So sad. Friday night - home from work - opened the daily mail ... a pleading letter and petition from residents in the village of Stanwell Park - in Ward 1 area of Wollongong City Council, NSW, Australia.
I used to get hundreds of such letters each year, if not thousands, in my nearly 20 years in the public eye. They finally stopped about 6 months after I retired as an Independent Ward 1 City Councillor at the March 2004 elections.
The highly controversial Wollongong Council proposes to sell what residents claim to be a "rare pocket of rainforest vegetation... in a steep valley". Residents cite existing flooding issues - further exacerbated by adverse impacts from ocean level rise due to global warming.
The residents ask "why were we not advised of this proposed sale which will have such a large impact on our properties and the amenity of our immediate neighbourhood?" Prior to the 2004 elections, I and my then fellow councillors, inlcluding ALP members, would have made sure the community were listened to by the Wollongong Council bureaucrats. However a lot changed after ex Councillors Kerrie Christian, Vicky King, Ian Hunt and Trevor Mott retired in 2004.
And now Wollongong's people have been without democratically elected councillors for over a year - with possibly another 3 years before the community gets to choose who should represent them. Other ALP members were equally outraged along with the broader community by the gobsmacking activities revealed at the ICAC hearings from February 2008.
So this is what happens after the decent, democratically elected councillors who were committed to their local communities, suddenly found themselves dismissed. Why ? Because of findings against some ALP Wollongong councillors by the NSW ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption). The decent Majority were punished because of the alleged sins of the Minority.
Now the Wollongong community are subject to rule by a Triumvirate of ALP State Government appointed Administrators. They share this with the Shellharbour community, who are ruled over by a lone ALP State Government appointed Administrator. How could this ALP State Government appointed Shellharbour Administrator decimate the community's access to public swimming pools by literally months every year - and in the warm months, not the depths of winter ??
The hard part is that sometimes communities have to lose a few serious battles before there is sufficient anger to create change.
State ALP Government representatives would be wise to consider this potential anger - as they will have to carry the can for the decisions to deny local government democracy in its long term loyal heartland of the Illawarra.