AS Jeff McCloy is now Newcastle’s lord mayor, his public statements need careful scrutiny, since he says he has no other policies.
He’s right to claim that “our city is a great place to live”. But he lives in Lake Macquarie. People expect their local government representatives to live in their local government area. Loopholes, however, allow for non-residents to nominate as candidates as long as they pay rates on a property in the city or are nominated by a non-resident ratepayer, no matter where they live. This allows people like Mr McCloy to nominate for Newcastle City Council lord mayoralty.
Will he now commit to moving to the Newcastle council area?
Mr McCloy’s statements so far have been largely about “cleaning up Hunter Street” and speeding up the development approval process.
Given he’s a property developer and has significant assets in the CBD, this will probably present conflicts of interest. Will he identify his assets in the Newcastle area so that we can judge the extent of his pecuniary interest?
Many developers, after gaining approval, allow their properties to stagnate or on-sell; hence many of Hunter Street’s empty buildings and vacant lots.
Mr McCloy has done an excellent job recycling the former Hunter Water Board building; but what’s happening on his Lucky Country Hotel and Legacy House sites?
Many developers complain about delays in development assessment. Assessment of complex projects takes time. What they build will impact for generations and should require community input. Mr McCloy has said the word “community” makes him want to “throw up”.
Mr McCloy has had nothing to say about the many other issues affecting the 150,000 residents who live in Newcastle local government area, including its many suburbs.
Historically, mine subsidence problems, not the rail line, have been the main obstacle to developers who want to construct a high-rise city. Mr McCloy has expressed his determination to get rid of the rail, ignoring the 20-year community campaign to keep the rail, supported by expert opinion in transport planning and economics and international trends.
Mr McCloy has offered to donate his mayoral fee to charity. This fee is meant to compensate for the workload and to encourage people from all walks of life to stand for office. Will he be a full-time mayor, given his commitments?
He has said council meetings would last no more than an hour, showing a lack of understanding of the complexity of local government. Would the real debates take place at private meetings? Perhaps he should study the council’s code of meeting practice. Council is not like the board of a private company where owners or directors can throw their weight around.
Mr McCloy has run a successful personally-funded campaign. It’s time to consider a cap on candidates’ personal spending to level the playing field.
Margaret Henry is a former Greens councillor, deputy lord mayor and past member of the Labor Party.