Archive for category Citizens’ Jury Report
Ratepayers and residents concerned about Council’s one direction for redeveloping the Glen Waverley central car park should have their say at a Community Consultation session at Monash Council Glen Waverley on Thursday 28 Jan 7pm. A residents’ investigation aka citizen jury report explains why:
Non-residents and political career hopefuls Councillors Klisaris and Lake are once again imposing another monumental and potentially costly mistake in the form of a library and community hub adjacent to yet another inappropriate high rise on the Central Car Park site, in order to justify their disastrous Euneva Car Park. Lacking in business acumen, they did not get it right with the financial management of operating Euneva Car Park, such as ignoring opportunities for it to attract fees for all day parking. With such poor decisions, should the Monash community trust them with another spending spree?
If the proposed library and community hub usage reflects that of Euneva car-park, it will be under utilised from day one.
Glen Waverley property sales turned over $885 Million in the 12 months to Nov 2015, second (in Australia) only to Mosman in Sydney. Like comparing apples and bananas, does our Council seriously think that the Monash demographic, residing in its 81 sq km, requires ratepayers to upgrade its sixth community funded regional library to mirror the size and criteria of Geelong’s new regional library? Geelong has a lower SEIFA index, higher unemployment and was the recipient of $25 million in state and federal funding for their Regional Library and Heritage (Archive) Centre servicing an area of 1249 sq km. Furthermore, the Geelong library is located on the site of the original 750sq m Geelong library, with views of Corio Bay is adjacent to the large Johnstone Park, and therefore its location does not interfere with commercial precincts. In contrast, Glen Waverley residents and its schools are well equipped to provide technology to those who need it but there will be a lack of open space and social connectedness if all land is swallowed by developers. Open all hours and to everyone, free public open space allows equal access and does not discriminate.
Lifeline received over million calls for help in 2015. “Lifeline Australia CEO Pete Shmigel CEO has said Australians’ emotional well being was not in sync with their material wealth. They have three digital devices and sometimes that technology, as great as it is, can also enhance our feelings of loneliness, our feelings of isolation.” ( Ref: 13 Jan 2016 ABC reporter Eliza Laschon).
For the mental and physical health of all in the community and to facilitate ongoing economic activity in the southern end of Kingsway – it’s imperative we retain the whole of the Central Car Park site a public open space, with free WiFi above ground and an underground car park below, as it will be Glen Waverley’s most valuable asset for all to enjoy for decades to come.
EU (you) NEVA (never) want to park here
In attempts to woo motorists to this unpopular 3 ½ year old parking option, Council decided to spend $57,000 on lighting this eyesore, and on the days leading up to Christmas, the Euneva Ave Car Park was advertised on two electronic Traffic Management Signs on either side of Kingsway. However, despite these measures, at 11.20am pre-Christmas on 22 December 2015 Euneva housed 113 cars i.e.35% full and at 2.40pm on Friday 8 January 2016 only 65 cars i.e. 20% parked there. In contrast the popular Central Car Park was full on both occasions.
Therefore, many Monash constituents are increasingly viewing that their self-absorbed councillors are playing ‘Monopoly’ with ratepayers money as if it were their own, to build the new library on the Central Car Park site, in order to force cars of clientele of Kingsway and surrounds, into the inconveniently located Euneva Car Park. Euneva now, and always should have been, available for all day ‘destination’ parking, but it is being reserved for limited parking to satisfy the development of Cr lake’s dream library he imposed on his constituents as his self decided election goal.
In July 2015 the Council approved a $500 million redevelopment of The Glen, and in turn ignored future height controls for buildings along Sneddon Avenue. The ‘new’ Glen will include 3,800 car spaces. Shopping centres very often allow unrestricted parking in order to encourage consumers to increase their time within the centres to maximise spending. Once captured, few will venture outside i.e. to the old Kingsway strip, especially as dining and entertainment has been muted as one of the ‘new’ Glen’s focus.
In recent years Kingsway has diversified from traditional retail to that of food and entertainment strip with late night trading embraced by locals and visitors. To continue to have one hour car parking in front of restaurants and cinemas reflects the disconnect between the council officers who are in control [yet themselves get free parking], and their ignorance of real life consequences as it discriminates against Kingsway traders and their customers. The new one hour electronically monitored constraint does not allow drivers to park one minute late the moment their cars get scanned electronically. This increase car parking penalty fines, as an indirect strategy of new fund raising used by many councils, because of capped rates legislation commencing next financial year.
In Sept 2015 parking overstay devices (PODS) were installed in Monash, including in Kingsway, rear of the existing Library and Council Offices, and the Central Car Park to enforce disproportionate penalties on patrons parking overtime in the immediate vicinity of Kingsway’s food and entertainment precinct. The signage associated with these PODS is fastened with flimsy cable ties, not explanatory of the fines that could be incurred and are often at *right angles to the parking signs and not noticed by motorists. Overstay fines jump from $76 to around $100 if left unpaid. Park and display ticketing options would have been fairer and more acceptable.
While Cr Lake has consistently insist that Monash Council will not charge car parking, he also contradicts the GWAC Transport Plan that confirms that the council is considering a car parking fee scheme. The GWAC structural plan also stated the city planning goal is to make GW a primary pedestrian realm and the transport plan indicates that council will cost shift car parking problem management to the state to find alternatives in other public areas.
The guide to achieving a whole of organisation approach to Best Value is a good document, however it has a major shortfall. When a Council decides to terminate a service or dispose a serviced oriented asset, a Council can legitimately excuse itself from complying to best value principles.
This is the case witnessed in Monash Council, when it recently decided to sell off its residential aged care facilities and formally communicated publically that it is not obliged to comply with best value principles because service termination and assets disposal, despite association with services, is not within the scope of legislative best value compliance criteria.
In business applications, services (and assets) are managed on a lifecycle basis, which implies best practice value should apply from service conceptualisation to termination or asset acquisition to disposal. The consequences of not applying best value principles in a service lifecycle management context means that any Council can disregard its legislative obligations to show how its decision to terminate/dispose a service oriented asset can yield best value benefits and show their associated evidence based measures for the community.
In the case of the Monash Council, they refused (on the grounds of commercial in confidence) to disclose the financial and social costs and measurable benefits of disposing residential aged care facilities and reallocation of disposal funds that can show genuinely without doubt are in the best interest of the community. They also choose a time to sell when sale proceeds are not maximized for best returns.
Because of this identified loophole in the LG Act and the guide to achieving a whole of organisation approach to Best Value, some Councils can discretionary decide to dispose services and assets, not necessarily yielding best value to the community they serve and can refuse to disclose cost-benefit justification details as they like.
As witnessed in the Monash case, without best value demonstration in disposing services or assets, transparency issues are more easily fostered and construed to support hidden agendas in decision making, and resulting in the community losing trust and confidence in their Council.
This practice gap has been reported to the Ministry of Local Government (LG) to be addressed and help enhance LG reform improvements in best value compliance.
2013 was a watershed year, ending in dividing the community and Council over the decision to sell the Monash and Elizabeth Gardens’ residential aged care facilities. The decision-making approach taken by Council is also an eye opening – so far the process had revealed most Councillors’ interest for the community is fake. They showed to the community that they can make decisions implicitly based on freeing up cash from the sale of big ticket assets to fund civic developments, such as a new Glen Waverley library and community center, to boast the future public profiles of those in leadership control for 2016 election, personal political ambitions and CV brownie-points. So, decision-making is all about personal gains, not in the real interest of the community. This conclusion is affirmed by the process experience that shows:
- The weak rationality of decision criteria and overpowering groupthink to push for a majority vote to sell the aged care facilities. The decision-making is also laden with politics – one Councillor was caught in the middle to support his peer groupthink direction and what the community is telling Council what they want and the way out is not vote in the October Council meeting based on some work excuse and later declaring personal conflict of interest from further involvement in the decision-making process.
- Discretionary interpretation of transparency – having 3 closed meetings in the decision-making process is considered transparent while the State Minister is advocating to use the number of closed meetings to show decline in transparency.
- Controlled engagement with community – community consultation happened after Councillors voted for a tentative decision to sell the facilities, however playing with words and calling the remainder of the decision-making process exploring a divestment strategy that starts with investigating an expression of interest to sell the facilities. The form of community consultation is an informative process and engaging feedback is tokenistic and included asking residents and their families to define the quality of care needed to support their health and wellbeing during the sale and ownership transfer period, when Council cannot even define specific service measures of the quality of care themselves.
Ultimately, the decision-making was driven by groupthink support for freeing up cash for other infrastructure and service developments, and without evidence based problem solving details disclosed to the public, the formal excuses they made are because of the future operating and financial incapacity of Council to provide sustainable quality aged care. In the meantime, other financially deficit assets and services, such as the Euvena Carpark is allowed to operate because of more made-up excuses based on groupthink influences.
MRI hope that 2014 will not repeat the sort of leadership and lacking governance in Council decision-making and behavioural attitudes. We hope to see a more responsible financial management of next year’s budget and revision to the strategic resource plan (SRP). In 2012 when the new Council plan’s budgets were developed, two concurrent activities were running – planning to sell the aged care facilities and master planning of new civic developments in Glen Waverley. The financial scenarios of these planning activities were not integrated in the Council’s SRP and 2013/14 budget plan, and will be added on as “incidental decision” scope-creep in future financial plans. Watch this space – we anticipate that groupthink influence will continue to plague voting for and poor decision rationality of the civic developments to go ahead because the decision can give the Mayor great brownie-points for his public profile for election, political and CV gains. Rates hikes above 6% are also on the radar because the margins made from selling the aged care facilities are unlikely to be enough to fund their spending appetites.
For the few Councillors with compassionate hearts and true community commitments to their constituents, think of the many elderly residents in Monash. They do not have the financial resources to match the many increases in public utilities, such as of gas , electricity and above all more Monash Council rates increase. These people are asset rich, cash poor, they are called pensioners or self-retirees and cannot sustain surviving with large accumulative and above CPI financial increases in rates over time, which will one day result in unaffordable rates that will push them out of their homes. When this happens, they have no affordable aged care facilities to access, thanks to the Councillors who voted to sell the service oriented assets last year, despite over 10,000 petition signatures and personal face to face meeting pleading them not to. Will there be ethical considerations in 2014 Council decision-making?
Transparent, responsible and ethical budgeting is important, so is responsible assets management. We do not want rate rise above SRP pre-planned 6% and welcome rates reducing to CPI levels. Consistency in assets management also need to be fostered. We cannot support a Council who decide to sell aged care assets because of their deficit cash flows on one hand and on the other hand allow other financially deficit assets, such as the Euvena Carpark, to prevail. This is either double standards because of groupthink influences, or simply showing an incompetent Council.
MRI and the informed residents of the Monash community will continue to oversee community governance and aim for improvements in Council’s budgeting revisions that do not exceed 6% and current SRP estimates for 2014/15; more responsible, transparent, ethical and good governance quality decision-making in Council meetings. We will increase acting as citizens jury and will continue to expect and evaluate good governance behaviours and performance in mayor leadership, council meetings and public engagement to improve.