No change to may­oral vote

Southern Telegraph - - Front Page - Stu­art Horton

The method of vot­ing to fill the of­fice of mayor used by the City of Rock­ing­ham will not be al­tered af­ter a no­tice of mo­tion was de­feated at last week’s coun­cil meet­ing.

Cr Lee Down­ham pro­posed chang­ing the method for elect­ing the mayor from elec­tion by the coun­cil to a pop­u­lar vote by res­i­dents and said af­ter 30 years it was “time for change”.

The City is one of 13 Perth metropoli­tan lo­cal gov­ern­ments with a coun­cil­lor mayor, mean­ing the coun­cil body elects its leader ev­ery two years af­ter lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions. Pop­u­larly elected may­ors, voted in by res­i­dents, hold a four-year term.

Cr Down­ham said the City should give the peo­ple the chance to choose the per­son they wanted to lead, but he re­ceived lit­tle sup­port from fel­low coun­cil­lors.

Cr Matthew Whit­field said while he thought the “way we do it is the right way to do it”, he pointed to the 17 Perth metropoli­tan lo­cal gov­ern­ments that pop­u­larly elect a mayor and the higher voter turnout in those ar­eas as a rea­son to sup­port the mo­tion.

“We want more peo­ple in­volved in lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions and in those coun­cils that al­low res­i­dents to elect a mayor the voter turnout is 47 per cent com­pared to 29 per cent in Rock­ing­ham,” he said.

“Voter turnout in­crease is the most im­por­tant thing, it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to be in­volved.

“The res­i­dents I have spo­ken to on this is­sue would over­whelm­ingly like to vote for the mayor.”

Coun­cil­lors against the mo­tion spoke of the dan­gers of “politi­cis­ing” the of­fice of mayor; the coun­cil be­ing best-placed to elect a mayor; po­ten­tial may­ors be­ing elected on a sin­gle is­sue; and the move at­tract­ing only those who could af­ford to run an elec­tion cam­paign.

“There have been a num­ber of peo­ple to run for mayor in other coun­cils who have spent con­sid­er­able amounts and not been elected . . . it could politi­cise the role of mayor if they can­not raise the money and some­one backs them,” Cr Deb Ham­blin said.

Cr Joy Ste­wart said a pop­u­larly elected mayor “may not have the sup­port of the coun­cil” and there would be no way to re­move them given they would hold a four-year term.

“The coun­cil should con­tinue to elect the per­son, not have a per­son forced on them,” she said.

Cr Leigh Li­ley said the coun­cil elect­ing the mayor ev­ery two years gave it the chance to “say yay or nay” on per­for­mance, while Cr Chris El­liott said it was im­por­tant

the mayor “res­onates with coun­cil”. “The mayor doesn’t make de­ci­sions alone, the coun­cil does,” he said.

“Sound de­ci­sion-mak­ing makes Rock­ing­ham a leader in the State.

“This method has worked for 30 years and it should con­tinue.”

Cr Kather­ine Sum­mers said a coun­cil-elected mayor pro­vided sta­bil­ity, and ques­tioned the mo­ti­va­tion for the mo­tion, which bris­tled Cr Down­ham into re­spond­ing it was not a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated mo­tion be­cause he was “step­ping down at the next elec­tion”.

The mo­tion was de­feated 7-2, with only Crs Down­ham and Whit­field in favour of change.

Rock­ing­ham’s Barry Sam­mels is the long­est-serv­ing mayor in the metropoli­tan re­gion, hav­ing held his po­si­tion since 2003.

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