Ratepayers had better prepare themselves for humungous legal costs, on top of what has already been forked out, if our assumptions are correct.  Today’s agenda features the monthly ‘financial report’. Unlike previous versions, the notation about ‘mediation’ with Hansen Yuncken set down for 14th February is no longer present. Add to this the in camera  item about ‘legal advice’ and the GESAC construction contract, and we would bet our socks that mediation has failed and that we’re now all heading for a major court case. Lawyers are laughing their heads off at their windfall no doubt.

When this is seen in conjunction with the Duncan Mackinnon Maxstra contract and the mega bucks already spent on pursuing Penhalluriack, then real questions need to be asked about the way that this administration does business.

On wastage of public monies, it looks like there could be a repeat of the ‘try, try again’ farce that has occurred with the Caulfield Park conservatory. Readers will remember the three time attempt at public consultation over cafes in the park versus restoration. Now the Booran Road Reservoir is up for the same treatment judging by this little sentence buried in the Records of Assembly –

Former Glen Huntly Reservoir – Councillors asked that a second option involving passive and active use and not just passive use be prepared for public consultation

We simply ask: how much did the original ‘concept plans’ cost? How much did the ‘consultation cost’? And why can’t this council accept the over-riding public response that the vast majority of residents opted for PASSIVE space?

There’s also the tacit admission of a major planning stuff up due to the ungodly haste in ramming through as quickly as possible the Residential Zones. One application asks for a 4 storey development for a school – in other words coming under the ‘non-residential uses in residential areas’. The officer’s comments are illuminating –

A height of 13.9m is proposed with a 2.1m plant/lift overrun screening above. The school is located within the General Residential Zone Schedule 2 where a 10.5m height limit is imposed to residential buildings and dwellings only. As the proposal is non-residential, this height limit does not apply. Council recently agreed to review the Non-Residential Uses in Residential Zones Policy such that the height applicable to residential uses carries across to non-residential uses. This revised policy intention has no status at this time.

Last but not least, we have the full text of the Lipshutz Right of Reply. Such a pity that on other countless issues, the voices of residents remain muted, unacknowledged, and ignored!

Shortly prior to Christmas last year I saw a flyer from the Friends of Caulfield Park which described the Council contractors removing trees from Caulfield Park as “storm troopers”. I full well appreciate the passion some have in relation to Park and the issue of Council’s actions but the term “storm troopers” went beyond the pale.

Melbourne is the home to the largest number of Holocaust survivors per capita outside Israel and the vast majority of Jews in Melbourne are either Holocaust survivors or children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Accordingly to equate Council’s actions with the actions of Storm troopers was highly offensive.

While the expression storm troopers has been used in the Star Wars movies I suggest that the FOCP were not using that analogy but clearly equating the actions of the Council with the actions of Nazi storm troopers.

I am former President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and  former Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission I have perhaps by that reason a fairly prominent profile in the Jewish Community. As such I received over 40 phone calls from people who effectively said that they were offended by what had been written. Many others approached me at Synagogue and other places making similar comment. When I returned home from overseas in January there were also voice messages making similar comment. One elderly lady asked me if FOCP really knew what storm troopers were and how they acted. She was a Holocaust survivor a person who had first hand experience.

I do not say for an instance that the authors of the flyer are anti-Semitic and I do not make any accusation as to racism; indeed knowing some of the people at FOCP I believe that the words used were rather an expression of their passion. Nevertheless the words used were insensitive given the connotation of storm troopers with Nazi Germany. The expression used was clearly over the top and indeed I believe was counter-productive.

Councillors unanimously agreed to proceed with the upgrade of Caulfield Park. We listened to representatives of FOCP and we questioned and queried Officers before proceeding. Council did nothing by stealth.

Those that oppose Council’s actions have every right in our democratic and free society to make their views known, however to describe Council contractors as storm troopers was excessive in the extreme.

In my experience in public life, going beyond my years on Council I have seen that most people who are able to present a reasoned, intelligent and unemotional argument bereft of abuse will be listened to. To exaggerate however and suggest that Councillors are stupid or are in the pocket It (sic) of Council officers doing their bidding as if puppets is not likely to endear themselves or win any argument. Similarly to describe Council contractors as storm troopers full well knowing the connotation that expression raises is either obtuse or thoughtless.

While no doubt there are some Jews who would not find that comment offensive there are many that have and it is therefore appropriate for the authors to apologise and retract that offensive innuendo.