Following the shutting down of last week’s Council meeting, I’ve popped in to see how the mood is at the public forum. So far, there are more security guards than people. (And I’ve forgotten my glasses.)
About 20 people now – still outnumbered by Councillors, officers and security. Six Councillors are present – Cr Samantha Byrne is chairing (as Deputy Mayor). Rather ironically the Mayor and CEO, it is announced, are at Parliament meeting with the Minister for Transport.
Crs Lawrence, Gauci-Maurici, Byrne, Surace, Nation and Sharpe are present. Of the Councillors who voted against legal action last week, only Crs Byrne and Sharpe are present.
Cr Marshall comes late – after the Niddrie Traders have commenced their presentation on the Niddrie Shopping Precinct. It’s not yet clear what the ‘ask’ is from the Niddrie Traders, but the presentation has moved quickly to crime prevention, parking and tree-plantings.
There are now about 30 people in the gallery, being treated to a slideshow promoting Niddrie. (It looks as though the Traders are working hard – though still not sure what the ask is – may be just a tour of Niddrie and a reminder about Mothers’ Day.)
Cr Byrne says she drives past the beautiful mural daily (it is quite specky – more please!!). Cr Surace asks if the artists were local artists – they weren’t. Cr Marshall asks what the main challenge for traders is? The answer is getting more people into the shopping precinct – and away from the indoor, huge shopping centres where parking and weather are not issues.
Cr Byrne moves to questions without notice and requests that the person asking the Q, nominates their name and street, and only asks one question. She asks for Qs to be short and clear.
Shane – Edmonds St, Essendon: The Councillor Code of Conduct requires taking diligent care. Shane asks what steps Cr Byrne took before making a decision.
Cr Byrne says she has received information – attending consultations, rally, haven’t missed a meeting in past 15 months at Council.
Shane asks is she is prepared to go on record defending her decision.
Richard – Aberdeen Cres, Essendon – what level of public support by way of rallies and petitions would you need to rescind council’s decisions?
Answer: we have received legal advice informing decision. Cr Byrne: “Personally I wouldn’t be changing my vote, There is obviously public support (against LXRA proposal). We have seen that here tonight.” What level of support? A difficult Q, but in my opinion it is not the informed support that will change my decision.
Richard – Essendon – the engineering department in the organisation, are they saying that the design is safe, for pedestrians, cyclists? Are they saying it is the most effective way of moving traffic along Buckley St? Will residential streets be required for use?
(The CEO has walked in – so is the meeting he is attending with the Mayor and Transport Minister finished? Where is the Mayor?)
Natalie R. answers: this is not our project. We are working with the LXRA to get the best possible decisions we can. Our advice to Crs is to keep them updated about the project and how we can make the most of the project – including dealing with safety issues – in the final aspects of the design.
Richard: if there is a safety issue, this is number one. I ride a push bike west along Buckley St. What will happen when I ride on the one lane through the “trench”? There is a stack of cars behind me. What do I do? I’ve been asking LXRA to advise of the final design regarding the interface between the side streets and Buckley St.
Cr Byrne: now we are having more conversations with LXRA, we hope to solve this.
Richard: this is why we are so disappointed in Crs Byrne and Sharpe – there was no consultation. It was show and tell. How am I going to travel down there? Have you got travel signalling info? Have you got traffic counts?
Natalie: Gill is chief engineer – he will answer.
Gill says MVCC has been working to look at design plans – have only just received the traffic signal plans. Is expecting the transport impact assessment – Mt Road and Buckley St, and service road entry and exit points. Will be looking at alternative routes for cyclists.
Richard: one lane, one bicycle – what happens to the traffic. Aren’t you concerned?
Gill: we are looking at alternative east, west links.
Richard: this has been obvious.
Cr Byrne suggests passing on documentation. The CEO says no.
Shane – The anger in the room is that this stuff should have been done well prior to a decision being made. Security officers here? Is this what we have got to?
Cr Byrne says considering what happened last meeting.
Cr Nation asks whether there was a commitment to release the traffic assessment?
Natalie R says only some part of the assessment will be available.
Richard asks for a commitment for information.
Natalie R: says Crs were not making a decision about this project. There was an opportunity to bring a challenge, that would not have changed the project. This is someone else’s project. We are hopeful there will be a solution for cyclists.
Richard says it’s not just cyclists – pedestrians also.
Hamish Jones – Strathmore: whether Council intends on sanctioning Cr Cusack for referring to residents as feral?
CEO responds: inappropriate to discuss at the moment; not sure whether he referred to residents or behaviour being feral. Would need to write to CEO to make complaint. Has confidence in Gill – did a great job re EWL negotiations.
Loretta – Essendon: Natural justice shouldn’t prevent Crs from having views during election campaigns. When Crs give impressions that they will never change their views on an issues, they are at risk of changing NJ. Q for Crs Byrne and Sharpe – stated history of voting a particular way; argues have not given due weight to residents’ views. Have not allowed residents opportunity to seek natural justice. Are you going to rescind the decision?
Cr Byrne: says she stands by her decision.
Cr Sharpe: every single decision I make on case’s merit; would you like me to answer the Q; Buckley St is different from EWL; if you have a listen, it might enlighten you; I don’t think you did listen.
Donna – Essendon: Q for the CEO – if the Buckley St Level Crossing is so safe, why is there a difference of opinion?
CEO says there will always be a difference of opinion. Says he lives closer than many residents here. Has stepped out of all decision and briefings on the issue.
Another resident (I didn’t catch name): as rate payers, why don’t we get all the information; what makes it confidential?
Natalie: the information belongs to the LXRA. We had to agree to keep the information confidential to get access to the information from LXRA. The LXRA will be reticent to share information until they have finalised the detailed plan.
Cr Byrne: we have only just begun speaking with them.
So you flipped?
CEO – we were opposed to EWL, but we have to work with the project.
Unclear? – Essendon – (I was on the other side of the room and it was a bit hard to see and hear who was speaking at some points. I’m not sure who was making these comments). I cannot look my son in the eye … are there any other level crossings that were under MTPFA – people opposed this. Any death is on you. We all know this will be dangerous. They have been given a shit sandwich to try and make good. This is not standard practice. What level of support would you need for Council to change their mind? I couldn’t care about rail under road, I’d rather wait. They way it has been done is wrong. If I have to go to Pearson’s house with media.
Pauline – has heard in last couple of weeks, planned tunnel has changed. Is there something for the elderly and wheelchair bound to get from Rose St to Russell St? The ramps are steep.
Gill: the existing ramps will be made DDA compliant. The ramp to the platform is currently not DDA compliant.
Ross – it feels the LXRA have taken the cheapest option. Have you been given any indication of the cost? Cr Byrne says Skyrail would have been a cheaper option.
Angelo – to the CEO, you are responsible for managing Crs. CEO says he is not. The Mayor and CEO met with Minister Allen this afternoon. Cr Cusack is preparing for an operation.
Cr Nation asks whether residents can be advised about anything.
A small boy reads his question to the Mayor (I think he is going to make me cry!) He asks why the Mayor is doing what he is to his neighbourhood.
CEO clarifies that the motion can’t be rescinded.
Richard asks what can change?
The CEO and Cr Marshall say “nothing”.