Meet the candidates: Port Phillip City Council
15.10.2020

Meet the candidates: Port Phillip City Council

Albert Park Lake - photo by Bob T via Wikimedia Commons
By Kate Streader

Introducing the candidates for Port Phillip City Council and their priorities for the community.

City of Port Phillip encompasses Albert Park, Balaclava, Elwood, Garden City, Melbourne, Middle Park, Port Melbourne, Ripponlea, South Melbourne, Southbank, St Kilda, St Kilda East, St Kilda West and Windsor. It is broken up into three wards, each with three councillors.

Visit the Victorian Electoral Commission website to see a map of ward boundaries.

City of Port Phillip’s current councillors are Tim Baxter (Deputy Mayor), Louise Crawford and Dick Gross – Canal Ward; Bernadene Voss (Mayor), Marcus Pearl and Ogy Simic – Gateway Ward; and Andrew Bond, David Brand and Katherine Copsey – Lake Ward.

Meet the 2020 candidates for Port Phillip City Council below.

Canal Ward

Three vacancies, ten candidates.

Louise Crawford – Labor

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

Sadly, St Kilda festival won’t go ahead next year so we have put aside that $1.7 million to be used to help traders, arts organisations and community. I see that money being used to support creative ideas for the new normal such as “street meets”, which are short side street closures to have a community gathering in a spread out way but that involves a local band or artist as part of it. I also think key part of the recovery is using council outdoor spaces as performances spaces, for local retail.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

I see the opportunity in allowing venues to use open space in a different way, e.g. The Triangle could be an outdoor venue for local live music.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

It is the heart of what the City of Port Phillip is and why people visit here, alongside great hospitality venues. Being an actor myself, this time has been gutting and, given the federal government is completely ignoring the need in this sector, council will have to step up.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

Flood mitigation in Elwood, support [for] the arts and traders, reform waste and recycling, reducing graffiti… Oh so many things.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

I got into politics because of my concern over climate change. We have already been working on reducing emissions but there is more to do. If we can reform our waste and recycling, that is the most direct way in which we can do our part. Or helping our flat-dwellers get access to the cheap clean energy.

Tim Baxter – The Greens

(Answers shared with fellow Port Phillip Greens candidates Earl James, Maddy Blay and Katherine Copsey)

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown? 

Port Phillip were quick out of the gate supporting increased outdoor dining space in ‘parklets’ and waiving footpath trading fees which I support as part of COVID-19 recovery. It’s been great to see more people heading back to the local shopping strip, especially when on foot or by bike with the kids. Council needs to provide good pedestrian and bike facilities to lock in this benefit. As an economist, I know small businesses and local trade are vital for our community’s recovery, and I support the Greens’ plan to revitalise our shopping strips which includes backing pop-up activation of vacant shops, making our high streets great public spaces and more funding for events and festivals.

(Earl James, Greens candidate for Gateway ward, City of Port Phillip)

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown? 

Port Phillip’s working on a Live Music Action Plan in consultation with the local live music industry. If elected, I’m committed to ongoing support that’s produced in collaboration with local artists and venues.

(Maddy Blay, Greens candidate for Canal ward, City of Port Phillip)

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them? 

Our arts and live music sectors are the soul of our city. As an existing Greens councillor and singer in a band and a lover of our local creative scene, I’ve already supported increases to our grants programs and most recently over $130,000 in initial quick-response grants to support local artists through COVID-19. I want to continue celebrating the contribution arts and live music make to our city and increase funding and support for them through the coming term.

(Katherine Copsey, Greens candidate for re-election in Lake ward, City of Port Phillip)

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor? 

One of the achievements I’m most proud of as an existing Greens councillor is championing Port Phillip’s first Games Action Plan, which will strengthen the council’s relationship with our awesome local video gaming industry. As an area with a history of being a really vibrant place for music and the arts, it’s no surprise that newer forms of expression and entertainment are finding a home in Port Phillip, too. So making sure council is expanding our support for emerging creative industries as well as long-standing ones is a really exciting priority for the next term on council.

(Tim Baxter, Greens candidate for re-election in Canal ward, City of Port Phillip)

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council? 

We don’t need to wait for climate action at a state or federal level. In Port Phillip, during my first term as a Greens rep on council, I’ve already supported recognition of the Climate Emergency and Council’s moved to 100 per cent renewables. If re-elected, I’ll continue to work hard to take local climate action, including helping residents, businesses and community organisations save energy and switch to fossil-free power, push to electrify council’s fleet and green our streets for a cooler and more biodiverse city.

(Katherine Copsey, Greens candidate for re-election in Lake ward, City of Port Phillip)

Maddy Blay – The Greens

Answers shared with fellow Greens candidate for Canal Ward, Tim Baxter. Please see above to read their response. 

We reached out to Warwick Cahir, Lesley G. Pianella, Rhonda Clark, Steven Armstrong, Jo McDonald, Dick Gross and Dennis Bilic but did not receive a response to our questions in time for publication. They are also running for council in Canal Ward. 

Gateway Ward

Three vacancies, eight candidates.

Heather Cunsolo – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

A positive we can take out of lockdown is the focus on our local area. We need to keep this momentum going when the lockdown eases and businesses can start trading again. We want people to first think of their local shops as they naturally become busy again and travel further. I think the best way to do this is through communication and creativity but ultimately want to ask what the businesses and residents want, then support them as their representative.

The shoppers/consumers are unclear [on] who is doing what, when, with so many changes this year. Businesses also have to evaluate any change in consumer expectations. It is a two way street of communication.

Businesses must find ways to captivate customers through all the noise on the internet if it isn’t from foot traffic. With fewer news sources and local printed publications, we have a heavy reliance on social media. And there should be a reliable place to hear about what is going on in the area. I have been running a local community word of mouth/recommendation Facebook page for the last three years. We continue to adapt as the group grows but have so much more potential.

It will also take creativity in the form of making the experiences around shopping and dining enjoyable so people want to come back. This is both in clever marketing and delivering on quality. The Council can help by keeping the areas around the shops clean, safe and attractive.

Unfortunately, the air of uncertainty will linger and the joy of a street festival seems ages away.  However, ultimately it is about keeping people connected and loyal.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

I love live music, especially having last lived in Austin, Texas [self-claimed Capital of Live Music]. I would like to see more throughout the whole municipality. I really feel for the hospitality industry. Without more certainty around the venue COVID restrictions, it is hard to know what is feasible. I’d like to speak to the venue owners and managers to hear what they want to do and help make it happen.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

I am a supporter of the arts and live music. I would like to see more of it up in the top end of the City of Port Phillip. I would like the art scene to come through as part of the vision for Fishermans Bend. Please get in contact if you have ideas you want to see supported at hello@heathercunsolo.com.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

Revitalise our high streets. Divert more waste from landfill. Sensible development that includes amenities for the public like open space, good retail/restaurants, bike connections, adequate parking and public transportation.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

I believe in climate change and that we need to do more. Some of my main points would be increasing tree canopy coverage; storm water management (would be good to see some rain water harvesting); more waste diverted from landfill; and working with businesses to reduce use on single-use plastics.

Earl James – The Greens

Answers shared with fellow Greens candidate for Canal Ward, Tim Baxter. Please refer to the Canal Ward section to read their response. 

We reached out to Sami Maher, Stan Gyles, Trina Lewis, Marcus Pearl, Peter Martin and Cleo Papageorgiou but did not receive a response. They are also running for council in Gateway Ward. 

Lake Ward

Three vacancies, eight candidates.

Adrian Jackson – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

[No answer]

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

Live music will start once the government allows the pubs and venues to reopen, it’s that simple. This is not really a council responsibility.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

I visit the NGV and Federation Square gallery (pre-Corona) a few times a year. A 96 tram ride from my home in Middle Park and I am there in 20 minutes. St Kilda Festival is well organised but it should not be funded by we ratepayers which is $2 million for a one day event attended almost exclusively by people who do not live in Port Phillip. Let the entrepreneurs fund it and there are a few well-known ones in Port Phillip. A few months ago, I suggested to the council that if future events like St Kilda Festival won’t go ahead next year, then they should be cancelled for 2021. No point wasting council staff time, hiring bands and staging equipment if it will not happen. The council agreed with me and cancelled it, but I had to prompt the buggers. We don’t want last minute cancellation like what happen to the nearby F1-GP which was cancelled at the start of day two of this four-day event – bloody ridiculous. Visitors lining up were out of pocket and on-site food and facilities providers were all out of pocket because the government should have cancelled it a week earlier.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

Read my candidate statement [in the Lake Ward ballot paper]. The VEC website has these statements online too. In summary I want the council to concentrate on core functions that they were set up to provide, not duplicate what governments already do. [Council] should not be an entrepreneur for events and entertainment (government and the private sector should do that) and there should be a reduction in council staff numbers through natural attrition. Ten per cent leave annually anyway. Port Phillip has an inflated staff when compared with nearby councils.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

[No answer]

Bernard Mandile – Independent

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

First I would like to bring traders and council together to share ideas, then make small changes like amending parking restrictions to make it easy for locals to come and go. Also give a discount for business rates and also abolish fees on tables on the street. I would like to create a good mix of shops and do this by pushing for different pop-up shops. I would make sure that the street is safe and, if need be, employ security. Also look at theming the shopping strips and creating activities during the year.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

With gigs I would focus on outdoor activities for this summer and keeping them small and more frequent. Also supporting more live music in open areas like parks, gardens & beaches.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

The arts, both visual and musical, are an important factor for any thriving community. It is a known fact that keeping the arts alive is powerful for human connection of all ages. It brings past, present and cultures together, it uplifts and enriches and has the power to heal. Keep the arts ALIVE!

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

My first priority, if I’m elected, will be revitalising the shopping villages, the arts and music.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

It is an important part of our community and everyday life. I would like to continue to make small but positive changes and support groups like the EcoCentre within our community.

Robbie Nyaguy – Labor

What is your strategy for rebuilding your local community and supporting its small businesses post-lockdown?

I want to see small business revived across Port Phillip. Small business in shopping strips across Port Phillip have been especially hard hit. A number of challenges were impacting shopping strips before the pandemic but they have been amplified by the months of retail and hospitality closures. I’ll be pushing for a short-term rescue package which includes support for activities such as outdoor dining and street activation. I will also support targeted rate-relief for traders severely impacted by the pandemic.

How do you plan to support live music venues in reopening and getting back on their feet post-lockdown?

I support the principles of ‘Agent of Change’ planning policy, in that established live music and entertainment precincts need to be strengthened and protected. If new residential development occurs within these precincts, then the onus is on the developers to insulate these homes from activities that were already occurring there, not wait until people move in and complain about the neighbours.

After the pandemic, things will be different. Where we see and hear entertainment, where we consume food, will be pushed outdoors. Outdoors needs to come alive with performances, colour and movement. There is a role for council to make this possible, to encourage with funding and technical support, not throw hurdles in the way.

Our live music and entertainment performers, venues and precincts also need to be supported by active marketing and promotion by council. I support targeted festival-style promotions like council’s Live n Local program, but we need more – more often and more effective. What about cultural festivals for visual arts, theatre or even dance? What about fostering networking between artists and encouraging collective creativity? What about connecting artists to local businesses to produce successful and regular events?

I want to cut the red tape surrounding starting a cultural business by making a one stop shop for permits, grants and advice. I would like to borrow an idea born in other municipalities, and appoint a Night Mayor – an ambassador for a new Night Time Economic Development Strategy. This strategy would support existing venues and encourage new ones to take the place of those that have disappeared under the neglect of previous councils – councils who have simply let the music die.

People say councils can help venues with loading zones – we now have one outside the Espy, one of our last live music venues. In the post-pandemic era, venues are going to need a lot more support than a parking sign. They will need help with clever solutions to ensure social distancing, such as the ability to operate beyond the confines of their crowded premises.

How important are the arts and live music sectors to you as a prospective councillor and how do you aim to support them?

Any cultural policy in a council I am elected to will only be successful if it includes live music as well as all other forms of creative industry and gives those industries a seat at the decision-making table. Port Phillip will only succeed if it brings the whole community, residents and businesses alike, with it. Visitors are great and help business thrive, but in rebuilding a thriving local entertainment scene, my priority would be doing so for my community.

What are your priorities in terms of what you want to achieve for your community as a councillor?

I’m Labor candidate for Lake Ward and putting up my hand to be the progressive voice on Council. I’ve fought for council-run childcare, more open space and investment in community housing. We need a council that stands for what matters most – investment in our essential community services, support for our parks, gardens and tree-lined streets and real local climate action.

I want to secure a stronger community post-COVID. I’ll develop a rescue package to revive shopping strips, including Acland and Fitzroy Streets, invest in foot/bike paths and support our arts communities and venues.

How important is climate action to you and how do you plan to implement it within your council?

Tackling the climate emergency is a huge priority for me. I was very supportive of Port Phillip passing the Climate Emergency Declaration last year and want to see council approve a comprehensive Climate Emergency Action Plan. I have made a number of specific commitments including increasing tree canopy cover to 40 per cent on Council land by 2030, increasing renewable energy generation on council buildings, investigating transitioning from gas in council buildings, implementing FOGO bins by the end of 2021 and delivering pop-up protected bike lanes.

Katherine Copsey – The Greens

Answers shared with fellow Greens candidate for Canal Ward, Tim Baxter. Please refer to the Canal Ward section to read their response. 

We reached out to Andrew Bond, Roger Ward, Christina Sirakoff and Geoffrey Conaghan but did not receive a response. They are also running for council in Lake Ward. 

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