Thursday, April 26, 2012 Division 2.

I have refrained from writing much on this blog for the past few weeks as being a candidate for election does make it that bit harder. Mostly because there is very little time for it but also because it would be very difficult to self-critique. Nonetheless, with only a few days to go, I'd like to share my experiences with you all on this process and what it has taught me.

The first week was spent largely ignoring the fact that an election was on the horizon as the State election, with it's very interesting results, was still front and centre in people's minds. That made it difficult to talk local politics with people but I also wanted to give the community some time off before another election became the focal point in their thoughts.

During that week immediately proceeding the State election I spent a lot of time talking to my family and friends about what was coming next. We discussed corflute placement, trailer signs and other paraphernalia. With me being of the opinion that election material should be restricted further it was very hard to order those things knowing that they would soon litter the landscape. I contacted several local organisations to ask who wanted them after the election and managed to find homes for them all which made the process a little more bearable.

We chose to go with several large billboard signs so that we could limit corflutes in the ground (something that became a problem for us but I do not regret doing) and chose to print the How To Vote cards on plain paper so they could be recycled with greater ease.

Week two and door-knocking ramped up a gear. There were five weeks in total between elections and two of those were school holidays. Not the easiest time to knock on people's doors when you live in an area which is primarily young families.

Door-knocking taught me several things. Firstly, you can never have enough sunscreen on. People would really like the opportunity to have their say if you are willing to give them an ear and your time. The so called 'little things' are not so little if you are a resident in the street with the issue. Hooning is a MAJOR problem in almost every street. People are confused about the CEP based on the amount of conflicting information out there and have not actually made their minds up about it yet. Very few residents know who they will vote for as Mayor. Lastly, I learnt that while I have been working on various committee's and in many groups for several years in the Division, PLENTY of people had no idea who I was.

In week three I met residents who are concerned about a particularly nasty corner in Mt Sheridan. Several major accidents occur there every year and after years of working with Council officers and Nancy (who it turns out has worked tirelessly for those who have contacted her with an issue)they are still no closer to fixing the problem.

I met residents who would like one of the designated Dog Exercise Parks in Division 2 to be fenced so that stray dogs can't impede on it's use. They walked me over to the park and we stood there for a long while to actually witness what is going on and in those 45 minutes, 6 dogs wandered over from various streets nearby. Two of them quite scary big ones. No wonder kids are too scared to walk their dogs.

I met the residents of one street where every house along it has been broken into this year. The park is always full of noisy young people drinking heavily and the impact of that on their piece of mind is quite large. The police are often called and always come, but they always arrive too late. During the next few days I contacted Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch and found out there is no branch in Bentley Park or Mt Sheridan, something that needs addressing, the sooner the better.

One street I visited was still recovering from an accident which had occurred only the week before. A young child was hit by a car along the street, suffering serious but non-life threatening injury. The person driving the vehicle was going quite slowly but during my time in that street, at least 8 cars sped along the road past me at speeds in excess of the limit. A child being hit by a car going 40k and surviving is one thing but if that same child had been hit by a car doing 60-70 it may well have resulted in her death. They have lodged complaints with Council and asked for some help but as yet, have heard nothing back.

Each week I also stood at the front of each of the shopping precincts in Division 2 and took some time to chat to shoppers. These conversations included the burning of cane which occurs yearly and it's health impacts on residents, the lack of jobs in the area which makes it necessary to work in the CBD, youth crime and unruly behaviour and more hooning.

Week four and I met residents who would like their parks better lit and BBQ's included. I spoke to some who particularly liked the focus on the environment that the current Council has and wanted assurances that it would remain a focus. One resident who was knocked down by a car going too fast around the corner and several conversations about our youth and the lack of engagement in this area.

It has become apparent that the youth who are causing chaos in the community are aged from 8-12, something which I found surprising but saw evidence of many times. This makes it even more important to continue early intervention services and expand on facilities for youth, while supporting programs which offer mentoring such as the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme.

Week five is now almost complete. ANZAC Day was a wonderful opportunity to throw off the campaign mindset and participate in inclusive activities within the community. The parade was extremely well attended, getting bigger each year, and the rides and activities afterward were fantastic. Thankyou to the Hambledon/Edmonton RSL for organising the day. The sausage sizzle was where I spent most of my time and while we did run out of water at one point, we had a great time watching the tug o war and the kids running around Fuller Park while serving sausages on bread to the hungry masses.

I have not been able to knock on every door. Something which I was very hopeful of doing but did not have enough time to achieve. I am promising right now that after this election is over, if declared the new Councillor for Division 2, I will continue to door-knock until I have been to every home in the area. I will also maintain a presence at Piccone's IGA on a regular basis and continue attending all of our community events. Community consultation does not end with your vote.

Pre-poll began with much ado and fanfare last week and it was not a very nice place to be for the first few days. There is definitely some oddity in the democratic process which does no one any favours and impacts on the voting process. Over time and with plenty of arguments, that process is now about as good as it can get when you have almost 40 candidates vying for time with residents of the region.

I have had a fantastic time over these past few weeks. I have met some incredible people from my community and have made some connections which I will continue to keep, whatever the outcome on Saturday.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every resident who welcomed me into their home or onto their door-step, each person who took the time to chat with me about their street and their concerns. Each person who wished me luck, gave me the thumbs up and wrote me lovely e-mails of support and encouragement. You are the reason I am standing here today, in a bright yellow t-shirt, reeking of sunscreen, determined to make a difference. You have made a difference in my life, I hope I will be allowed the opportunity to make a real difference in yours.

So, what's my take on the future of this region? To be honest, I've no idea how the votes will fall. What I do know is this.......yesterday afternoon I took some time to read the flyers delivered from both of the teams. My concern is that there is no mention of the environment anywhere on their material and there is very little mention of the importance of building community or social wellbeing. While I do certainly understand that jobs and the future of our local economy is a priority, balance must be struck. There is little point in creating jobs for locals if there is no social or cultural space for them to spend their days off.

I urge you all to gather those pamphlets and find one word which mentions our youth. There isn't one. Nothing on hooning or the reduction of residential road incidents either.

In fact, without economics, there is a vast chasm of empty space where those 'little things' I mentioned before, should take pride of place.

On Saturday, please vote for your local Independent candidate and make sure that the community you live in, has a voice.

Monday, April 2, 2012

What I left unsaid.......for the City Place Forum.

On Sunday there was a public Forum in City Place which was designed to enable all Council hopefuls, including Mayoral Candidates, the opportunity to address the public and answer questions from the crowd. This allowed locals to hear from those who may well represent them in Council after April 28th and was very well attended.

I was there, but due to previous commitments (I had already confirmed attendance at another event last year that was held at the same time) I could not stay long enough to have my say and answer those questions. While I am not regretful that I attended the other event, I am certainly disappointed I could not participate fully in this one.

Several people have asked me if I wrote a speech prior to the Forum and the answer is yes. It was originally to be held on April 8th but the clash with Easter Sunday meant it was re-organised for the earlier date. Because of the re-shuffle, and knowing the importance of participating, I wrote the following speech which was to be my 3 minute contribution. Unfortunately, the opportunity to answer questions by those attending has passed but this blog does allow for comments so please feel free to ask anything you would like answered and I will happily respond.

"Good afternoon everyone. Thank you to the organisers of today's Forum for this opportunity to speak to you all.

The Cairns region is something I am very passionate about. This is my home. I grew up here, married here and together we are raising three children here. My Division, which encompasses parts of Edmonton, Mt Sheridan and all of Bentley Park, is filled with households just like mine. I know what it feels like to worry when petrol prices, electricity prices or Rates go up. I know what it feels like to try and juggle household funds so that my children don't miss out. Many residents in Division 2 have the same worries and concerns and need to know that they are being heard and everything possible is being done to keep costs low.

Introducing tipping vouchers with Rates notices and a yearly green waste pick-up would help. So would re-visiting the idea of a Rates discount, something that also encourages residents to pay on time which makes Council operations run smoother. I'm hopeful that if elected, other Councillors will also support these plans and we can implement them for the regions benefit.

Much has been said in the media, and while I've been door-knocking, about the youth of our region. Our young people need us to act in support of them and they need to be involved in the process every step along the way. Youth engagement is a multi-faceted, big picture project and it has begun, but we need to get some of the newer ideas and plans started as the need is certainly there.

A youth hub within the Edmonton Leisure Centre is something I am very supportive of. Upgrading Little Fretwell Park so that the current skate park and BMX track are better, brighter and more accessible will be another facet of the engagement process. Building a bigger Library so that it will cater to a growing community is also important and will benefit not just young people, but the entire community. These are just a few of the plans I will be advocating for. Our residents aged 10-18 deserve representation.

Small businesses also need support. The Edmonton District Traders Association is a great example of what can be achieved when businesses act together to facilitate each others growth and viability. We have seen the benefits to the tourism industry with a large body representing their best interests and I will be encouraging a similar group be formed for the many small businesses here in Cairns.

The Cairns region is faced with a bright future. Now is the right time to encourage innovation and eco development. The Tropical Innovation Awards are growing every year and are evidence of the brilliant minds and clever ideas our region has in abundance. We are positioned in one of the most environmentally sensitive places on earth. With that comes certain responsibilities, especially when considering future growth. From small ideas such as further support of Community Gardens and rebates or vouchers for the purchase of household worm-farms, to big ideas such as removing plastic bags from supermarkets and encouraging them to display food mileage on fresh items, it will be my responsibility to work hard to create a more sustainable future if I am elected.

Bentley Park is home. Division 2 is my community. I look forward to listening and learning from residents over the next few weeks of door-knocking and community involvement. I will be taking those ideas and that vision into Council with me if I am lucky enough to be chosen to represent my community.

Thank you."