THE clock is ticking for Warrnambool city councillors. They have 13 days to make up their minds before voting on who should be mayor for the next 12 months.
Based on recent events, they have a big decision on their hands. Rightly or wrongly, ratepayers are losing faith in the councillors they only elected 11 months ago for four-year terms. Last week's walkout by councillors Peter Sycopoulis, Brian Kelson and Peter Hulin reopened old wounds that festered in the previous council.
But clearly they had never healed, judging by the revelation that Cr Hulin was hauled before a code of conduct panel several months ago and cleared.
Robust debate is an essential part of our democratic system but residents are tiring of the animosity again as they are faced with a council seemingly split 4-3. Mountains are being made out of mole hills when they don't need to be, eroding confidence in the council and decision-making process. Any good work, and there is plenty, is being overshadowed.
Incumbent Michael Neoh is putting himself up for a fourth term as mayor while Cr Hulin, preparing to enter his sixth year at the council table, wants the job for the first time and there may be others who show their hand. In Cr Hulin's eyes it is a showdown with his arch rival.
Leading into a state election year, the city needs a strong leader and united team to capture some of the dollars likely to be thrown around in funding promises. Cr Neoh says despite the recent controversies, the city is moving ahead with big-picture strategies and he is confident the council can continue to succeed.
Cr Hulin says it is time for fresh blood and believes the council can do much more when unified.
If he did become mayor, he would be under huge pressure to walk the talk.
Big decision ahead indeed on November 11.