Councillors In the Spotlight

The Council elections in 2012 were tough for NSW Labor. Voice asked five successful Labor councillors from around the State why they ran and what they learnt from the campaign.

Why did you choose to run for Local Council?

Cameron: I ran for Albury Council because I was unhappy with the direction that Council had taken in its last few terms. In Albury we have seen rate increases of over 15 per cent in a three-year period. At the same time, property developers have been subsidised by the ratepayers with cheap land. This was a Council that gave $40,000 to the local Chamber of Commerce but refused $8000 to a local organisation giving out tinned food to the needy! Clearly, the Council needed a voice for those that had been wronged in previous years, and this was my main motivation for running. garcia: I ran second on the ticket in my ward to support Noel D’Souza. I knew it was always going to be difficult and I wasn’t under any illusions. But being a grassroots campaigner, Noel achieved a record result. We both got out there with loyal branch members and we comprehensively campaigned across the ward. The last few years have been challenging, but we know that we need to protect the residents and ratepayers from the hard-line ideologies of our opponents.

Greenwald: Labor has a proud history in Wyong Shire. In running for Council, I wanted to keep up the excellent work that our previous Labor Councillors have done collectively in the region. But my choice to run was also very personal. I had been the campaign manager for the previous State election campaign in Wyong where our great team came within a hair’s breadth of defying the losses suffered around NSW. I wanted to help Labor repair and rebuild in the region and improve on our election results in the future.

Hollywood: I chose to run for Blue Mountains City Council because I saw local government as a way to give back to the community that I have lived in for 25 years. I’ve previously been active in local arts and community organisations, and I believe council plays an important role in delivering services and facilities that make our community worth living in.

Keneally: I wanted to help continue the work of the Labor team in the City of Botany Bay – building a strong community in an increasingly attractive city. Botany Bay is a truly Labor area: the community trust us to make the tough decisions, but it comes with a lot of responsibility to deliver. I hoped that by being on Council I could introduce meaningful reform to local services to improve the lives of residents in the area.

What was your greatest achievement during your campaign for Local Council?

Cameron: The campaign is always hard for a Labor candidate in a conservative area like Albury but by galvanising the core vote of our loyal supporters we were able to succeed. The whole campaign was run on a budget of only $1200. Given we had limited funds and could not afford advertising, a big achievement of the campaign was our ability to utilise the media and issues-based campaigning to communicate our message to the community at a minimal cost. Another achievement during the campaign was our defence of basic things in working class areas, like pledging to keep the Lavington pool open or protecting road safety measures around the local Catholic high school. These issues helped build community support for Labor at a crucial time for us.

Garcia: The Labor candidates, with the assistance of local branch members, door-knocked and letterboxed the entire ward. We did it as a group and we did it alone. We did it on weekends and on weekdays, in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. As a result, we shifted the balance of power in Randwick City Council and managed to win back the mayoralty for the families and businesses of Randwick.

Greenwald: A great achievement of the campaign was being able to keep our volunteer team active. We had well-planned events so that each volunteer knew when they were required. Volunteers often have jobs and families to go home to; giving them a clear schedule means they can plan their lives accordingly, and the campaign team can get the most out of their efforts. A campaign cannot operate unless your team works together. Fortunately, we had a great team behind us, and I must pay tribute to our team that included current Councillor Doug Vincent (who was returned to office) and our tireless campaign organisers Michael Hitchens, Kaye Schwartz and Jessica Hook.

Hollywood: During the campaign, I was very proud to work with local residents to campaign against proposed reductions in the opening hours of our swimming pool in Lawson. Set in bushland, Lawson’s Olympic Pool is one of our ward’s most valued assets. As regular swimmer, I was proud to stand up with residents to keep our pool open and accessible. The big swing away from the Greens toward Labor was also a highlight. Ward 2 was traditionally a very strong area for the Greens and throughout our campaign we worked hard to demonstrate our commitment to core Labor values such as environmental protection and social justice.

Keneally: Only weeks before the Council election there had been a by-election for the State electorate of Heffron, an electoral region that includes parts of the Botany Bay Local Government Area. This meant a portion of the community was already very election-weary. Because of the short time frame, we had to deliver a very focused campaign in the small window between the by-election and the Council election. We managed to achieve this, winning all seats on the Council.

What advice would you like to give to aspiring Local Government Candidates in 2016?

Cameron: An aspiring candidate must understand what is important to working families and Labor voters in their community. They should start doing their research early, and be sure the issues are real and not based on anecdotal evidence. In other words, they have to know their electorate back to front. On top of that, a candidate should not fall into the trap of blindly following so-called ‘progressive’ agendas set by the Greens and other fringe elements of the political spectrum. Focus on what affects working class people; their welfare should be the core agenda for a Labor candidate. And, of course, never forget what Tip O’Neill said: “all politics is local”.

Garcia: I’ve had generous support and advice from the party and from many local representatives – people like Foreign Minister Bob Carr, former Premier Kristina Keneally, Maroubra MP Michael Daley, Federal Senator Matthew Thistlethwaite and Upper House MP Walt Secord. My advice to anyone considering running as a candidate would be to listen well to your peers; they almost always have a wealth of experience that you can draw on to give you that edge over your opponents.

Greenwald: If you have ever been involved in the management of a political campaign you would know that a campaign can often take on a life of its own. No matter how well you plan, something unexpected will always happen. Whether it’s the pouring rain on Election Day or the surprising media story, be prepared to be flexible with your approach to campaigning. The best advice I can give anybody wanting to put up their hand to run is to give it a go. But remember it has to be a passion; it must become a calling. The public can quickly see through a candidate who doesn’t have the passion to represent their community, or who decided to run for the wrong reasons.

Hollywood: Make sure you build a strong network in the community, because nothing is more important than getting to know the people you are hoping to serve. I was very fortunate to have strong support from my local branch – the Mid-Mountains Branch – and the sitting Labor Councillor for my ward, Adam Searle, who is now in the NSW Legislative Council. I also had two great running mates – Sam Thompson and Tim Murawski – who helped me throughout the campaign.

Keneally: A rival candidate for mayor left early from a candidate’s forum organised by the local paper to go to a concert. That candidate had spent the entire forum questioning my commitment to the role. Needless to say, this wasn’t received well by the people at the event!

What do you hope to achieve as a Local Councillor?

Cameron: I hope that in my term I will help protect working families from unfair and unsustainable rate increases and ensure Council money is spent for the benefit of the majority, not just the wealthy.

Garcia: There is a childcare shortage in the area that needs to be fixed so local parents can get in control of their careers again – particularly younger, professional women. I don’t have a magic wand, but I want to work with Council to prioritise improvements in this and other important areas for locals in the coming years. On top of that, there is much work to be done to clean up the local beaches. We’ve already made some headway on Council. At my first meeting I moved a motion calling on the Council to remove the infamous stormwater pipe at Malabar beach. I remember surfing at Malabar on big storm days when all the other beaches were closed out. I had to gargle Listerine after it in the hope of avoiding the inevitable. It would never work and I would always get sick. That’s not going to happen to my girls when they surf Malabar in the future. I want to make the water we swim in every day cleaner.

Greenwald: As a Councillor I want to bring job opportunities to the Shire and help the Council act as a catalyst for communities where residents can truly live, work and recreate. But we want to achieve these things while at the same time ensuring that the community and social issues are the basis of that Council planning.

Hollywood: I want to make sure that residents’ voices are heard and that we genuinely draw on the strengths of people in our community. Blue Mountains Council is a unique area and it’s vital that we maintain a strong focus on protecting our environment and heritage. Like other local government areas, Blue Mountains City Council faces the challenge of costshifting by the State Government. I want to make sure that services that residents rely upon are delivered effectively and sustainably for the future.

Keneally: As Mayor of Botany Bay I want to see better services delivered, more support for community organisations so they can meet their objectives, and the development of innovative solutions to local challenges in the area. One key challenge we face comes from the NSW Government. The Liberal Party has backtracked on an election promise of no forced Council amalgamations, which, if imposed on Botany Bay Council, is likely to harm the services we can deliver across the board. Over the next year the Council will need to work hard to keep those services sacred and fight against the Liberal Government’s proposal, so that will be a big priority for me as Mayor.

What do you love most about the area you represent?

Cameron: Although a conservative area the loyalty of Labor voters to an endorsed Labor candidate in Albury is humbling. Our supporters stick by us through the good times and the bad. We owe it to them to show the same loyalty when making and implementing policy that affects their daily lives.

Garcia: I love the diversity, the people, and the sense of community in Randwick City. The tolerance and diversity also make my local community a wonderful place. I had the honour of attending the inaugural Police Remembrance Jewish Shabbat service commemorating the 251 police officers who have lost their lives. It was created by a local rabbi who wanted to thank local police officers for protecting and assisting the Jewish community in Sydney’s east. The ceremony included Waltzing Matilda in Hebrew. Now that is a community.

Greenwald: The Wyong Shire is such a beautiful place, with great open beaches, soaring headlands, state recreation parks, and new development areas that could one day be very special communities. But certainly one of the best parts of being a Councillor in Wyong is the people we represent. Most are truly positive and community-minded. When you scratch the surface, they all want the same thing: a caring and vibrant community to live in. The Wyong Shire is also filled with Labor Party members who deeply care about their area – they have worked hard for the Labor cause and they would do whatever it takes to build a better future for the area. It’s for them that we work hard on Council to promote Labor principles of fairness and equality.

Hollywood: I love the people and the environment. It’s an incredible privilege to live in a World Heritage Area among Blue Mountains residents who have such a strong commitment to make our area better by spending their time contributing to the community.

Keneally: Botany Bay offers a fantastic quality of life for people of all ages, backgrounds and interests. It’s a community tied together by bonds of family and friendship; these values define the area and keep me motivated to ensure the Botany Bay Council delivers the best it can for the people who have put their faith in us.