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This was the Council Meeting.  The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.  I will post in 2 parts, covering the Peace Team visit & the BDS in this post.

There were 3 security guards & 2 freelance journalists as well as journalists from the Australian Jewish News, Crikey, Greenleft Weekly & The Spectator recording & filming the meeting.

Notice of Motion: Peace Team visit – 7 members of the local community spoke supporting the motion for 3 minutes each.  Speaker 1:  Said they welcomed the peace alliance & applauded Council’s support of the BDS as it draws attention to the practices of the Israeli government & brings pressure to do something about this.

Speaker 2:  Said this motion demonstrates Council’s commitment to peace & made him feel proud. He said it is misguided to think the BDS as anti-Semitic & as none of Council’s business. That kind of attitude caused the holocaust & we cannot sit idly by while the people in Bethlehem suffer.

Speaker 3:  Identified as a Jewish Israeli who grew up on a kibbutz & has lived in Australia for 21 years. There is more to be gained in creating peace projects that are not negative like the BDS. Said she has been feeling isolated & confused since the BDS was put in place.

Speaker 4:  Identified as a Jewish Israeli & a Green’s candidate for a previous state election. Said the BDS says, “boycott any sporting events” & said the BDS is a weeping infected septic wound where band-aid will not stick. The peace team should come to an environment of peace, not sanctions.

Speaker 5:  Identified as the Secretary if the Inner West Jewish Peace Alliance that was formed in response to the BDS. They were pleased to see the peace team visit. The group did not see Council as extremists, but ‘acknowledged’ that there was inadequate community consultation before the BDS. They wanted a peaceful resolution of Palestine.

Speaker 6:  Identified as a Palestinian. Said he was not against the motion because it was not the right place & he supported the BDS. He stressed that the BDS was not anti-Jewish or about ending the state of Israel. He said the BDS was about Israel sticking to international law. He was not against Jewish groups hiring any halls as he thought they should be able to hire any hall they like, but he took exception when the Palestinian people are used as human shields & now they want to use Palestinians to make this a BDS issue when they could go to any other hall.

Speaker 7:  Strongly supported the use of the hall, but was concerned that Council procedures are being abused. Said she was surprised that Clr Macri did not know the group could just go to Council staff & book the hall instead of bringing the motion to the Council Meeting. She said Friends of Hebron in Leichhardt strongly support the BDS & they were happy to work with Jewish groups who don’t try to normalize the occupation of Palestine. The peace group should be able to use the hall & this does not contradict the BDS.

Clr Macri: I moved the motion because the group approached me because they felt alienated by the BDS. There are 2 arguing groups who want Marrickville Councillors to be their gun. I’m not going to do this.  Council is getting involved regarding problems over there (Israel) & the BDS alienates one party. I know how to book a hall.

Clr Thanos: The motion is a non-issue & Council never had the intention that a local group could not hire this hall or prevent access. I wish the groups had been told this to prevent undue stress.  Clr Hanna: I’m ashamed to be here tonight. You divide the community.  Clr Thanos:  Council has voted on a boycott of Burma, which Clr Hanna voted in support. Clr Hanna:  This is not a local issue. No one asked me to put in a boycott. Burma; I was new & didn’t know what I was doing. You are wasting Council’s money. I am against the BDS & for this motion.

Clr Olive: The Labor party, Clr Thanos & the Greens voted for the BDS.  Clr Hanna: The Greens divided the community.

Clr Peters: Question to staff – Clr Hanna has stated that an amount of $80,000 has been used. Have any funds been allocated for the BDS?  Staff: To my knowledge Council hasn’t spent any direct money. There has been some staff time, though we don’t record or charge staff time. We haven’t quoted a figure. Any figure has been an estimate by media. Clr Peters: I understand most of staff time was spent on answering enquiries about the BDS mostly from outside Marrickville.

Clr Macri: Has Council engaged any phone survey? Staff: No.

None of the Labor Councillors spoke on this item.  Carried unanimously.

Acrobatic dinner

This was the Land Use Assets Meeting & the Services Committee Meeting. The following was my understanding of the meeting & all mistakes are mine. To cut down the length of this post I will mostly remove “he said/she said” with the comments coming after the person’s name.

Pedestrian crossing on Ewart Street Dulwich Hill – The Traffic Committee approved the crossing, but staff recommended it be considered as part of future budgets because the RTA think it is not warranted & have indicated they will appeal if Council goes ahead & builds it.

A resident spoke for the pedestrian crossing saying the following: residents were upset that the crossing was not going ahead, she had addressed Council about this last July. The pedestrian crossing was on the route to Dulwich Hill Primary School & that it was hard to get the kids safely across to the pedestrian refuge or see cars coming. It was not enough for Council to just use speed cushions. The residents want speed cushions on all 3 entry points as well as signs & warning bumps.  They also want to meet with staff to find a safe, suitable outcome.  I last wrote about this issue here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/report-from-the-gallery-–-13th-july-2010/

This verge in Marrickville is cool & very pretty

One resident spoke against the pedestrian crossing. Over the past 17-years he had never seen anyone wait for more than 2-minutes to cross the road. The community was angry about losing more parking spaces & thought the crossing was a waste of money. Parking was at a premium already.  30 signatures against the crossing were collected over the weekend.

Both Clrs Tsardoulias & Olive said it was reasonable for Council to persist with building the crossing despite the RTA. Clr Olive: the RTA needs to know people want better pedestrian access & quieter streets.  Clr Tsardoulias: wanted angle parking investigated.  Mayor Byrne: Council could do their own usage counts during the periods before & after school.  Staff: the counts were 22 pedestrians & 580 cars between 2.30pm & 3.30pm.

Clr Thanos: it should be deferred until Council did a count as this would help with any appeal from the RTA. Any change to angle parking should be done with community consultation. Angled parking narrows the street & reduces speeding.  Clr Peters asked whether fences could be erected to prevent kids crossing closer to the roundabout. Staff: this is part of the project & that a large tree was obstructing drivers view.  Passed unanimously.

Raising the Western Sahara flag – The Secretary of the Australian Western Sahara Association asked Council to raise the Sahara flag on Western Sahara National Day saying in the past it has been raised in 3 places in Melbourne, in Perth, Hobart & in other Australian cities. 35-years-ago most of Western Sahara was invaded by Morocco. Since then the people were denied freedom of assembly & expression & their mineral resources were exploited.  Raising the Western Sahara flag would extend strong support & solidarity & encourages our & other governments to put pressure on Morocco to do a free & fair referendum.

Magpie

Clr Phillips said he was once involved in the Western Papua cause & knows that raising the flag means so much to those fighting an uphill battle for recognition, as the neither the public or the media know much about these issues.  He supported raising the flag & said it was a small gesture.   Clr Kontellis: peoples’ opposition movements are often turning to Council &  supported raising the flag.

Clr Hanna: against anything like this because it has nothing to do with the people of Marrickville. Clr Thanos: a member of the community have asked Council to do it & because it is in the Charter it is therefore within Council’s business.  He reminded that Council raises the Greek flag every year & dared the Councillors to say they will stop doing this.  Council has a long history of raising many flags.

Clr Olive: the Telegraph said that Council wants to do things for countries that don’t even exist, yet we did it for Aung San Suu Kyi & the Dalai Lama who doesn’t even live in his own country. It’s wholly consistent to support oppressed minorities within their own countries.  The Telegraph should look at the Cooks River, Mackey Park, Kendrick Park & Enmore Pool, as Council are doing the nuts & bolts work & also try to represent oppressed people when our residents let us know about them.

Clr Macri:  he wouldn’t support, as this is just one corner around the world. The public expects us to represent them.  It costs $600 to tie a banner on the balcony so why was there no cost? Council cannot take up every issue even at home; the plight of the Aborigines & disaster victims. A lot of people are disturbed by all the out-of-town issues Council is involved with. The Sister City program was about community, not alliances.  Staff time is being taken up with the out-of-town issues.   For: Clrs Olive, Kontellis, Peters, Byrne, Phillips & Thanos. Against: Clrs Macri, Hanna, Tsardoulias, Iskandar, O’Sullivan & Wright. Clr Tsardoulias used his casting vote to deny the request. Not passed.

Sister Cities program – A resident spoke about the decision to boycott Israeli services & products at a recent Council Meeting.  She asked Council to develop a practical peace-based project regarding Bethlehem & Palestine & said this was already happening with Leichhardt Council. There are hundreds of Jewish people in Marrickville LGA & it was insulting that Council had not involved them. People were shocked & distressed.  Council are not here to do this. Council didn’t involve the Palestinian constituents either. The boycott of Israel is not on Council’s Sister City Report & Judaism is linked to Israel.  The boycott of Israel is not dialogue & co-operation. She asked, why did Council not talk to the Jewish community?  Where is the process that allows the Jewish community to speak with Council & to start a peaceful process? They were offering themselves to work with Council together for peace.  Council’s approach was ‘last century’ & outdated taking out the bad guy to go with the good.  (Around 35 members/supporters of the Jewish community attended tonight’s Council Meeting)

Clr Iskandar: It was a good report. The Sister Cities Program is very different to the decision the previous speaker was talking about.  Sister Cities means peace, inclusion, 2 sides working together in peace & harmony.  There was no intention to exclude any resident inside or outside Marrickville.  We visited Bethlehem & the people were suffering, but have hope that both sides will sit together & have peace. Council is not against the Israeli people; we are just supporting the Palestinians, that one day they will have their own state Israel recognizes. He invited people to participate in any Sister Cities program, but under the new code.

Great when in flower & not pruned too hard

Clr Thanos: He didn’t agree with the Sister Cities policy & would not vote for it. Staff are trying to get a balanced approach because we have too many sister cities. He didn’t agree with having 2 categories of sister cities; those we actively relate to & those we don’t.  He hadn’t seen anything come out of the Sister Cities program for the last 2 years. The Sister Cities Program was outdated & last century, but Council should keep agreement with Bethlehem, always acknowledging Israel’s right to exist & Passchendaele because the children who are buried there had links to Marrickville.  Council hasn’t heard from Kos for 10 years & we could keep Larnaca because of the Cyprus Club is active in our community, but the other cities served no purpose.

Mayor Byrne supported the motion. Clr Peters: The residents have misrepresented Council’s stance on the BDS.  The Palestinians were facing an acute lack of water on the West Bank & only existing on 20% of water. Let’s see if we can work here about the problems of Bethlehem so that the people can grow food & survive.

Clr Phillips: The Sister Cities Program was last century, restrictive & outdated & asked whether Council would be better off promoting exchanges & also do this is Africa & other parts of the world.  Clr Marci:  It was hard to maintain a Sister Cities relationship in such a diverse place & that the locals here are concerned about losing local harmony. He was concerned that the Sister Cities has been hijacked & tarnished by the boycott & wanted programs where Palestinians & Israelis could work together instead of Council being the laughing stock of the world. He has been inundated with emails asking what Israel has to do with Council when they can’t fix the grass. He would support the resolution, Council needs to look at the program & not alienate any of our community.

Clr Hanna:  He supported the resolution.  A Councillor went on radio & said a lot of churches & people asked Council to do the boycott, yet he has not heard anyone say this. We are not the Foreign Affairs Minister & we all work part time.  He was only interested in helping locals & had no intention of running for parliament.  He gave the program 12-months more support. Clr Kontellis:  The criteria for assessing the Sister Cities relationships was ‘poor,’ ‘fair’ & ‘good’ & that the majority of indicators were poor. This says a lot about the Sister Cities Program. She said she was uncomfortable with the outcome & wanted to know how long Council would be supporting an outdated, meaningless program.  Carried with Clrs Phillips, Kontellis & Thanos against.

There were some other items on the agenda. For brevity, I have not reported on them. They attracted little debate.  Here ends the Report for this week.

Grevillea - another great food source for wildlife

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