Tearful tributes, farewells and regrets as 'turbulent' Inner West Council term ends

'TURBULENT AND TORRID': Tuesday's council meeting marked the end of a
'TURBULENT AND TORRID': Tuesday's council meeting marked the end of a "turbulent" term for the Inner West Council. Picture: Inner West Council

As the Inner West council election looms, what advice do current councillors have for those incoming?

The overwhelming sentiment is "don't be like us".

Tearful farewells, tributes and regrets flowed at Tuesday night's council meeting as the Inner West Council's first full term wrapped up. The November 23 meeting was the last for the year and marked the end of a "turbulent" term of council.

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"The challenge for the new council will be not to be like this council," said independent councillor Victor Macri.

"If anything, we've shown what a council shouldn't be and I hope that goes down to the annals and the new council people work collaboratively, forget their affiliations and party lines and just work for the community."

Cr Macri, who is running again in the Marrickville ward, said the council has achieved some good things through the term but said the lack of collaboration was "disappointing".

The number of code of conduct complaints made against each other was troubling and certainly very disturbing

John Stamolis

Fellow independent John Stamolis echoed Cr Macri's sentiment. He said this term was a "turbulent and torrid four years" and while all the councillors "contributed a lot", they "just didn't put it together as a group".

"I hope the 15 new councillors can reflect on this council, and the governing body. The number of code of conduct complaints made against each other was troubling and certainly very disturbing, it didn't exhibit the signs of a healthy relationship on the governing body," said Cr Stamolis, who is running for re-election in the Balmain ward.

"The new council should reflect on that and build the sorts of relationships that are productive and balanced."

In 2017 the first election for the Inner West Council was held after its creation through the NSW Government's forced 2016 merger of the former Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt councils.

Mayor Rochelle Porteous, who represented the Balmain ward for the Greens, is one of five incumbent councillors and three former mayors not running for council in the coming term.

Labor's Lucille McKenna, once mayor of Ashfield, and Sam Iskander, who served as mayor of Marrickville, will also retire from council. Anna York from the Labor party and Louise Steer from the Greens are not running either.

In her final address to council, Cr McKenna said this term had been "the most strange period" and urged councillors staying on to "try and be less adversarial" in the coming term.

Three former mayors, Rochelle Porteous (Leichhardt, Inner West), Sam Iskander (Marrickville) and Lucille McKenna (Ashfield) are among the councillors not standing for reelection. Picture: Inner West Council

Three former mayors, Rochelle Porteous (Leichhardt, Inner West), Sam Iskander (Marrickville) and Lucille McKenna (Ashfield) are among the councillors not standing for reelection. Picture: Inner West Council

She said the merger, a revolving door of general managers and losses in staff created a period of instability. "Hopefully the council is now moving to a period of stability and it will be all up from here," she said.

Cr Steer, who represented the Stanmore ward, agreed it had been a "turbulent time of council" and acknowledged her own role in the conflict.

She said joining council she felt a bit "left at sea" with 10 councillors coming in from the previous council areas. She hopes incoming councillors will be offered more support than she was.

Taking the number of exiting councillors to at least seven are Greens councillors Tom Kiat and Colin Hesse, who will run at the bottom of their respective ballot papers, effectively quitting council.

At the end of his "second and last term on council", Cr Hesse said residents were quite rightly concerned about the direction of the council and the problem had been ultimately a political one.

"Not just one of us, but all of us in our ways struggled. And it hasn't always been resolved in a constructive way for our community, and that is a matter of deep and lasting regret for me," he said.

"I know I'm not the only councillor who feels a sense of frustration with this term on council."

I know I'm not the only councillor who feels a sense of frustration with this term on council

Colin Hesse

Despite the struggles, Cr Porteous thanked councillors, staff and community members "for their commitment and dedication" and "service to the Inner West Council".

"Together we've stood with the community through the challenges of COVID while providing unprecedented support to those who were most affected," she said.

She congratulated councillors and staff on some of the achievements over the past four years including completing major infrastructure projects like the Marrickville Library, Ashfield Aquatic Centre and restoring the Dawn Fraser Baths.

"We thought we were signing up for three years and we got four, then we got another three months, all due to the COVID pandemic. Thank you everybody for staying the distance," she said.

The council election will be held on Saturday December 4 and pre-poll voting has already opened. To find out which ward you're in and where your nearest polling stations are, check the NSW Electoral Commission website.

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