BY TOMMY BOUTROUS
On Saturday, September 9, residents of the former Leichhardt, Marrickille and Ashfield Councils will elect councilors for the new Inner West Council. In 2016 the amalgamation of these three separate inner west councils more than halved the number of local representatives in the area from 36 to 15. On Saturday voters in five new wards will elect three councilors each.
The redrawn boundaries are projected to favour major party candidates who have greater resources to mount a campaign in a large area. Labor, Liberals and Greens are expected to benefit from the expanded ward boundaries. Independents may struggle to compete.
Despite the challenges of running a campaign in a much larger area, a number of independents candidates are on the ballot this weekend. John Stamolis is standing as an Independent for the Balmain Ward. He served on Leichhardt council twice and has been involved in local community groups for over 20 years. His long standing commitment to the community provides local residents with a strong advocate. He is running for Council in the hope of continuing his service to the community.
Pauline Lockie is standing as independent for the Stanmore ward of the Inner West Council. A copywriter and communications consultant by trade, she is a founding member of the WestCONnex Action Group (WAG). She lives with her husband and daughter in Newtown. Pauline stands for ‘opposing WestConnex without being compromised by party policy, delivering better and more accessible public transport services and fighting for urgently needed childcare and school places’.
As a spokesperson for the WestCONnex Action Group, she has made countless appearances in the media, at public events, and in meetings with politicians and officials at all levels of government to campaign for an end to this destructive project, as well as better outcomes for people across the Inner West who are now enduring the worst impacts of its construction.
As a community activist, before her candidacy, Pauline has seen ‘how the major parties have brought compromise to issues affecting the Inner West in order to win votes elsewhere or satisfy party donors. I want to end that kind of politics. As an independent her priority would be to represent residents’ needs – and make sure community voices dictate what happens in the Inner West, not party strategists”
Independent candidate Victoria Pye is also standing as an independent in the Marrickville ward in this Saturday’s election. Victoria firmly believes ‘that Marrickville deserves a council that is as diverse as the Community that it represents’. Her main interests are ensuring that she keeps ‘Marrickville vibrant and safe for everyone. According to Victoria, “Marrickville was the first place that I felt comfortable to hold my girlfriend’s hand, and I want everyone to feel as comfortable in Marrickville as I do.”
She strongly opposes Westconnex, which has been extremely controversial. Since its inception, plans have been abandoned and amendments are continually being brought forward. Victoria would like residents to be ‘able to trust the council to act on behalf of them, not developers. According to Victoria, “If I was able to have people consider me a trustworthy councillor who tried to do the right then that would be a win for me, and I think for politics.’
John Lozano, is another independent candidate who is strongly opposed to Westconnex. Standing in the Leichhardt ward, he describes himself as being a ‘passionate advocate against a project that is ill-conceived, mismanaged, will not deliver its stated benefits and continues to have devastating impacts on our community.’ He would also like to force a “re-establishment of the previous community precincts and other community forums to feed grass roots ideas into council policies and initiatives.”
John believes that the Leichhardt has not been served by party politics and collusion between the political parties over the years. ‘Parties that are ideologically opposed have joined forces previously and brought upon community initiatives that where not in our best interest.’ He has been ‘totally dissatisfied with the performance and representation of at all levels of Government for quite some time. Party politics are getting in the way of delivering to our community the services we desperately need.’
Independent candidate Morris Mansour has ‘always puts residents first.’ He has had a long association across all areas of the Ashfield Ward having been first elected as a Councillor on Ashfield Council in the 1990s. He served as both Mayor and Deputy Mayor during that time and was the chairperson of many committees such as the traffic committee, seniors committee and library committee.
His main priority on the new enlarged council would be ‘to maintain basic services which are often forgotten by politicians such as regular street cleaning and graffiti removal, repairing broken footpaths and potholes, and garbage collection including free pick-ups, while keeping rates as low as possible and maintaining high-quality facilities including libraries, parks and pools which the whole community can enjoy.’
The inner west council elections are shaping up to be a true dogfight between independent candidates and those from major parties. And while the Independents may not have the resources that their opponents from the major parties do, they are busy fighting the good fight.