On this week’s podcast, we celebrate Christmas in July with an incredible story from the Listener’s List, an update on past guests’ advancements, and excerpts from interviews. You can listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Player FM, and right here:
On this episode, you will hear segments from these full interviews:
Plus, you can listen to a segment of “Tear It Down,” an eight-chapter audio series about a small town whose government became wildly dysfunctional when political insurgent group formed seeking revenge: www.tearitdownpodcast.com.
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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
Folks, this is a first: we have an Australian city councilor–and a good one at that! Christine Forster is a Liberal Party councilor who also ran for Lord Mayor (which is Australian for “mayor”) last year. We got outraged at what I was seeing–or not seeing–in her council meetings.
Q: Where I am, it is Sunday. But where you are, it is Monday. So you are IN THE FUTURE! I think it would be fun if you told the audience what I am going to say next. I’ll put my fingers in my ears.
A: Well I’m pretty sure you’re going to ask me how the City of Sydney council operates.
Q: [Taking fingers out of ears] Okay, great. I want to start by talking about your dog. I know you’re a big animal lover and–wait a minute. I bet that’s EXACTLY what you thought I’d say. Nice try! Let’s talk instead about your council meetings. I could not find a scrap of video footage anywhere. What’s going on? Did a dingo eat your cameras?
A: [Laughs] It wasn’t a dingo and it wasn’t even my pug, Audrey Pugburn! It’s a sad fact that unfortunately there is no video or audio record because our Lord Mayor–she’s been in charge of the show since 2004–resolutely refuses to broadcast or televise our meetings. It has been something I’ve been pushing for several years now. But the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, is intransigent.
Q: In July 2014, the council decides to do the live streaming. That passes on a 5-4 vote. What happened next?
A: It passed on a 5-4 vote because the Lord Mayor’s numbers were down. Somebody was away on sick leave. The motion was rescinded at the next meeting by the Lord Mayor when she had the numbers again.
Q: How long have the debates been on this and what was the tone?
A: There was no debate, really. As soon as the new council was [sworn in for 2016], I spoke very robustly in favor of it. And the Lord Mayor and her team simply voted it down.
Q: This is frustrating to me. Clearly it’s frustrating to you because you’re living through it. Are regular people as angry about this as you are?
A: People want this. There are councils around the world that have been doing this since the 1980s. It’s beyond frustrating, frankly. I have no problem with anyone photographing or recording anything I say or do. I’m happy to open myself to that level of scrutiny.
Q: I did contact the Lord Mayor’s office and asked for an answer about why she refuses to allow the rest of us to see what’s happening. I received no response. Quite frankly, I am outraged that Clover Moore thinks the people’s business should be done on HER terms. However, being fair here, can you think of any time that you or your fellow councilors used a meeting to grandstand, take a shot at the mayor, or create a distraction?
A: Absolutely not. This is not about us trying to score political points. This is an administration that will countenance no variation, no opposition, that is entirely about control.
Q: Couldn’t you hold up your cell phone and Facebook Live stream it?
A: It might well end up that somebody does that. It won’t be me!