ORANGE’S best public speakers will argue the pros and cons of having a popularly elected mayor at a ‘great debate’ in the lead up to the referendum to be held as part of the September council elections.
Orange City Council agreed at Thursday’s meeting to spend $15,000 on an independent promotional campaign from the Western Research Institute including the debate, a seminar, a public meeting and a council forum.
The wording of the referendum question: “do you approve of the direct election of the mayor by voters of Orange City Council?” was also decided.
Councillors resolved to let the community choose the method of electing the mayor two years ago but the topic remains divisive.
Cr Jeff Whitton described the referendum as a waste of time and money.
“It should be up to the councillors who are working with the mayor to choose,” he said.
“We’ve got the potential of turning this into a presidential style election. It limits anyone out there who doesn’t have a lot of money.
“They can’t afford to compete.”
But Cr Jeremy Buckingham said letting voters choose the future of mayoral elections “enhances democracy” and would help engage the community with local government elections.
“It allows us to remove from this council some of the internal dynamics,” he said.
“I can’t see how we can argue that giving the community the opportunity is the wrong thing.”
But Cr Gavin Priestley said he was worried about mayors being elected for four years if the community votes to popularly elect the mayor instead of the current system which has the mayor elected by councillors each year.
“To quote democracy is naive in the extreme,” he said.
He said wealthy Australians such as mining magnate Gina Rinehart could pour money into the elections to exert control over the council.
But Cr Chris Gryllis said the mayor doesn’t make the rules of the council.
Mayor John Davis agreed saying the mayor only acted as a chairman.
“You could have 20 decision made and the mayor could say I don’t agree with any of them,” he said.