IT wasn't too difficult to predict the outcome of The Courier's online survey into the performance of Ballarat City Council during this four-year term. All measures being equal, giving the local council a belt around the head is like an Olympic sport in many Victorian (and I suspect other states) communities no matter how much, or little, is deemed to be achieved.
The result which was most interesting is that respondents were divided when comparing the performance of the previous council with the current one. The previous council, some may have forgotten, was racked by controversy. It too, failed to determine a path for the Civic Hall site, one of the significant criticism levelled at the current crews.
Yet only 29 per cent said the current council was either slightly or much better performed, 23 per cent said it was worse and 46 per cent said their performance was about the same. After a promising start, it's been a difficult past 18 months for the current council. As a result, many councillors will not stand for re-election in October. That presents difficulties and opportunities.
The Greens, through candidate Belinda Coates, are better placed to win a seat than ever before. And the business community knows it must act to gain a greater say on council decision-making. A meeting held in July was either, depending on your take on it, a group of concerned residents seeking support for candidacy for the upcoming election, or a party-political think-tank determined to establish a ticket that would ultimately see the council's top paid staff fairly and squarely in the gun if successful.
As one of the organisers, Noel Coxall, told The Courier this week: "There was no hidden agenda. It only went for an hour and I made it clear from the start it was not going to be a bitch session. It was all about trying to find quality candidates."
Seven Days has lamented in the past just how difficult it is to find candidates for local council - the best-credentialed have little motivation to put up their hands. As our survey this week also found, the majority of respondents think councillors' pay - $22,000 - is about right. That said, more than a third expressed the need for an increase - and it's about time this issue had a greater focus from the state government - for the good of councils, and candidates, across Victoria.
Fr Bob enlightens
THE appearance of Fr Bob Maguire in Ballarat this week was enlightening experience for all who attended. The sometimes controversial church figure said sorry to Ballarat about the handling of sexual abuse, lamented educational values and took pot shots at world politics. Mostly, though he reflected on the lack of community cohesion. When was the last time you borrowed sugar from your neighbour? When was the last time you picked up the phone and talked to a friend, rather than texting or conversing on Facebook? The solution, Fr Bob said, to problems in society was not through government or councils, it's through changing our own actions, starting with one person - you. It was powerful stuff.
Coming in from the cold
IT'S difficult not to have a whinge about the cold weather in Ballarat at this time of the year but when you consider that some residents of our city have to cope in winter with few clothes, no bed and no shelter, perspective returns. Last night dozens of school children were joined by business leaders - including this column - for a sleepout at the Mining Exchange to raise awareness of homelessness. It's not just those sleeping rough that the community should be concerned with. There's the ones who couch hop and those who flee domestic violence. The Ballarat business and community is on board and it's about time government committed more money and resources to helping solve the issue as well.