Dennis Argall

Candidate for Mayor of the Shoalhaven 2008-2012

100 Days

my first steps after the elections of
13 September 2008

Please read this page in the context of these two other pages:



If I win the mayoral race, I will need to forge good relations with an elected council working as a governing body. I think it is important that we shift in that kind of collaborative direction, away from a mini-parliamentary adversarial style of discussion.

My intention is to renovate council process and priorities according to principles that have been neglected to date. This will require a clear presentation to the elected council of packages of persuasive merit... If I am elected these will be recognisable as matters I have advocated and will thus be matters for which I will have a mandate.

The whole community has to discover the possibility of doing things in a different way and people have to see that change can be a happy process, not a threat. I have had to make changes in workplaces before. It is not simple, many people fear change... and many discover with surprise how nice change can be. In any case, change is being thrust upon us with the state of the economy, energy costs, etc.

Some reforms are achievable by agreement on ideals and forms of conduct.
However, those things have to be supported by new systems and rules.

There will be urgent and routine business before council through this process. Steps 1, 2 and 3 should be in place as swiftly as possible and should inform council deliberations while the rest of this review and redesign process flows. The objective of the review and redesign is a council that is more efficient, more productive and better able to meet the needs of community.

So what is to be done, beginning on Day 1?

1: A workshop including the elected council, senior staff and staff representatives, on very clear simple guidelines for conduct, in accord with the Local Government and ICAC Acts. On the basis of General Manager's submission and reflecting the June 2008 Model Code of Conduct. Commitment as a team. Good practicable unambiguous rules
"invite the Chair person and Secretary of all CCBs and Chambers to attend as observers. I would like to see them all introduced to the councillors and welcomed and accorded the respect (mutual) as it should be. Then these people would just be able to observe the meetings on 'conduct', 'role' and 'core vision'. They, in turn would then report back to the community.
I think that the Community Consultative Bodies and business chambers tend also to become a bit locked in their own processes and some have entrenched leadership. Hopefully these bodies will find it refreshing to discover new openness and change.
2: Same workshop: define new status and relationship of elected council to the organisation, as a BOARD. Submission/s by Mayor and General Manager. Commitment as a team. A new definition of responsibility.

3: Same workshop: I will present to the team a new view of engaging community more closely in the processes of decision-making on a non-antagonistic basis. Open discussion of this, get differences out, do not rush to conclusions.

Decide to explore and define possibilities in communities case by case. Relate to leadership. Focus on synergies, not differences. See [C] below.
3[i]: A workshop with mayor, general manager and staff, aimed at restoring staff confidence and 'getting fresh air into the system.' Staff confidence to recommend simplification and clarification of good policy
Comment: this is to build teamwork and commitment, to bridge between elected and staff. It will be necessary in the process to induct those unfamiliar with the distinctions into the proprieties and legalities of the roles of the elected and council officers. Building confidence; clarifying roles, easing burdens generally. Building capacity and confidence for good idea production by staff
I have moved specific commitments from here
to a new page — click here.
[B] A CENTRAL PORTAL [week 2 commitment, plan of development by week 4, with benchmarks and milestones set]  
4: Staff to advise on practicalities and modalities for establishing a 'central portal' for all representations to council, including from individuals, community and other organisations, elected council and mayor. This central portal to cover all things not provided for in tracking of DA's. Elements as follows: This needs to be built over time. A rudimentary start should be possible, using easily accessible software, preferably Open Source. Must enhance, not impede, work flow.
[a] to provide for classes of proposals from the smallest maintenance to the largest capital works Illuminating pathways to responsible (perhaps multiple) groups in council... visible responsibilities.
[b] to provide for each proposal to be visible at all times to the public, using the internet. Critical to transparency and evident integrity
[c] to set out [i] task [ii] urgency [iii] measure of local consultation in community [iv] value (economic/community/etc) ... to enable a visible numerical score to be applied by staff, to facilitate funding decisions on the basis of strategic priorities across programs, not just within programs. Requiring those putting forward a proposal to assess social and economic value; requiring council staff to provide, at an early time and continuing, clear indication of the urgency they assign to tasks. Civility and good sense critical.
[d] to include scale levels (size) and times where there are triggers for such things as consultation, exhibition, etc Predictability, coherence and fairness.
Comment: At the present time, inappropriate channels are being used to advance proposals. This situation is creating massive work and disturbed process,reducing efficiency and morale and increasing costs. It is not appropriate to have a system where results are obtained by greasing up this person or that person, or by one factional interest fighting with another. This portal is a critical device to bring harmony to community, sanity to the daily lives of staff, and moderation and sense to the work of elected councillors, who ought NOT to be entangled in this stuff.
[C] COMMUNITIES [weeks 3 to 10]  
5: Hold a workshop with council staff on how to consult community before drafting of plans for exhibition. Build collaborative pathways, reduce the way the present situations creates an automatic adversarial relationship between planners and public. Elected councillors as observers or equal participants.
6: Larger presentation/workshop of the same concept, in the wake of [5] with CCBs, and with business and other organisations, preferably together, with less senior planning and other staff present and encouraged to contribute. Openness, Best ideas. Elected councillors as observers or equal participants. MUST NOT BEGIN FROM THE STATUS QUO. A privilege to be part of the process, not to defend present things.

7: Move swiftly away from generalisation to issues in individual communities. Key starts:
[a] Nowra
[b] Ulladulla
[c] Red Head Communities (Bendalong, etc)
[d] Huskisson
[e] East Nowra
... and/or as may be determined in discussion. The number must be small at the outset and flow from the evidence of prospect, as well as perceived urgency.

Don't get stuck in Olympic-sized dreams.
Hunt the achievable at practical levels.
Work to get past historical antagonisms, seek consultation locally.
Within the [a] to [e] establish one or two to go first.
Do not try to do everything at once. Do not make rules from the first that won't work elsewhere, but let each step inform, enlighten and enhance prospects with the next.

8: In relation to those places under 7, seek community engagement to define character and long term goals in broad terms, to shape discussion of immediate issues. Avoid confining to precedent and recent problems. Consider Federal/State/Local Government (and non-government - business and community) avenues for results after initial concept development, not before.
[D] CHARTER [weeks 1-16]  
9: Charter Round 1: An open discussion, without conclusion with key workshop group [item 1] about the Note attached to Chapter 2 of the Local Government Act and of Chapter 3. Add to the charter items in the Act these additional items: jobs, innovation, change facilitation, support for the vulnerable in difficult times, promotion of diversity in sustaining 49 communities. Decide on eight group subjects to take discussion ahead.

The charter appears regularly in council business papers, but does not bear upon council's conduct. Find ways forward to alter this situation. Add to the Charter broad purposes that are most urgent in the term of this council.

10: Community involvement: advertise and select for participation in round 2. People need to know this is coming.
Select three for each group.
11: Round 2: Councillors on the basis of express interests and competencies, join groups to meet with relevant working level skilled staff and community participants to build ideas on how best to shape council to meet core demands of the charter. Councillors do NOT chair these sessions. Do not limit to powers of local government. Engage the less senior responsible staff as of right and without restraint.
12: Round 3: Report back to the main workshop... further discussion. Identification of three key priorities for each of the charter items.
13: Recommendations from Mayor and General Manager and staff, reflecting the above process, regarding overall priorities and practicabilities. Set targets, work to get things from own resources plus state and federal.
14: Every stage above to be open to the public, except as may be agreed, on a limited basis, especially to encourage fearless participation by staff. Closure of discussions severely limited, argued and explained at each such event.
15: The outcomes of the process to be encapsulated in booklet form, distributed to the whole community and accessible in HTML and PDF on the internet. At no time should council leave the community behind. Change must be seen to have positive intent and positive results.
16: Review the Council's web site so that it supports a new style of operations and of integration with community. Advances on the internet must not leave behind those without internet access.


The intention is to achieve, as quickly as possible and with a minimum of jargon and social theory discussion, new ways of doing things. We need to have regard for legislation but seek something genuinely new. It is clear that local government systems, begun long ago in parochial preoccupation with the size of horse troughs, need to leap to new ways of doing things appropriate for the future.

Let us try to be a model for others, not trail along.

Central to success will be a shift in community attitudes. The nag, nag, gimmee, gimmee, snipe, snipe pattern of dependence on government has to give way to recognition of the limits of government, the need for individual and community responsibility and contribution to their own local well-being.

Only in that context can change work. Communities can do this with positive leadership.



If and as and when we can set up new systems like this, we can take the next steps:

• 4[c] above contains the germ of a capability to review programs from a zero base in future. The system needs to become sufficiently rigorous and effective as to enable comparison of priorities between quite disparate things - such as resources to go to swim coaching versus patching roads. We have to find reasonable (and not over-complicated) ways of doing that.

• in the process of working with communities, it should be possible to bring new awareness of local dynamism and potential into consideration of how quickly money should be spent, when, whether, borrowing makes sense, etc.

These are suggestions.. .the point being made is that the game is only just beginning.

We must seek means and processes to facilitate change.

We must keep the focus on outcomes, not elaborate ways of organising.

Aim for clarity and simplicity. We are about to try to undo some terrible knots. We must not replace them with more knots.

Specific commitments list here

Five Pillars of Productivity here

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