It is said there is no such thing as an overnight success in the music world. It often takes years of playing in small venues with even smaller crowds before the musican can ‘come out of nowhere.’
And so it is for The Greens in Leichhardt!
As Councillor, and for our local group, there have been hundreds of meetings with residents, press releases, stalls and letter-boxing. These efforts have taken us over a decade from one Councillor to an effective majority including the mayoral position.
Our success is the result not just of our activities, but the content of our action and our efforts to ‘do politics differently’.
I was elected as the first Green on Leichhardt Council over a decade ago. That term was four and a half years of struggling to get even a seconder for a motion!
In 2004 I was relieved to be joined by another three Greens Councillors.
The support for our work over that term led to our amazing results at the September 2008 NSW local elections. We received double the ALP vote and achieved close to 50% of the total vote with 6 out of 12 councillors.
We conducted exhaustive election campaigns (including our fantastic volunteers letter-boxing the electorate three times) but really, we reaped the rewards of the work we had put in in the preceding years.
In Leichhardt we have focused on the four Greens principles of grass roots democracy, peace and non violence, economic and social justice, and ecological sustainability.
Locally we have expressed these values in the ways we have conceptualised the Council. For we Greens, our goal has been to build a council that is a champion of the local community. Of course we need constantly to improve our service delivery, but we need to do so much more than that.
We need genuinely to embody active citizenship and participatory democracy - to give the community a voice, to inspire and to lead. We want Council to be far more than a passive apolitical service organisation; especially as the state government works to roll back the rights of citizens on environment and planning issues.
In our local context we have pursued these goals in three ways:
Transparency and Accountability - we have abolished the fees for freedom of information requests and have been committed to including residents’ voices through Council-funded precinct committees and open public meetings on key issues.
Inclusiveness - respecting the input of all parties and residents and where possible seeking compromise.
Community leadership - working with residents to support campaigns which start with public meetings to bring together key experts, the community and Council on specifc Council issues and wider issues like public trasport and privatisation.
We have always been careful not to get bogged down in the bureaucratic functions of the Council with meetings and committees as so many politicans fall into, but instead to include the local group members and community in every step we take.
We have made great advances in reducing Council’s carbon footprint, supporting appropriate development and heritage, and acting as strong advocates for public transport.
In working to build an open and ethical forum for Council’s interaction with its community, we want to demonstrate the best in representative democracy, and to prefigure the kind of inclusive and accountable democracy we would like to see in other spheres of government.
As residents see the effective role The Greens plays in local communities, more and more are turning to our vision of doing politics differently.
In Leichhardt, I believe residents are appreciating that we can be more than just responsible managers of the Council and that our actions match what we say about puting the citizen and environment at the centre of decision-making. This grassroots approach acts as a counter balance to the power of the bureaucracy, the development industry and other governments.
I look forward to building on the Greens success in doing politics differently - by being inclusive, transparent and effective if elected as the member for Balmain at the upcoming 2011 NSW State Election