Clarence Valley Councillor Arthur Lysaught
Clarence Valley Councillor Arthur Lysaught Caitlan Charles

Popular vote for mayor fails first test - councillors

THERE appears to be little enthusiasm for moving to a popular election of Clarence Valley Mayor among most councillors.

Cr Arthur Lysaught is the exception to the rule.

He thought enough of the idea to draft a notice of motion for Tuesday's Clarence Valley corporate governance and works committee meeting seeking to get council to hold a constitution referendum to change the method of electing the mayor from a vote of councillors to a popular election.

Despite Cr Lysaught's enthusiasm, he encountered none among his fellow committee members.

Cr Debrah Novak asked what inspired Cr Lysaught to press for a popular vote for mayor and what community consultation was behind it.

"In the previous council this same resolution was put forward and there was a lot of debate and it was ultimately defeated 5-4,” he said.

"It's an issue I feel strongly about, I believe it's democracy at its best.

"With that in mind, I've spoken to a number of people from Grafton, Yamba and Maclean and even five from Coutts Crossing and all those I've spoken to, to a man and a woman - or mainly women to be honest - all felt they should have some say in who their mayor is and I support them fully.”

Cr Karen Toms also queried the cost of a referendum based on the cost for the 2016 election of $260,000, plus 10 per cent extra for the addition of a referundum.

"Based on an election in 2020, do we know how much more expensive that election would be?” Cr Toms said.

General manager Ashley Lindsay said this information would be in a report on costs of the 2020 election coming to the full council meeting next week.

In debate Cr Lysaught said Clarence Valley ratepayers deserved a say in who should lead the council.

"In most businesses, whether they be incorporated or otherwise, the president or secretaries are elected by members. Similarly in this circumstance, my belief is that community should make the decision who represents them,” he said.

"It would give the Valley community the chance to decide who the person is they feel best suits the role.”

Cr Lysaught said he believed Clarence Valley and Tweed were the only councils in the region who did not have a popularly elected mayor.

Other councillors were not convinced.

Cr Toms said she voted against the idea in 2014 and her views had not changed.

She quoted the NSW Office of Local Government's brochure on mayoral elections and pointed to the increased costs as a clincher for her.

"We need to be careful with our dollars,” she said

"And even if we voted for a change in 2020, it would not come into effect until 2024.

Cr Lysaught said arguments for a popular vote for mayor in the OLG brochure were more convincing.

The rest of the committee was unconvinced and failed to recommend the motion to next week's full council meeting.



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