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July 14, 2021
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‘No bulls**t answers’: City Council candidates on the issues that matter

The seven contenders vying for the empty seat in Town Hall speak to CityMag about how they plan on tackling the city's big issues. One candidate suggests a “resort” filled with fast food for rough sleepers, while another calls for the “modification” of city streets for the ease of cars.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Pictures: Supplied

Transport, greening, waste, homelessness, business, factions and transparency – these are the issues CityMag put to the candidates competing in the upcoming Adelaide City Council supplementary election.

Nominations to fill the seat of resigned area councillor Robert Simms closed last month, with a total of seven individuals putting their hands up for the position.

Ballot material has been delivered to voters, which must be completed and returned to the SA Electoral Commission by Monday, 26 July. Votes will then be counted on Wednesday, 28 July.

The candidates will have just 14 months to have their influence on the city, before the next council election is held in 2022.

So you can make the most informed decision when filling in your ballot, CityMag asked all the candidates the same questions on the issues facing ratepayers and city-users.

The candidates’ responses are below, and have been edited for clarity and brevity.


 

Ingmar (Alex) Bookless-Pratz

Former Adelaide City FC player Ingmar (Alex) Bookless-Pratz says he’s “not the kind of fella” who “swings” towards any political party, saying he’s independent.

CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
IBP: I don’t drive, so transport is a big-ticket item for why I’m running. I support bicycle lanes and more dedication to blocking off streets so that more transport and safe transport can be used. Also upgrading amenities, making bus stops bigger and better shelters for people.

CM: What is your policy position on greening and waste within the city?
IBP: The city is doing a lot: putting trees down wider boulevards, for example. But I still believe a hell of a lot can be done, and I believe that 88 O’Connell was a missed opportunity to keep that a green, open space.

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
IBP: I grew up in the early-, mid-’90s, in the southwest corner of Whitmore Square, and I think we’re going back to those days. I’ve been on the campaign and door-knocking and put fliers into people’s letterboxes, but it looks like it actually got worse in 20 years, especially with Hutt Street and the Vinnies on Whitmore Square.

All bodies in the sector sectors have to be brutally honest, open, and say ‘Who knows what is going on?’ I would just be a conduit to those expressions, because I don’t personally know enough on how to solve the problem.

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
IBP: Footpaths and better lighting. Not stadium lighting, but I believe even just a 10 per cent increase in the lighting bulbs would make a hell of a difference.

There seems to be a lack of trust at the moment. People don’t really know what is actually going on.
—Ingmar (Alex) Bookless-Pratz

CM: What’s your policy position on business within the city?
IBP: More stability is needed, and I think more think tanks, especially with the potential of buildings closing.

Also filling buildings as soon as possible, with possibly incredibly low rates until they can build some sort of financial stability until they can pay rent or leases.

CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
IBP: At the moment, there seems to be a bloc in the council that feel like they can do what they want, when they want and how they want, and it’s really unfortunate.

At the end of the day, councillors are a conduit for the people. For example, 88 O’Connell. There was an understanding, after consultation with the community, that it will be an eight-storey building, and it’s turned out to be 16 storeys. More transparency is needed.

CM: Finally, what do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
IBP: My thing is shedding light on footpaths, better lighting, safer streets for all, more transparency and getting more community engagement.

There seems to be a lack of trust at the moment. People don’t really know what is actually going on.


 

ANDREW WALLACE

Andrew Wallace is the Adelaide Business Collective president and head honcho at the Adelaide West End Association, plus the Program Director of Interior Architecture at the University of South Australia. He too describes himself as “apolitical”.

CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
AW: Cities need to be active, and in the last 50 years there’s been a focus on cars. We need to redress that balance.

We actually need a city that’s really walkable, so a safe city with good footpaths and well-lit. We also need to have safe passage of bicycles through the city. We need to find space for an east-west bike lane, because we have no way of cutting across the north-south streets.

Cars are not the top of the list for me, but we need to give better information to people about where the parks actually are in real-time. We also need to speak to the State Government about how we get people in and out of the city [via public transport], because the uptake is really low.

CM: What is your policy position on greening and waste within the city?
AW: We need to increase the canopy cover and the greening of our city to self-mitigate climate change effects.

Council still needs to start working with the providers of waste management services, particularly in the area of plastic waste so it’s harvested properly.

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
AW: There’s already organisations like Don Dunstan Foundation which are doing a lot of good work in this area, and we should continue to support those organisations.

We need to start looking at how we can work with the State Government to actually improve the amount of publicly accessible public housing.

We need to reconcile the relationship between business and community.
—Andrew Wallace

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
AW: We need to reconcile the relationship between business and community, and don’t hive off particular areas as being special-needs cases. I’m not a great believer in the need for something like a night mayor – I think the nighttime economy is part of the general economy and needs to be treated as such.

CM: What’s your policy position on business in the city?
AW: We currently suffer a lot of empty shops, and that’s true as a result of COVID but they were there before COVID.

We need to work really carefully with building owners and really respect building owners and agents, and get them working collaboratively together to attract good tenants into the city to make a good place.

Fundamentally, we need to make Adelaide a compelling place for people to run a business and a compelling place for people to access those businesses.

CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
AW: Council needs to be super transparent. I often wonder about these late-night meetings, whether that sort of inculcates a culture of secrecy, and whether perhaps it might be more transparent if meetings are actually held less late into the night and more frequently.

Factionalism I don’t think is helping.

Remarks

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CM: Finally what do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
AW: I’m really interested in actually bringing the voice of business, small business, into council through my previous work with the West End Association. I’m interested in actually highlighting the importance of the nighttime economy, but not as a separate economy, as just part of the general economy, because that’s how they see themselves.

And highlighting the role of design in our city. We want the voice of those who understand how people use the city, not just the shape of the city physically, to help design it.


 

FRANK BARBARO

Freelance journalist Frank Barbaro describes himself as someone with a “strong sense” of community, equality and sustainability.

CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
FB: Those things are not necessarily in conflict, but they’ve been dealt with separately. One of the problems with the City of Adelaide is that a lot of what happens is dependent on its capacity to absorb cars. Now, the problem with that is that my understanding at the moment is that there’s simply thousands of car parks available.

We need to decouple the city from this criterion that it’s locked in by its capacity to accommodate car parks. If we’re able to do that, it resolves a lot of problems with pedestrians, cyclists, and also generally cleaning and greening within the city.

CM: What is your policy position on greening and waste within the city?
FB: There are many cities in the world that have mandatory rooftops. We’re a long way from that. We need to seriously start looking at some of these things that can signal a dramatic shift towards sustainable and green and liveable cities.

There’s no doubt we need to minimise the waste that we produce, but that’s not just a city thing. We need to liaise with State Government on this so we can aim towards zero waste.

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
FB: We need to find a solution, which is more than just harassing or hiding the homeless. But I think this requires intergovernmental cooperation.

I want to bring to the community something of that spirit of Australian egalitarianism, and also an urgency for both the need for equality and environmental repair.
—Frank Barbaro

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
FB: Unlike most of the other capital cities, Adelaide was a designed city, and it served us well. But I think it’s right for a makeover.

But that’s dependent largely on market forces, and market forces are starting to show some serious limitations in the ability to pay respects both to our Parklands, and to the need to have a city which is an authentic city, a lived-in city, that aspires to some of the modern ethos with regards to sustainability, and a green and clean environment.

CM: What’s your policy position on business within the city?
FB: There should be a greater awareness of the importance of making sure that people have disposable incomes, and also incomes that will allow them to become good environmental citizens and generally good people.

People need to afford to be able to clean their houses, or put solar panels or whatever it is, that it is possible to improve the general amenity and the general environment.

CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
FB: I’m not really up to date with the dynamics or personalities of the council, but that’s something that I’d have to discover and deal with – if I were to be elected.

I’m in favour of an open council. I think generally honesty is the best policy, both in terms of an individual or a board body corporate.

CM: What do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
FB: I want to bring to the community something of that spirit of Australian egalitarianism, and also an urgency for both the need for equality and environmental repair.


 

KEIRAN SNAPE

One-time Greens candidate and hospitality worker Keiran Snape sums up his political beliefs in one word: “progressive”.

CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
KS: I support active transport options – such as public transport and cycling – as I think it’s the best way people can get into the city. I support the City Free Connector Bus, but we need to re-address the balance with residents and visitor parking.

Council also needs to be more flexible and sympathetic to individual residential parking needs, and I would use my voice to call for a tram to North Adelaide.

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
KS: I’ve talked to a lot of people in this sector, including Janet Mead, David Pearson and others, and getting a lot of expert advice. It does appear that council isn’t a service provider, but it can provide leadership all the same.

One of the positions that I will take forward in terms of Indigenous homelessness, which is just one aspect of it is I think council should hire and train four or five Aboriginal cultural officers, which are people who are trained in conflict resolution. And they also know the more sensitive details around around country and family.

They’ll be the first point of contact for people out there on the streets and providing them pathways that work for them.

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
KS: We need a safer, more walkable city. My number one policy that I’m taking forward is a long-term rolling footpath maintenance scheme. I’m a younger person and I’ve tripped over three times while out door-knocking. I think we need to bring in this footpath maintenance scheme.

I understand we’re a capital city, we need to do big important things, but we need to make sure council is doing its bread and butter responsibilities.
—Keiran Snape

CM: What’s your policy position on business within the city?
KS: I think small-to-medium-sized businesses need as much help and support as possible. As President of the City South Association, we’ve been working with council to roll out various voucher programs and things like that in the wake of COVID, and we need to find other creative ways of bringing people into the city to participate in the economy.

CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
KS: A large part of my platform is bringing integrity, accountability and transparency back to council. I understand that certain elements of a council meeting have to remain confidential because of contracts and the like, but I think as much as possible meetings should be accessible to the public.

I’m very disappointed with the current Team Adelaide majority faction. I think they have neglected the residential, small business and community side of things within council.

CM: Finally, what do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
KS: Redressing the balance between the bread-and-butter issues and the big end of town. I understand that we’re a capital city, we need to do big important things, but we need to make sure that council is doing its bread-and-butter responsibilities, such as our footpaths, waste management, and keeping our streets clean.


 

KEL SPENCER

Managing director of commercial real estate company Spencer Property Group, Kel Spencer describes himself as “totally independent, totally neutral” and not influenced by any political party, lobby group or “political persuasion”.

 CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
KS: We would desire to make the city very bicycle-friendly, and walking-friendly, and try to manage the traffic flow better. I think the streets are getting a bit clogged up, particularly during the construction phase of a number of buildings. But that’s not our number one priority.

CM: And what should be the priority?
KS: We are still very much post-COVID affected and we need to work together to really address vacancies, lack of business, and try and bring more people back to the city to get out of this COVID recession that we’re in.

CM: What’s your policy position on business within the city?
KS: There’s lots of ways that we can increase the amount of people visiting the city. Obviously, we’re still restricted with COVID in terms of the hotel accommodation industry, but for the hospitality and retail sectors, we just need to put on a whole lot more things to attract more people into the city to try and help those businesses recover.

CM: What is your policy position on greening and waste within the city?
KS: Most of the waste is outsourced and that just needs to be well managed. Greening is really important – the greener we can make our streets, etc, the cooler the city becomes and the more responsible we are towards carbon emissions and so forth, which is really looming to be a global challenge.

I would like to see the council working more effectively as a body, breaking down the factions and having a good, workable group.
—Kel Spencer

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
KS: There’s a number of shelters, but there are people that just won’t be encouraged to go to shelters. They just like the freedom of sleeping rough. But I think we should keep working at it because I think having homeless people, it’s confronting to visitors to our city, and locals.

There is obviously an Indigenous element as well sleeping on the streets, and perhaps we encourage them and make some facilities available in the south Parklands, and use the elders to give them some leadership and guidance so that our streets become cleaner, neater, safer for everybody.

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
KS: The management of cleanliness is still something we’ve got to get better at. I noticed the streets and general appearance is not really where we want it.

 CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
KS: I’m very much an independent person, not prepared to join any factions. It’s tragic that we have these two factions. I’ll be working hard to try and break down these factions so that we have everyone going in the same direction, because we’ve got a lot of work to do.

CM: Finally, what do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
KS: I would like to see the council working more effectively as a body, breaking down the factions and having a good, workable group. And that’s quite a challenge in itself. I’d also like to be focusing a lot of my attention on post-COVID recovery of the City of Adelaide.


 

SHAHIN SAYYAR DASHTI

Sales director of medical device company Austofix, Shahin Sayyar Dashti describes himself as “Liberal” on the political spectrum. The Persian Cultural Association of SA member says he believes in smaller government, but he’s adamant he won’t bring these leanings into the chamber if elected.

CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
SSD: It seems that there is a lack of parking across the city. I’ve heard it from a couple of people. And our streets need more modification to be able to allow cars to travel smoothly with less traffic. The one main parameter to make the liveability better is infrastructure for the public transport, cars, parking, everything.

CM: And cycling?
SSD: Cycling has a fantastic effect on the physical health of people, as well as smoothing the transportation in short distances. So cycling should be considered as the first priority.

CM: What is your policy position on greening and waste within the city?
SSD: Adelaide was a green city and it should remain a green city, so I support any plan which can make our city a greener city. This includes investment in Parklands and includes a better recycling process.

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
SSD: It cannot be done just by the council alone. There needs more communication and collaboration with the State Government, as well as the other organisations, to solve the problem.

Lots of people believe they haven’t been heard and decisions have been made without consultation. You have to repair these feelings and be the voice of the people.
—Shahin Sayyar Dashti

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
SSD: Personally, I’ve received a couple of not nice comments on my Facebook post… That ‘A Muslim should not be allowed to get into the council’ or ‘A foreigner should not be allowed to get into these kinds of things.’ It wasn’t a little bit of discomfort, that people, without knowing me or my capacity, wrote those things.

I think the communication between this different cultural group of people is a little bit tricky at the moment and so we need to work on that.

CM: What’s your policy position on business within the city?
SSD: South Australian and Adelaide businesses have to be self-reliant, but they need support to be able to do that. If something happens with borders we need to make sure we can maintain ourselves internally.

We have seen the (Adelaide Economic Development Agency) vouchers, and that was a fantastic approach. Any kind of plan which supports local businesses, I will support.

CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
SSD: If there is any alliance at the moment within the city council, yes or no, I’m not sure about that. I haven’t seen any facts about that.

It’s important to evaluate any plan based on the nature of the plan and the effect of the plan on the people and on the city, no matter who is proposing this plan. This will be my policy.

CM: Finally, what do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
SSD: Lots of people believe that they haven’t been heard and decisions have been made without being invited for consultation sessions. You have to repair these feelings and be the voice of the people.


 

THEO VLASSIS

Hutt Street IGA owner Theo Vlassis boasts 13 years of elected member experience, sitting on the Thebarton/West Torrens Councils in the ’80s and ’90s.

Talking to CityMag he promises “no bullshit answers” and says he has no political affiliations as a wholly “independent” candidate.

CM: What is your policy position on transport in the city, including cars, parking and bicycles?
TV: There’s a place for cars and for bicycles if it’s done properly, without any antagonism by the business owners. I’m in favour of bicycles coming into the city, and I’m in favour of having car parking in the city because I’d be stupid to say no, because of the businesses here, which need as much support as we can these days, due to COVID.

But it’s got to be done intelligently. The process of just going out there and saying ‘We’re going to put a bike track here without a thought process’, I find that very hard to comprehend.

I also feel there’s a barrier put up there for cars not to be coming to the city. But I’ve got some ideas to improve things that isn’t detrimental to anybody – the businesses, pedestrians and residents included.

CM: What is your policy position on greening and waste within the city?
TV: You mean the garbage collection? Fine as it is. And greening? Fine. The Parklands that we’ve got now, I don’t want them to be touched or damaged or anything like that.

But the only thing that might be lacking in certain areas is communication around issues such as re-use collection or whatever collection. I find that the communication standard is pretty poor.

CM: What is your policy position on homelessness within the city?
TV: I wish I was a billionaire, Angela, and I would build a house in a nice resort, and put all these people that are homeless, who’ve been hard done by, and put them all in there and feed them 24/7, with a nice big kitchen. Whether it’s McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks, KFC, I would do something like that.

I’m supportive of them because I see those poor people when they walk past the shop. I would push the governments of the day and the council to give them more funding.

We’ve got a window of opportunity, third most liveable city in the world, and why not enhance that?
—Theo Vlassis

CM: Are there other social issues in the city that need to be addressed?
TV: A lot of customers come to me, ratepayers, and they get frustrated with the council in having some issues with their neighbour. Sometimes we get answers from the council to the effect that ‘We can’t do anything about it because it’s not in our policy.’

I find it a little bit disheartening, to be honest. Of course we can do things. You’re a council for goodness sake.

CM: What’s your policy position on business within the city?
TV: I’m in favour of business in the city, being from a small business background myself. I’ve been in the game for 35 years.

We’ve got a window of opportunity, third most liveable city in the world, and why not enhance that?

CM: What’s your policy position on transparency and factions within the Adelaide City Council?
TV: Councillors must find common ground so the city can prosper, and as an independent candidate, I reject factionalism and political grandstanding. Local councils are not governments. They’re there to help the ratepayers and we seem to lose sight of that. We should look after the fact that if someone rings you up, you fob him off – no.

A lot of them are using it as political careers. I’m not into that.

CM: Finally, what do you want to achieve within your term, albeit short?
TV: My number one priority is increasing communication with council and the rate-payers, and number two is to bring people into the city. Whether we give them low rates or whether we do something special.


 

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