Democracy at Work

Last night some of YCAN’s Local Action Group went to the Yarra Council meeting at Richmond Town Hall. We were there for two reasons. Firstly, in Public Question Time, we wanted to ask if the Community Gardens Committee (which has Yarra resident members) would be continued next year. We’d heard a rumour that funding for community gardens was one of the things that the councillors who are pushing to build a $35 million indoor sports centre were keen to axe. YCAN is a strong supporter of community gardens where vegetables and fruit trees can be grown. Our second question was if Council could assist residents in approaching owners of vacant private land with a view to using it for community gardens.

The response was a masterful example of saying a lot, telling us nothing we didn’t already know, and not actually answering the questions. We’re use to it. Undaunted, we will keep a close eye on the situation with regard to community gardens in Yarra.

The second reason we were there was to support Council on their submission on the Dept. of Transport’s proposed peak hour bus lanes along Hoddle St and Victoria Pde. Council is critical of the plan which lops off some of the central median, removes parking, but doesn’t actually reduce the number of lanes available to cars.

We also wanted point out that no provision for bikes had been made in the plan. Councillors agreed that this omission should be rectified. An amendment was proposed and passed unanimously.

So job done, no opposition, all over and done with in a matter of minutes…not exactly. We arrived at 7pm as Public Question Time is early on the agenda. We had done our bit by 7.30. The Hoddle St/Victoria Parade Bus Lane was later on the agenda, much later. It was almost 11pm by the time it came up.

In between there were a couple of contentious planning issues, where passionate residents were able to voice their opinions. Councillors listened to their concerns, asked questions, debated the issues. Amendments were proposed, voted down, new ones proposed, etc. It was a long process, but a fascinating one.

We left at 11pm, but the councillors still had half of the agenda to go.

If you’ve never been to a local Council Meeting, you should go. It’s much more entertaining than CSI Alaska or My Cooking’s more Pretentious than Yours. It’s democracy at work, and you can take part in it.

We just wish the chairs were more comfortable.