the The Daily Telegraph published her plans to continue acting on the council after moving to San Francisco.

It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that Mosman Council wishes to remain independent but I think that the Baird Government is making the right choice here. I think that it's probably fair and reasonable that Mosman be amalgamated with North Sydney Council or Manly Council and will reduce duplicate costs.
The experience of the merger of South Sydney City Council with The City of Sydney Council indicates to me that amalgamations like ones proposed work perfectly fine. In that respect, Mosman Municipal Council is probably not only "not fit for the future" but probably also "not fit for the present"; my prejudices aside.
As someone who has written more than 40 quarterly cheques made payable to Mosman Municipal Council, I've often felt that I've not been getting value for money; even though I do like the library.

Hey hey, ho ho - Mosman Council has got to go.

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