09 April 2006

Local democracy in action

On Thursday I went to the "Free Public Forum" for Norwood, Payneham and St Peters residents.

Here are some observations and comments:

Present


Mayor Bria; Councillors Dottore, Duke, Kleanthi, Marcetucci, Minney, Moore, Pasalidis, Stock, Whitington, Winderlich and Wormald; several council staff including CEO Barone for some of the time; the MP for Norwood Vini Ciccarrello, and about 60-70 others ( I didn't count them but in any event it was difficult to distinguish between council staff and others).

Moderator and meeting management

The MC/ Moderator was Alan Shepherd(?) who did a good job by setting and generally sticking to some simple ground rules such as (1) asking everybody to limit their questions to a minute and (2) setting a fixed finishing time. I thought it was reasonable to only allow one question per person at a time, but was disappointed that I wasn't given an opportunity to ask another of my questions after everyone else had had a go: perhpas I should have just gone up and grabbed the microphone as someone else did!

Councillors' performance

Apart from the absentee councillors (no apologies were reported, so draw your own conclusions about this) some councillors said nothing, others little while the three W s (councillors Whitington, Winderlich and Wormald) impressed with their grasp of a range of topics and their openness to fresh ideas.

2 comments:

nod said...

The concept that a good public meeting will sort out a problem is flawed. In reality, he who controls the microphone, controls the meeting, and usually the outcome.

Even in the days before TV campaigns, when political leaders would barnstorm their way around the country, speaking to the electorate in their town halls, it was just the same.

To effectively get the crowd on side when asking a question or interjecting, the punter must be heard. The odds are further stacked against the punter when, as in this case, there is a limit of one 1-minute question.

Short Shadow, you are not dealing with a bunch of novices here and you may be best advised to recruit Dorothy Dix and her sisters to each ask a question at the next gathering. It never ceases to amaze me the quantity of "democracy" that is heaped upon good looking members of the fairer sex.

Shortshadow said...

I wasn't expecting the meeting to solve my problems, though by airing them I was hoping that someone (usually from the council staff) would respond to them.

The one minute limit (which was exceeded by several people anyway) is I think a good idea to encourage questioners to concentrate on what they want to ask rather than making long statements. I've found this is a problem at events like Writers Week, where the people who chair session often allow longwinded dissemblers to hog the microphone.

I don't see why at events like the forum that questions in advance aren't taken. The moderator could then group questions on similar themes, which should reduce duplication.

That said



I don't believe that the meeting was rigged in favour of the council.