A councillor’s first duty is to Ballarat, regardless of politics

The Courier Editorial: A councillor’s first duty is to Ballarat, regardless of politics. May 26, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

There needs to be reconsideration of what is important within Ballarat City Council.

We know that over the past few tumultuous months the divide created by the different political alignments of councillors has brought tremendous scrutiny.

While the ruckus over last year’s mayoral vote has been the most significant signpost, there clearly remains political undertones more broadly through council decision-making.

This week, Cr Belinda Coates is proposing a motion against the proposed East-West tollway in Melbourne.

Cr Coates, who has been clear about her membership of the Greens, recently successfully brought a motion expressing opposition to changes to the federal Racial Discrimination Act.

Whatever councillors believe about either of these important issues, the question needs to be asked if these are really the matters ratepayers want them spending time on in the first place.

Both issues are highly politically charged – and the East-West project is seen as potentially influential in the state election outcome.

Therefore, this motion will add to current perceptions about the political focus of the council.

Cr Coates says the money for the East-West link could be better used on public transport infrastructure.

It’s true that Ballarat does require investment in better bus and rail services and walking and cycling facilities.

However, in our view, Ballarat would be better advocating directly for specific local projects requiring investment, rather than opposing those in Melbourne that are already on the books.

It is also cause to reflect just what impact council motions have on decision-making at higher levels of government. And where does it end?

Consider the uproar – given recent events – if we had a Liberal-aligned councillor putting a motion forward calling for the Melbourne Metro rail proposal to be scrapped?

Councillors are free to express their opinions on issues – local, state and federal. Councillors are also free to be members of, or aligned with, political parties.

What shouldn’t be lost is that, when considering any course of action, furthering the cause of our city as a whole, on behalf of and for ratepayers, must be the primary consideration.

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