Mayor, Cr Geoff Lake, is making a wise move to have the ill-founded standing order requiring Councillors to place ‘hands on head’ removed. If he doesn’t remove it now while he has a majority vote on Council he may well face humiliation as an incoming Council denigrate the order. Implementing the order was described as ‘infantalising Council’ by Jon Faine and is still being raised with disbelief and scoffed at by people in Monash. Many thought it was a joke, but no, our elected representatives did have to put their hands on their heads.
It is true the Council became unruly during the last Council term but to point the finger at a Councillor or Councillors is petty and political. It would be more constructive to examine where the unruliness started.
Factors contributing to an unruly Council:
- A discontented public evidenced by a Public Gallery often full of discontented ratepayers and residents reacting to decisions made behind closed doors. Too often I have seen people in tears, in angst and even ready to lash out in the Public Gallery
- Restrictive Public Question Time procedures that lag behind other Councils and written responses to questions that beggar belief.
- Councillors fighting on Political Party policy rather than focusing on residents. Sky-Rail is a case in point.
- Chairs, including former Mayors Klisaris and Perri, making snide and/or nasty comments to certain Councillors as they tried to speak at meetings. The change to standing orders was made after the two former Mayors left Council, and coincided with a decision by Cr Lake to change his own behaviour. How much of the change can we therefore attribute to ‘hands on heads’?
- A lack of collaborative decision making by Council. Most decisions appear to have been handed down from the top and voted for by a political block. Councillors elected to represent their constituents often found it hard to do so.
Hands off heads and growing up
Some steps towards building a functional, collaborative and professional Council:
- Follow IAP2 (http://www.iap2.org/) and involve Councillors with the Public in collaborative decision making
‘Public participation’ means to involve those who are affected by a decision in the decision-making process. It promotes sustainable decisions by providing participants with the information they need to be involved in a meaningful way, and it communicates to participants how their input affects the decision.
- Review Local Law 1 (https://www.monash.vic.gov.au/About-Us/Laws-Rules/Local-Law-1-Meeting-Procedures) and follow the example of other Councils with a more welcoming and friendly Public Question Time. Consider other ways the public may be involved in meetings.
Excerpt from Bendigo City Council Local Law:
Members of the public can lodge written questions to be addressed during council meetings. Questions must be about topics that are of broad interest to Council and the community.
Source: https://www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/your-say/Questions-for-council (my emphasis)
Compare with Monash City Council:(2) For Public Question Time, only members of the public who are Ratepayers or Residents …
(7) The Chairperson must not permit a question unless it relates to a matter or matters on the current or immediately previous ordinary Council Meeting agenda.
- Carry out Council meetings with the behavioural requirements that are the norm in workplaces.
People work best in a setting marked by mutual respect, personal dignity and support which utilises one’s skills and abilities, and encourages further learning.
NOTE: This week’s Monash Council meeting is on Wednesday evening (19 Oct) 7 pm at Monash Civic Centre. The agenda is available online: http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/About-Us/Council/Agendas-Minutes/19-October-2016#agenda or from the Council Offices.
Lake G Motion 7.3 Monash Council Meeting Wednesday 19 October 7 pm http://www.monash.vic.gov.au/files/assets/public/about-us/council/council-meetings/2016-19-october/7.3-report-council-meeting-19-october-2016.pdf
McGinn C. Monash Mayor wants councillors to put hands on head before talking http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/monash-mayor-geoff-lake-wants-councillors-to-put-hands-on-head-before-talking/news-story/590a7d3eab6b6994760d22b005887009
McGinn C. Monash Councillors forced to put hands on head before speaking http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/east/monash-council-members-forced-to-put-hands-on-head-when-they-wish-to-speak-during-official-meetings/news-story/e8ba6a01cbed5f68657642c2c30f720f