Death by a thousand cuts

I reproduce here, with permission a letter from long time Mosman resident Damien Stapleton to Mayor Abelson on the topic of he Mosman Rider . It represents my views exactly. It appears that if a service is not useful to the present Council’s very well heeled backers then it is to be scrapped, no matter how vital it is the vulnerable young and elderly. Not immediately of course, given contractural obligations, so it has to be death by a thousand cuts. One can only surmise that the reason they rejected signing up to an attractive five year contract was they wanted to get rid of the service when the current contract expires in two years.

Mayor Abelson in his July occasional letter claims it was a controversial matter in the community with passionate supporters for and against. What he omitted to say was that the against side was made up of his and Cr Bendall’s supporters who loved to hate the previous Council. It appears that this Council is out to white ant and then knock over anything and everything the previous Council set up. What Mayor Abelson also failed to mention was that those in favour of he Rider were users of the service -either because they relied on it, or they shared the previous council’s view that substituting the Rider for a car trip was more fun, more social and good for the environment.

Serving Mosman, Mayor Abelson’s political party, campaigned on a platform of bringing in a new era of a Council that listened to the community. At least he now acknowledges that the community is not of one mind. Does he now accept I wonder that the previous Council did listen to the community , but not to those with the loudest voices, as he has opted to do. Will his thinking evolve to the point of recognising that given there is a diversity of views in the community, Council needs to be not just guided by opinion, but by values.

Here is Damien’s letter

It is most disappointing that Mosman Municipal Council has reduced its very successful initiative, The Mosman Rider community bus service, during winter months.

I regularly use the service and have signed the citizens’ petition presen tly before Council, which protests that reduction. Having not owned an automobile for 24 years and leading the extremely active life I do, I am totally reliant on and aware of the Public Transport options in this area including The Rider, as I pursue my many daily activities.

I have resided in Mosman for 41 years and we are greatly advantaged here by a very good Public Transport system which puts us in contact with linking train, ferry, bus and even air services, to all points of the compass. The Rider is now an integral part of the local Public Transport grid.

It is an invaluable asset to the area servicing many parts of the Municipality hitherto not serviced by any Public Transport eg providing transport for school students from Pearl and Quaker’s Hat Bays, transporting the less mobile to shopping, health care, and entertainment commitments and lessening cars on the road thus contributing to the environment. It is also a beneficial tourist attraction. The Rider service does not compete with, duplicate or militate against any Government Transport in the area. Government bus services are not threatened by the service.

The buses are air conditioned, clean and comfortable and drivers are extremely courteous and jovial and very cooperative and helpful, particularly to elderly passengers and those with young children. It is particularly convenient that passengers may hail the bus in spaces where it is legal to do so and are not limited to conventional bus stops.

The Mosman Rider was the quid pro quo resulting from the decision of Council some years ago to install Parking Meters at Balmoral Beach. It was to be and is funded from revenue from those meters and from infringements arising where

Parking provisions are not complied-with. It functions therefore at no cost to Mosman Ratepayers whose obligation to pay for parking vehicles does not exist, is minimal or results from poor time management. I am reliably informed that such revenue from this source now exceeds $2 million and the present Rider service costs $275,000 and that most of that revenue is derived from motorists who live outside Mosman.

The installation of the meters became necessary to control abuses of free-of-charge parking at the beach including inter alia: long- lunchers parking all afternoon and being too intoxicated to drive so leaving cars overnight for collection the next day, teachers and students from the local private girls’ school parking all day and yachties’ parking their trailer and car for days as they cruise the blue, hogging two parking spaces with no regard for the inconvenience they caused.

These abuses and their ilk had to be remedied and I must point out that one in particular of your fellow Councillors based his expensive presidential and humiliatingly unsuccessful 2012 campaign for control of Mosman Council, on Council’s Parking Meter initiative at Balmoral. It is interesting however that Council now seeks to massively increase revenue from meters at Balmoral Beach by increasing parking charges and expanding the meter culture to Spit Junction while installing a Parking Infringement Review Panel whose only function can be seen to be the overturn of parking fines with the effect of reducing the authority of Council Rangers and being left exposed to claims of cronyism where the infringements of mates are able to be overturned.

I supported and still do, the installation of Parking Meters at Balmoral and its resulting bus initiative and they are an inextricable package. I support any reasonable revenue-raising initiative of any public body including Local Government.

In its decision to reduce the Rider service, Mosman Council is in severe breach of its covenant with its citizens who have been grossly betrayed by Council in this matter. In other words the case is made that the service should in fact not be reduced but increased and Council would still have change.

Our adjoining Councils Willoughby and Manly, operate multiple free-of-charge bus services at Ratepayers’ cost.

Mosman is a wealthy small Council in the most affluent demographic in the Commonwealth of Australia. Its liabilities are minor in proportion to larger Councils with great social problems. To argue that because a service provided at no cost to its ratepayers does not bring a financial return; is a cost to them, is absolute nonsense and an insult to the community intelligence. Using such logic the argument is made that Council services which are totally Ratepayer-funded such as Balmoral Beach, our parks, public toilets, The Art Gallery, Senior’s Centre and Meals on Wheels to name but few, should all henceforth be closed,

The only deficiencies I see in the Rider service are those I suggest should be remedied as I suggest below.

Accordingly I call upon Council to immediately:

• reverse its decision to reduce the Mosman Rider service,
• increase the Mosman Rider service to a half-hourly service
• commencing from Balmoral Beach 0700-1800
• every day and
• embark on an advertising and promotional campaign to make the entire community aware of the service, how it affects their individual neighbourhoods, how best for them to use it, the benefits available to them and the community from using it.

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