Bar hitch, it’s Mitch
Election will be close, but incumbent should triumph
I don’t think we can afford the 12 months or so to bed in a newbie to the workings of council and the bureaucracy
THE vote is in, the die is cast.
Last week, I wrote about the mayoral candidates: ‘‘ I have deliberately refrained from having any in-depth conversations with any of them and have relied on what they have said in public, the newspapers and radio, just like everyone else who is going to vote.’’
This week I went a step farther and attended two of the many series of public debates they have participated in, allowing us all to assess their individual merits as they battled head to head.
Normally, I would treat such happenings with a pithy comment here, a one liner there, no doubt also adding a fair dose of sarcasm tinged with disbelief, despair or even faux outrage.
But no. Because, believe it or not, they really do deserve better.
They deserve, all of them, to be taken seriously. They deserve to be congratulated not only for the way they handled themselves and for accepting the media scrutiny but also, on reflection, for the mere act of putting their hands up at this historic time.
The two forums I attended on Tuesday were the Geelong Business Network breakfast at the Mercure Hotel for two hours, immediately followed by a live-to-air discussion with Dennis Scanlon on the Pulse Community radio station for another hour and a half.
These were not the political speeches that we have become accustomed to, with point scoring and personal attacks.
There was not even a hint of personal antagonism between them as they quietly, but persistently made their pitches for the top job.
Last week I also made a statement with the plea, ‘‘The candidates are still on a learning curve and I’m sure will get past the ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ statements and give us something concrete. Just one thing would be appreciated."
By and large I didn’t get even the ‘ just one thing’. But I did come away with much better understanding.
Of the candidates, I think it would be true to say that the winner will come from Keith Fagg, John Mitchell, Bernadette Uzelac, Stephanie Asher and Ron Watt.
Apologies to Sue Bull ( who couldn’t attend either function), Frank Rozpara and Graeme Robin.
No put- downs, no smart remarks, just a thank you on behalf of the community for caring enough to stand, unlike the rest of us.
During both functions, I ran a score sheet based on all the usual things such as presentation, public speaking, original ideas, conviction and, quite simply, whether I liked them.
You are probably thinking, what sort of selection criteria is ‘whether I liked them’?
And you would be right. How- ever, I did have preconceived ideas about some of the election candidates.
I was concerned about Ms Uzelac’s prevarication over her membership of the Liberal Party. I thought Mr Fagg’s willingness to donate half his salary to charities was popularist rubbish. Ms Asher wants to be a ‘ stay at home’ mayor. And would it be possible for Mitch the Mayor to step up for the big challenge?
Having watched and listened to them, I don’t really care if any of the above is true or is me being paranoid. It’s irrelevant.
They are all worthy candidates, and in my scoring not more than 1 1⁄2 points out of 10 separated them.
However, I am paid to write opinions and not sit on the fence.
So, for what it’s worth, this is how I see it all working out.
Mr Mitchell to win from Mr Fagg in a close one, with Ms Uzelac a clear third from Ms Asher and Mr Watt.
That is also how I think it should work out, as I think the first of our popularly elected mayors needs to hit the ground running.
Geelong is in a crucial stage of development and I don’t think we can afford the 12 months or so to bed in a newbie to the workings of council and the bureaucracy.
It would also give the other candidates a chance to become more involved in the council through various committees and do an apprenticeship for the next election in four years.
In the latest issue of General Manager magazine Tony Brun, the chief executive of the City of Greater Geraldton, was asked, ‘‘Tony, are there other cities out there you are modelling yourselves on? Any in particular you want to emulate?’’
His reply: ‘‘ There are clearly some leaders out there.
‘‘In terms of partnering and developing a strong, coherent future, Geelong is no doubt a model economy and city.’’
I think I’ll leave it there in case fairness and balance take a hold.
PAY DAY: Geelong mayor John Mitchell studies his notes as he campaigns to get his job back. He is flanked by candidates Graeme Robin and Stephanie Asher.