Charishma Kaliyanda is in her first year on the Liverpool city council–a council which was rocked by threats, discord, and the potential for dissolution. However, things have calmed down considerably. We talk about how state governments can investigate what happens in city council meetings in Australia, plus she gave me a macabre piece of kangaroo trivia.
Q: Liverpool councilors also have full-time jobs, I’m assuming because the crocodiles aren’t going to hunt themselves down there. But you go to your job, then you show up for a council meeting for a few hours–do people get irritable the longer the meeting goes on?
A: Absolutely. Tiredness can result in people getting a bit crabby, but we’re also lucky that we’re fed before council meetings.
Q: They give you food!
A: Yeah! They figured out very early that if you feed the councilors, the likelihood of them getting grouchy can be staved off for a while.
Q: What grade of kangaroo meat do they feed you?
A: Well, we have a couple of vegetarians, so I think they’re avoiding the kangaroos. But it’s the good stuff. We don’t just pick it up off the road and throw it on the barbecue and serve it!
Q: [Laughs] That is everyone’s impression of Australians up here, by the way!
A: If you’ve ever been to the Australian Outback, you’ll find a lot of dead kangaroos on the road. They seem to get into lots of accidents with large vehicles.
Q: The year before you were elected, the Liverpool City Council was in chaos. But one thing that threw me for a loop was learning that New South Wales Local Government Minister Paul Toole–which we don’t have an equivalent for in the U.S.–sent someone to sit in the council meetings to monitor misconduct. And even WILDER, he was deciding whether to disband the city council entirely! He can do that in Australia?!
A: Yes. It’s happened very recently to a different council. That’s what happened in this situation: the councilor would have put in a complaint claiming what happened was not in keeping with the code of conduct. That’s when a representative from the Minister of Local Government would have investigated. That seems like it was a pretty horrible situation to be a part of. The toxicity must have been building up and people went, “I’ve had enough.”
Q: Did Paul Toole send anyone to watch your early council meetings just to see if everything was okay?
A: Not that I can recall. It’s usually at the request of a councilor or the mayor or someone in staff because they have a concern about something.
Q: At the November 2016 meeting, there was a motion to drug test all the councilors and the mayor. Do you know what that was about?
A: Right before the election there was discussion around having an ice [methamphetamine] injecting room. [The motion was] a gesture about how anti-drug councilors are…we should submit ourselves to testing.
Q: During this interview, you have been very articulate and knowledgeable, so I’m curious: did you take any performance-enhancing drugs before we started talking?
A: Does coffee count?
Q: Well, it’s legal here but I don’t know what goes down in Australia. Is it legal there?
A: Yes, but I would classify it as a performance-enhancing drug! [Laughs]
Follow Councilor Charishma Kaliyanda on Twitter: @Ckaliyanda