Inner West Council elections 2021: Meet the candidates in Marrickville-Midjuburi

Marrickville Town Hall. Picture: Geoff Jones
Marrickville Town Hall. Picture: Geoff Jones

With only three groups of candidates racing to represent the Marrickville (Midjubri) ward this term, it's not the most hotly contested race in the election. But as two incumbent councillors are stepping back there'll definitely be new faces among the representatives.

The Midjuburi ward covers the south-eastern corner of the LGA including the suburbs of Marrickville, St Peters, Sydenham and Tempe. The area's population is just under 38,000.

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Key issues in the area include land use around the Cook's River, reinvigorating struggling shopping strips along Marrickville Road and Illawarra road, improving facilities at local parks and sporting grounds and pedestrian safety around St Peters and Tempe.

There are three council spots up for grabs, currently filled by Sam Iskander for Labor, Colin Hesse for the Greens and Independent councilor Victor Macri. This year, Cr Iskander is retiring and Cr Hesse is running at the bottom of the ballot sheet.

Meet the lead candidates running for the ward on December 4.

Mat Howard - Labor

Lead candidate for Labor is Mat Howard who "cut his teeth" in the not-for-profit arts sector for over 10 years before taking a step back to spend more time with his family. After studying a Masters in Politics and Public Policy, Mr Howard is now working in the office of Jo Haylen, member for Summer Hill.

Running mates:

Zoi Tsardoulias and Katherine Hudson

Good to know:

Mr Howard said he has always been passionate about local politics. He has lived on Addison Road in Marrickville with his husband and their two sons for 7 years and said he was drawn to the area for its diverse and welcoming community.

A passionate advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, Mr Howard served as a co-chair of Rainbow Families NSW during which time he was very involved in the marriage equality campaign, helped establish the family pride picnic in Sydney Park and developed a resource for trans and gender diverse parents.

Stance on de-amalgamation:

Mr Howard supports residents having their say on the demerger poll but he is "optimistic" about what the council can "achieve together" as one, with a mix of fresh faces and experienced candidates.

"A lot of heavy lifting was done, and a lot of difficult decisions were made in the last term of council, and I think we have the opportunity now to look at those values which unite us as a community and that we want to see reflected in council policy," he says.

Why he's running:

Mr Howard said his experience in the not-for-profit sector and working with local community groups has given him valuable insight into the needs of these stakeholders and their important role within the community.

"They're the heart and soul of the place. That's why I wanted to put my hand up, because I really value those community groups and I think the council can do a good job with supporting those groups," he says.

Priorities:

Mr Howard says some of his key priorities on council will be improving council's "responsiveness to residents" and "finding ways to better support our community groups to do the good work of fighting for equality and improving services".

"I'd really like to act as a conduit for those groups to see what resources are available through the council and what platforms the council may be able to provide to them," he says.

"We want to introduce a customer service charter which will really set the bar for the kind of responsiveness that council would have to people's concerns- whether it's issues with street cleaning or parking, or community groups wanting to engage on something".

To better engage with the community, Mr Howard wants to see council establish a mobile service van "like Mr Whippy for council consultation" and customer service representatives from council at council venues like libraries to "bring council to the people".

Climate and environment is another priority area for Mr Howard. If elected, he will push for council to create a free advisory service, with council officers visiting homes to share ideas on how to make the household more sustainable.

"It will re-empower households to become climate resilient and lower their carbon footprint".

Justine Langford - Greens

Greens candidate Justine Langford works in media and communications and describes herself as a "proud public servant". She's also a delegate for the Community and Public Sector Union and involved in a number of community advocacy groups including the Cooks River Valley Association, the River Canoe Club and the Willow Creek Preservation society.

Running mates:

Marika Kontellis and Cr Colin Hesse

Good to know:

Ms Langford has lived in Marrickville for the past 10 years and in the inner west for 30 years. She describes herself as a "a passionate community advocate" who is particularly interested in the environment, social justice, arts and culture and indigenous recognition. In her downtime Ms Langford does a lot of outdoor recreation in the local area including walking her dog, kayaking and cycling.

Stance on de-amalgamation:

Ms Langford is a supporter of de-amalgamation as she believes "council is just too large".

"What you see is councillors who live way over on the other side of the council area, who don't have the familiarity of the local area, making decisions on issues that affect residents here," she says.

She thinks it's important for the community to have their say and encourages people to vote on the poll question based on their own experience of amalgamation, and whether it's worked for them.

Why she's running:

Having lived in the inner west for 3 decades, Ms Langford says she has "a deep knowledge of the area" and feels like she can "make a contribution to the community" as a councillor.

"Particularly over the last term of council since amalgamation, I've seen a deterioration in local democracy and I've seen a lot of opportunities for things to be improved," she says.

"I really enjoy working with people and have been really involved in council, for example in the environment strategic reference group. I feel like I can really make a contribution. I want the community to be proud of the Inner West Council"

Priorities:

Ms Langford says in a diverse community like the inner west, where not everyone has digital literacy, face-to-face engagement with the community is crucial. One of the ways she thinks council could better assess and address the needs of the community is local precinct committees.

"Having an amalgamated council it's really important to have local precinct committees. It's very difficult for us to service the number of residents and community groups in a meaningful way, so we need to work together with council staff to work out how we can provide better service," she says.

"I will be putting a lot of effort into trying to build really strong, productive relationships and making sure there's a respectful culture within council meetings"

Other priorities for Ms Langford, should she be elected, include preserving the area's unique heritage buildings, ensuring residential development is sustainable, increasing the amount of affordable housing and cleaning up and naturalising the Cooks River.

"People are really distressed when they see the rubbish in the river, it's such a beautiful key asset for this area and people want to see it looked after."

Victor Macri - Independent

Independent councillor Victor Macri has run a small family business, Fernando's Hair & Beauty, on Marrickville road for more than 40 years. He has served on council for 16 years and is the only incumbent in the ward running at the top of their ticket.

Running mates:

Melinda Dimitriades and Vincent Randazzo

Good to know:

Cr Macri served as the mayor of the former Marrickville council in 2012 and as Deputy Mayor of the Inner West Council from 2018 until 2019, then again from 2020 until September this year.

While Cr Macri lives in Belmore, outside the LGA, he was born in Newtown, went to school in the local area and played for local sporting clubs like the Marrickville Red Devils. His family roots in Marrickville go back to the 1950s, before it was "the sexy place that it is now".

Cr Macri will be running alongside Melinda Dimitriades, a political science graduate who owns a Marrickville providore, and Tempe resident Vince Randazzo.

Stance on de-amalgamation:

A supporter of de-amalgamation, Cr Macri moved the motion which saw council vote to put the question to the public in a poll. He's proud of the former Marrickville council and unhappy with the direction council's taken since merging.

"One minute I'm on the Starship Enterprise with Captain Kirk and the next minute I'm on the Endeavour with Captain Cook holding a bucket and a mop," he says.

"I have great knowledge of Marrickville, because I've left skin on almost every corner. But when people ask me something about Leichhardt I have to really rely on the local ward councillors, and sometimes it's not reliable as they vote along party lines."

Why he's running:

Cr Macri says one of the great things about his job as a hairdresser is being able to talk to so many different people, being on council gives him the opportunity to be an independent voice for them.

"I'm quite opposed to the party system. Because political parties want to make war, and it's not about making war with the state or federal governments, it's about trying to work together and deliver the best outcomes we can for our people," he says.

"As we have on our slogan, the community is our party. That's who we represent. When you come to me with a problem, whether it's a traffic issue or a tree issue, it's your issue and it's my job as a councillor to assist you, not to read you my ideological book".

Priorities:

Cr Macri isn't making big promises if he's re-elected, he prefers a more considered and pragmatic approach to policy making and just wants to get on with the job of delivering essential services to the community. "There's no quick solutions, because quick solutions don't work," he says.

Issues on Cr Macri's radar include upgrading facilities at Mackey and Steele Park, removing parking meters to re-enliven main streets, planting "suitable" trees, limiting rates rises, cleaning up the Cooks River and revisiting development controls he says "don't benefit the community".

"When it comes to development matters, the mums and dads looking to put an extension in have basically been abandoned. I look at some of the controls and I reckon they're dumb," he says.

"It's all about preserving the streetscape and how it looks at the front, meanwhile extensions at the back are impacting people's sunlight, air flow and privacy. I want to get the planning controls right so people can live in the home they want to live in."

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