Becoming a teacher, I found, means you’re suddenly part of a club that includes some pretty amazing interrogators. I’d been teaching for only a few months when my head of department taught me a trick for getting information out of a misbehaving student that to my knowledge has never failed to get results.
It works like this: you spot a student with a guilty look and beckon him or her over with a crooked finger. You fix them with a hard stare and then say slowly “So, why do I want to talk to you?” (Part of the beauty of this method is that you needn’t know what the kid’s been up to.) After a few minutes of nervous dissembling, the student will inevitably end up spilling his / her guts.
Participating in last week’s three ‘Meet the Candidates’ sessions was a great experience, not only because it gave me a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of some world-class interrogation techniques. There’s certainly nothing quite like that heady rush of adrenalin you get when someone in the audience puts up their hand, fixes you with a hard stare and opens their mouth to deliver what you know is going to be a corker.
Some of most interesting questions I received were:
What do you do if an inner city resident regularly complains about noise from a café at 9pm on a weeknight?
Reflexively, I suppose, most people’s first instinct would be that 9pm isn’t that late. As an inner-city resident myself, I’m very aware that being able to step outside and enjoy the bustle of urban life does go hand-in-hand with putting up with a bit of noise. The only reason I have any knowledge at all of current music is because the Newport keeps me up to date on Friday and Saturday nights, and similarly I’m aware that King’s Square isn’t a safe place to hang around at night because I regularly hear fights from our bedroom window.
To me, if traders are restricted from being able to produce a reasonable amount of noise after hours, there’s also the potential that the vibrancy and ‘urbaness’ of the inner-city would similarly be curtailed.
Having said that, I want to be the type of councillor who listens, and I believe that part of that is approaching complaints – in fact, approaching everything - with an open mind. So I wouldn’t be jumping to any conclusions about whether someone’s complaint is unreasonable without looking into things first.
If you were given $300,000 to spend on something in the City of Fremantle, what would it be?
Where do I start? Again, being the type of councillor who listens, I’d want to hear from the community. If one of the conditions of the $300,000 was that I had to make the decision all by myself, then I’d probably go with something pretty boring like great lighting and the bare minimum of a facelift for our public spaces and heritage buildings, and if there was enough left over then outdoor movie nights or a bouncy castle for kids in summertime in places like Kings Square. I reckon that would be great.
What other places do you see as being good examples for Fremantle?
Paris (incidentally one of my favourite places). Paris is so rich in heritage and atmosphere, just like the best parts of Freo – and manages to pull off a maximum height of six / seven storeys without jeopardising the streetscape. To me, a great example of what happens when developers are compelled to build up to a standard, not down to a price. Parisians have so many opportunities to get out and enjoy the public space as well, which will be an important lesson for us to get right in Freo.
Bath (Somerset, UK). This beautiful Georgian town with its Roman baths recently completed a major redevelopment program in its southern section. Using materials (beautiful Bath stone) and a style that was sympathetic to the existing surrounds, the results were pretty impressive.
What do you think about there being more men than women on council?
My wife saw an ad in the Herald relating to this a few weeks ago. She looked me up and down and said “Well, with man boobs like that one could argue you’ve got a foot in both camps.”
I’m all for diversity on council. In an ideal world, it would obviously be best if we could have a mix of residents / traders, men / women, with / without kids, independents and party apparatchiks, from different ethnic backgrounds, etc - and that these people could be elected on the merit of their ideas and experience, not as nods to tokenism.
However, in a practical reality, I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t believe I was the best candidate for the City Ward.