February Yarra Council report

The February Yarra Council meeting saw two Socialist Party Councillors sitting in the chamber for the first time. Anthony Main joined Stephen Jolly after being elected in early January. The meeting discussed a number of important issues and solidified a very important community victory.

49 Tudor Street

After a months long campaign the entire Council was finally forced to fall into line with community opinion and stop the sell off of the disused 49 Tudor Street community centre. The Socialist Party has helped organise a number of public meetings and activities in support of the local residents who wanted the Council to keep the site and redevelop it for community use.

Such was the pressure exerted by the campaign that it was the Mayor Alison Clarke from the Greens who moved the resolution. Astonishingly the Mayor tried to say that the attempted sell off was a decision of the Council officers. This prompted the CEO to intervene reminding her that it was actually a determination of the Council itself.

The sell off was actually factored into last years budget which the Greens, Labor and right wing Independents all voted for. The only voice of opposition at the time was Socialist Party councillor Stephen Jolly.

The Socialist Party would like to congratulate all those involved in the campaign. This small but important victory shows that community action gets results. Our attention now turns to securing the money for redevelopment in this year’s budget.

Anti sex slavery laws

Yarra is one of the only Councils with a local law aimed at protecting migrant women who have been forced into sex slavery. Officers had recommended that the Council now revoke this law due to new ‘superior’ State legislation being introduced.

On examination we saw that the State legislation is in fact not superior in the sense that it does not require brothels to display translated signs, with information about how to get help, in all areas where sex work takes place. Signage only has to be in the foyer and at the exits. If a woman has been forced into sexual slavery the last thing she will be able to do is take down important information in front of her boss in the foyer.

These signs are a small but important reform and they need to be maintained. Council decided not to revoke the local law at this stage but to ask the State Government to extend the requirement for translated signs in all areas across the state.

Queens Parade traders

Council voted 6-3 in favour of introducing a compulsory charge for traders on Queens Parade in Clifton Hill. (The two SP Councillors and Independent Dale Smedley voted against).

This charge, along with thousands more dollars, would be handed back to the Traders Association.

At least 25% of the traders were opposed to the charge either because they couldn’t afford it or didn’t think it would help their business. The Socialist Party opposed it arguing that if traders want to join associations they should do so voluntarily and without financial support from the Council.

Ironically many of the same Councillors who supported the compulsory charge are opposed to compulsory trade unionism. Councillors Jolly and Main highlighted this contradiction and argued that Council should be focused on supporting workers in the area rather than just a thin layer of business owners.

Secret meetings with developers

Every Monday night the Greens, Labor and Independent Councillors attend secret ‘Councillor Briefing’ meetings at Richmond Town Hall. These meetings are in reality an attempt to implement a parallel decision making body behind closed doors. The Socialist Party Councillors boycott these meetings arguing for open decision making and accountability.

These meetings have also been open to representatives of the road lobby (VicRoads) and a number of big business developers. For example, while Lend Lease has been given the red carpet treatment to spruik their over-the-top development at the Channel 9 site, ordinary residents who object to the proposal often struggle to get Councillors to return their calls!

The Socialist Party recently pointed this out to the Greens and we supported a rushed motion from them to ban developers from these forums. Despite the fact that the Greens have attended numerous secret briefings with developers since 2004 we welcomed their slight change of heart.

While banning developers is a minor improvement, as long as these secret meetings continue the Socialist Party will continue to boycott them. For residents information the two ALP Councillors and Independent Dale Semdley voted in favour of continuing to meet secretly with developers. They lost the vote 6-3.

Emma Street, Collingwood

Residents in Emma Street Collingwood have been trying for years to get part of their street closed to stop rat running and people exiting illegally from the neighbouring Coles Express.

Without any consultation with the Ward Councillors, officers decided this week that they would not be going ahead with the project. The reasons given were vague and in stark contrast to the majority view of residents on the street.

Councillor Main moved a resolution calling for a full report into the officer’s decision and will be working with the residents to rectify the situation in the coming months.

Men’s Shed funding extended

The Men’s Shed is a workshop on the Collingwood housing estate where men can go to repair things, tinker and meet fellow handymen. Unlike people that live in the suburbs many Yarra residents don’t have their own shed or tools. This facility is not only practical but provides an important social function especially for the unemployed and low paid.

A representative from the Shed attended the Council meeting and explained that their funding was about to run out. Council agreed to extend the funding until the end of the financial year and the Socialist Party will be arguing for ongoing funding in the next budget to keep this important facility going.

Upcoming meetings

There will be a Special Council meeting at 6.30pm on Tuesday February 22 at the Richmond Town Hall. This meeting will consider the proposed redevelopment of the Dimmeys site, as well as the Sophia Mundi Steiner School’s proposal to construct a building at the Abbotsford Convent site.

The March Council meeting will be held at 7pm on Tuesday March 15 at the Fitzroy Town Hall. Members of the public are invited to attend both meetings.

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