Opinion: Should council politics decide who’s mayor?

The community gets the right to vote on who’s the best person to run our country and state.

We also vote on who should represent us at local government level.

But in western and north-western Sydney, unless you live in The Hills or Hornsby council areas, we currently have no say on who's mayor.

Last month, Dr Michelle Byrne became The Hills’ first popularly elected mayor while former federal MP Philip Ruddock became Hornsby’s third. To have a popularly elected mayor, councils must first hold a plebiscite to find out what the residents want. Which is what The Hills Council did at the 2012 council elections, where an overwhelming majority of residents (almost 85 per cent) indicated they wanted to have a say.

The impact council politics has had on recent mayoral elections raises the question of whether other councils should follow the lead of Hornsby and The Hills.

Many residents in Winston Hills, Northmead, North Rocks and Carlingford residents formerly part of The Hills didn’t have a say because they’re are now under Parramatta Council.

At Parramatta, the word was Labor’s Pierre Esber had the numbers to recently become lord mayor. But 11th hour campaigning saw Our Local Community independent Andrew Wilson claim victory. Two nights later at the new Cumberland Council, two Labor councillors went head to head. The caucus had appointed former Auburn councillor George Campbell. But Greg Cummings believed the inaugural mayor should be from the former Holroyd Council and with the support of the Liberals and independents, had the numbers, much to the chagrin of party colleagues.

I don’t question whether councillors Wilson and Cummings deserve their respective roles. Both are experienced councillors more than capable of representing their communities. But under new local government reforms, a mayor elected by the councillors now holds office for a minimum two years, so it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

To those who live in the Parramatta LGA, you may be satisfied with not having a popularly elected mayor. But you should at least be given the choice. Because the privilege to be mayor shouldn’t be about council politics or taking turns, it should be who's the best person for the job.

  • Kylie Stevens is a senior journalist in Sydney’s north-west region. 
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