Councils everywhere are fair game for the media and ratepayers and sometimes they deserve to be held to account, other times not.
Here in Orange, and generally speaking, I think our Council does a pretty good job. I know some will dispute that but more often than not when people are complaining about the state of our roads, rate hikes or something else, there's usually more than one side to every story and it's very easy for the media or people to hone in on just one aspect. For example, I have no doubt our Council could fix all our roads fairly quickly, simply by upping the rates we pay by 100 or 200% a year or more. That's the simple answer but of course, if you said that to someone who was screaming long and loud about the state of the roads, it still wouldn't satisfy them, the massive hike in the rates would then become the target of their disdain, and so on it goes.
Having said that, and speaking from several personal experiences, I must say thatI feel there are times when our Council could do a lot better when responding to community concerns etc.
Just this week, we've heard that Council has suspended the Mobile Speed Camerabecause of some sort of flaw. Some people will be very happy about that but for me, I wonder if Council is about to set out to solve a technical problem that's impacting on their revenue potential from fines, rather thanaddressing a bigger issue for many of us - the spirit behind having parking limits in the first place?
I could cite a number of situations in the CBD where either drivers or businesses have battled with Council over issues of fairness or good sense in relation to the parking restrictions, but I won't. For this exercise I'll just mention one observation that I feel shows how the "rules" and the "spirit of the rules" can clash.
Whether a Parking officer on foot or a mobile speed camera, if a driver parks in Lords Place near Robertson Park for more than an hour, chances are they'll get fined. That's the law, or the "rules".
The hour parking limit has been in place in this area of Lords Place for many years. Until the Council car park was built behind the Council Chambers a few years back, it was pretty impossible to find a parking space in this area. Maintaining an hour limit at that time made very good sense and no one could argue against the "spirit" of that.
Since the Council car park opened however, there are always numerous car parking spaces available and to be honest, for about 95% of the year, finding a parking space is not a problem.
So, what we have now are drivers being booked constantly for parking in a one hour zone, while there is ample space available up and down both sides of the street. To be booked under the current circumstances may be according to the "rules" but hardly in the "spirit of the rules".
When I see a parking officer booking a car for overstaying while there are 10 or more vacant spaces nearby, I simply can't swallow that that is fair or in the "spirit" of what is trying to be achieved. Councils vehemently deny they fine people for revenue raising but what else can it be called if the fine isn't going to make any difference for someone looking for a parking space? If the street was full of parked cars and there was little or no spacesavailable, fine away! But not if there's ample spaces available.
My point is this.
The circumstances for applying a one hour time limit in Lords Place near Robertson Park changed years ago when the Council car park opened. I, among others, have put a number of requests to Council asking that they review the current situation and make some adjustments, such as extending the limit to 2 hours. Council has not budged, but more than that, their arguments, in my view, are quite lame and suggest that they haven't given the matter any real thought or simply don't want the hassle or cost to change anything.
There are without doubt many situations like this, where Council has dismissed concerns from ratepayers without giving the subject adequate or reasonable consideration. I have no doubt that if Council staff took the time to "think through" or "work the problem" more in many of these cases, Orange would progress more rapidly as a result.
One other area where Council can also do betteris in the time it takes them to respond to concerns or queries. In my cases I have waited months only to receive a very long winded letter trying to justify their decision. Reading between the lines generally suggests to me, the person writing the letter either hasn't thought it through adequately, is not interested or simply hasn't got a clue.
Like I said Council can do better, they just need to want to!