Transparency and accountability of the Council is a high priority for many people in Fremantle. This was reflected in the most recent community perception survey.
Genuine community engagement has been something I hold very dear and work hard to ensure and facilitate.
About 18 months ago, I became the Chair of a new Council committee formed to do just that. The Special Projects Committee (SPC) was established so that crucial informal discussions – that had previously been held behind closed doors – became open to the public.
Just like other Council and Committee meetings, the Agenda is published online on the Friday before the meeting and the public can attend, ask questions, make statements and watch the debate.
Unlike our State and Federal Parliaments, Council discussions are genuine deliberations, and in this committee even more so. These meetings are run in a flexible manner so that a full discussion can be had, with issues teased out for all to understand and solutions work shopped.
This Wednesday (12 August), we’ll have a presentation and discussion on the CBD Structure Plan. It will help us to shape the long term planning for our CBD – come along if you’re curious!
While I wouldn’t expect many people to give up their Wednesday night, if they did I hope they would leave with the view that we are being open and transparent as we go about revitalizing the city. I also hope people would see that our decisions are far from ‘done deals’ but hotly debated and discussed among a well informed, engaged and diverse group of elected representatives.
The Special Projects Committee deals with all the steps we need to take in order to achieve our Transformational Moves and strategic priorities of the Council and community like the Green Plan, the Integrated Transport Strategy, Esplanade Park Master Plan and lots more…
These projects used to be progressed through “IEMs” – Informal Elected Member meetings – before coming to council or committee. Information would be presented, Councilors would quiz staff and discuss the implications – no decision would be made, but we progressed our understanding and gave broad feedback and direction to staff about how to proceed. This is how the Kings Square project was developed for example. Since that time, we decided we wanted to be more open and transparent and established the Special Projects Committee in order to have those discussions in a public forum.
So, if you’re interested in some of the major projects underway in Fremantle – or just want to get an insight into how your elected members actually go about making decisions on these things, feel free to come along on any second Wednesday of the month at 6pm in the council chamber.
It may not be pretty, but I hope you’ll find it enlightening and remove some of the perceived opacity of this Council.