How one group of Strathfield residents is keeping people power alive

It is an extraordinary display of people power – Strathfield style.

Twenty residents have turned up at each of a series of extraordinary meetings in a stoical display of support for their council.

Of course, it’s easy to say that 20 is nothing compared to the 37,500 residents the municipality has on record.

But behind this amazing band of residents stand hundreds who have already been polled and said they want their council to stay local.

This band of residents have so far sat through a total of five hours of debate, unflinchingly standing their ground.

They will probably be back for another few hours this week – Mayor Sang Ok has called two extraordinary meetings, one of Tuesday night and a second on Wednesday morning.

What is so important?  There two points of view on this.

Mayor Ok maintains he is defending the council’s future.

A Section 430 order into the council’s procurement policies – which coincidentally reported as the debate over amalgamation climaxed – called on council to tighten procedures.

And while Strathfield has already everything it was asked to do – moves that have been endorsed by five different bodies – Cr Ok is concerned that we still need to show the Office of Local Government that we mean business.

The result of not doing so could be dire, he believes.

Administrators could be called in and the council sacked.

Which is why his mayoral minutes are about stricter reporting to himself on issues like the general manager’s leave applications, access to his electronic diary and supervision of his annual assessment.

But this sits strangely at odds with the behavior of some of his colleagues. On Thursday night, for instance, the Liberal faction led by former mayor Gulian Vaccari, first passed a mayoral minute – then voted to rescind it.

Labor's Raj Datta and Daniel Bott, along with Indpendent Helen McLucas, have a different view.  They claim the idea is to deliberately create division so they can claim the council isn't working and administrators should be appointed.

This would destroy the reputation of the council that has been most vocal in the campaign against forced amalgamation, and halt its campaign. 

For the councillors, it's catch 22.  

This Wednesday sees a prequel – the same mayoral minutes are on the agenda. And a motion from the Liberals to change the vote yet again.

The Liberals, while they are supported by Deputy Mayor Andrew Soulos, can depend on a majority.

Which is why those 20 residents are so determined to win what looks like a test of wills between their staying power.

How much debate on the minutiae of the running of the council can this extraordinary band of Strathfieldiens take? From their demeanor last week, quite a lot.

In a peculiarly Strathfield protest – an ironic take, perhaps, on what is happening in the chamber - Jeff Markwell turns up to each meeting with a puppet.

As the votes are taken, the puppet is bought out to create a merry dance on seat next to him.

“People are pulling strings at this council, so we thought we should have a real puppet,” he told us.

Council has extraordinary meetings on Tuesday night at 7pm and Wednesday morning at 9am.



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