Interview #53: Liverpool, NSW Councilor Charishma Kaliyanda (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

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.

Liverpool, NSW Councilor Charishma Kaliyanda

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

#85: Clarence, TAS 2/6/17

It was one heckuva g’day in the Clarence city council chamber. And right up top, I need to give propers to the head honcho behind that blinding yellow dais, Mayor Doug Chipman, for the classy way in which he kicked off the meeting:

“Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge the Tasmania aboriginal community as the original inhabitants of this land out of respect to elders past and present.”

Good onya! Normally, one does not see American city council meetings acknowledge the native peoples–unless they are a mascot for the local high school football team.

View from the Rear Cam (L) and the Is-There-Vegemite-In-My-Teeth Cam (R)

Oh, and what luck that the council chamber has two cameras! I can see that there is PLENTY of space on the walls–which will come in handy becauuuuuuseeeee…

“We received a plaque from the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection thanking this council for its long contribution over many, many years towards the new citizenship program.”

The mayor flashed the shiny, shoe box-sized prize around the room. “So, that’s quite an impressive-looking plaque.”

Ripper! You could fight off a decent-sized boomer with that prezzy.

Mayor: “That’s not a plaque. THIS is a plaque.”

Slowly, Alderman Richard James rose for a quintessentially Australian purpose: to brag all about his weekend hike. “I would like to draw council’s attention to the Blessington Coast Track. We walked it on Sunday. For those who are pretty quick on their feet, I reckon you could do it in 20 minutes at a jog.”

He added, “it took us three-quarters of an hour. But we had a swim.”

He calmly recalled his treacherous journey along the Australian coast. “The track in parts is very steep, particularly up on the cliff. And there’s quite a drop. So I’m not sure as to whether there may be some barrier required on the track.”

Whoa there, mate! This is Australia. Country of the Crocodile Hunter! Heavy drinking! And our near-future adversaries in WWIII! Unless you’re talking about a great reef, there will be no “barriers” along a deadly, dangerous coastline, K?

As it turned out, Alderman James had a surprise that he pulled out of his bloomin’ onion: “The Kangaroo Bay track–it is open to the public,” he proclaimed, turning to the mayor. “Is it possible for us to have a little bit of a celebration?”

Everyone in the room held their breath. Mayor Chipman stared intently like a dingo eyeing a baby. “We can arrange that,” he allowed.

A typical Australian party

But there was one more bit of business, and it came with an ominous-sounding name: “questions without notice.” The idea? A reckless and dangerously unstable concept that ANY alderman can ask ANY question of ANYONE.

I’m already recoiling. Please, be gentle!

  • “Do we have the traffic count figures?” grilled Alderman Peter Cusick.
  • “Are you aware of other councils in Southern Tasmania that are providing after-hours school care?” raged Alderman James Walker.
  • “I would like to know if the toilets at the Lauderdale Yacht Club–if there’s been any thought to their design,” erupted Alderman Debra Thurley.

Yowza. I need a Foster’s after that white-hot earbashing. Longtime Chronicles readers will know that I like my aldermen’s questions like I like my women: with PLENTY of notice.

Final thoughts: You know what? Better stick to North America….I think Australian city councils are a little too intense for me.