Last month, Lord Mayor Clover Moore announced her new Independent Team for the City of Sydney.
Some felt she had taken a razor gang approach to her quest for a fresh team ahead of the local government elections; with the exception of Councillor Robert Kok, it was a cabal of new faces.
Angela Vithoulkas, who’s running for Lord Mayor on the Living Sydney ticket, believes Ms Moore didn’t go far enough.
The feisty café owner and businesswoman says Clover herself needs to go.
“Every company gets a new CEO. Every sports team gets a new coach. No-one’s in forever. The City of Sydney is no different.”
Ms Vithoulkas believes the Clover brand has curdled; her list of complaints about the state of Sydney is long.
Small business is “struggling”, she says. Kings Cross is “a nightmare”. There are “not enough police” on the streets. Social housing “needs urgent attention”. The City doesn’t conduct true consultation with residents but “approaches things with pre-determined outcomes”. Council is “more concerned with its 2030 vision than what residents and businesses need right now.”
Some of these problems (policing, social housing) are traditionally State Government responsibilities but Ms Vithoulkas wants an end to “buck-passing”.
“The classic example right now is Kings Cross,” she says. “Clover keeps saying: ‘Oh, that’s State Government.’ Enough. We need more police on the ground. And the City has the funds to employ off-duty police officers.
“When there’s a big football game, the venue employs off-duty police officers. And they need the overtime. So why wouldn’t we? It’s not a valid excuse to say: ‘It’s a State Government issue.’ This is a community issue. We have to step up and shame the State Government.”
Similarly, with social housing, Ms Vithoulkas rails: “There are security issues, there are maintenance issues. Again, ‘It’s a State Government issue.’ Really? Council has the resources, they have the people, they can step in, fix things and repair things. Send the bill to State Government! Why should our people in the City of Sydney suffer because there are bigger wheels to turn in State Government that aren’t as nimble and as flexible and as lean as local government?”
There’s no doubt Ms Vithoulkas has stepped up to the plate with vigour, offering a strong alternative to an old recipe. If nothing else, she has injected new vigour into local politics, bringing the can-do approach of a businesswoman who can’t afford to say ‘that’s not my responsibility’.
But for all Ms Vithoulkas’ fighting words, many believe Clover is electorally invincible.
The real story is more likely to be a power shift in Council; Ms Moore retaining the Lord Mayoralty but perhaps forced to build a consensus with Ms Vithoulkas and other new councillors.
How would Ms Vithoulkas fare as a subordinate in a Clover Moore-led council?
“I believe it would be my role to maintain the same platform that I’m going into this election with, which is about being a voice for the people,” she says.
“It would be my honour and privilege to serve the people of the City of Sydney in whatever capacity they elect me. It’s just as important to have an active council as it is to have the right Lord Mayor.
“I will not just sit there and do nothing for four years because there’s another Lord Mayor, with or without a majority. You can only have good government if there is good opposition.”
Not that Ms Vithoulkas is counting on that scenario.
“I believe Clover will have to find a way to work with me when I become Lord Mayor.”