The voices of the Griffith people effectively muzzled themselves last week, when Council passed an amendment to its media policy.
Griffith Mayor John Dal Broi also said he doesn’t want to see Councillors forcibly speaking out against council’s policy, and ‘the majority shall rule’.
In other words, once Council takes a stance on a matter, Councillors may only toe the line reiterating the agreed Council policy.
But it’s the following comment from our mayor throwing into question the democratic ideals holding Council together …
Cr Dal Broi said the new media policy had not been drastically altered and still allowed for Councillors who chaired committees to comment on issues resolved.
Councillors will no longer comment on issues until they are brought to Council and resolved.
Former Councillor Bill Lancaster said he understands staff cannot comment to the media, but it is the right and the duty of Councillors, as representatives of the community, to express their views.
He’s right – it smells of party politics.
Except the role of an elected member of local government is dramatically different to that of a state or federal politician.
Council members are all elected as independent candidates – unique thinkers speaking for all different pockets of their council area.
Politicians are elected based on the values of the party they represent, which these days sees them almost always fall in line with party policy.
But there is no room for toeing the line in local government, especially before a council policy has gone to a vote.
In fact, local government only remains relevant to the people it serves when its elected members can offer differing opinions.
That’s how ideas are generated. That’s how constructive debate happens in the chamber and out on the streets.
How are Griffith people supposed to have an opinion about what their elected members should stand for if they’re not presented with options?
Presenting a united front as a council may paint a pretty picture, but why limit ideas and conversation to a single argument?
Griffith is a city at the crossroads, with serious opportunity on the horizon.
It’s a city screaming out for new ideas.
Instead, it’s a city with 12 elected council members saying exactly the same thing.