HEY you — do you want to be a Warrnambool city councillor?
Why? Well, because it’s a great honour, that’s why. It’s a very prestigious position and you’ll be making lots of important decisions about our beloved city.
Catch? What makes you think there’s a catch?
Ok, well, there are a few catches.
For starters, nothing you ever do will be considered right or good enough. If you raise rates to pay for things the city needs, the people will hate you. If you slow the rise in rates, the people will ramp up their cynicism and say it’s an election stunt or a populist move. If you don’t raise the rates at all, the people will complain about the lack of services.
Then when you actually do something genuinely good for one group, another group will complain.
Give money to the arts and the sports fans will complain and say it was a waste. Give money to sports and recreation projects and the arts community will complain and draw withering caricatures of you and write satirical blogs about you.
Support the elderly and the youth will complain that they have nothing to do. Support the youth and the elderly will go on long rants about “the kids today”.
If you try to update the city and approve projects and buildings that will provide a more modern look and appeal, you will be derided as reaching beyond your station. If you pander too much to the past and the city’s history, you will be derided as being stuck in the past.
And if you agree with the advice of the council staff, you will be labelled a “rubberstamper”. But if you go against the advice of the council staff, people will suspect there’s a conspiracy and that something untoward is happening.
Of course, you could always ask the community for feedback on every single issue, but then people would complain that things are taking too long. And when you do actually ask people for feedback, maybe 10 people will respond out of a 30,000-plus population.
Those that don’t respond will wait until it’s too late, then they’ll have a whinge about the lack of transparency and consultation.
If you wanted to, you could announce all sorts of populist ideals and proposals, no matter how impractical they are or how unsupportive your fellow councillors are. This will make it seem like you’re trying to do the right thing and paint you as a champion of the people, but will ultimately achieve nothing.
And when you do ask people what they really want, they’ll complain about little things — the need for a roundabout, the amount of litter in the street, the lowering of a speed limit, the uneveness of a footpath. Few of them will understand the complexities of planning for the future or be able to comprehend the big picture. They just want their little part of the city fixed.
And the pay isn’t very good. You’ll get some remuneration for your time on council but it’s not enough to live on. You’ll have to continue working your day job. This means you’ll give up many nights and weekends and maybe even take days off work to attend council meetings, workshops, openings and events.
But it’s OK, because everyone will tell you how bad a job you’re doing and how much of a better job they could be doing, even though when election time comes they won’t throw their own hat in the ring. Few of them probably understand how council works. Even fewer will even bother to attend a council meeting.
Of course it’s much easier for people to sit back and criticise others than it is to step up and do it themselves.
So, do you want to be a Warrnambool city councillor?
Well, you should. Because if you’re an intelligent, sensible and realistic person of good moral character who actually cares about this city, you can make a difference by getting on council.
Anyone can sit back and whinge about anything. That’s easy.
What’s difficult and more rewarding and beneficial to yourself and your community is actually doing something.
Just about every comment relating to Warrnambool City Council that is posted on our website is negative. As are many of the texts, tweets, posts and letters we receive.
Council elections are around the corner. It’s time for Warrnambool’s whingers to put up or shut up.
You think you’ve got all the answers?
Prove it. Throw your hat in the ring.