As election day nears, the people hoping to become Wollongong’s next mayor have been pounding the pavements, attending forums, meetings, door-knocks and pre-poll booths to encourage residents to cast votes in their favour.
And it was pavements that received the most attention at the Mercury’s second mayoral debate on Tuesday night, as five of the nine candidates pledged a back-to-basics approach if elected.
Following a forum on Monday night, Figtree IT Technician Andrew Anthony, Dapto pharmacist John Mullan and Greens newcomer Mithra Cox joined two current councillors David Brown (Labor) and Greg Petty (Independent) were in the hot seat.
The catch-cry for almost everyone was “roads, rate, rubbish”, with a strong push for spending more cash in Wollongong’s outer suburbs.
Labor’s David Brown said the recent release of a draft pedestrian plan had been a “call to arms” for the city, as it showed the rates of people walking to work were dropping.
He said Labor planned to double the council’s annual spend on footpaths – a $3.8 million commitment – and pledged to get “spending back in the suburbs – no more golden monuments in the CBD and along the waterfront.”
“Let’s get back to the suburbs, fix those footpaths, mow those fields, fix the drains where it’s needed,” he said.
The Greens Mithra Cox acknowledged an “obsession with footpaths” saying she wanted to see more people out on the streets, “with spring in our step” enjoying cultural activities. Likewise, former councillor Andrew Anthony – who served on a previous council – said he, if elected mayor, would like to see more people “riding around the lake because we have completed paths” in three years time,
True to form during his six years on council, Greg Petty stuck to the message basic infrastructure would be the key to making the city better.
“We don’t need all these massive projects to increase the numbers of people in Wollongong,” he said when asked about tourism.
”Let’s forget spending the money in the CBD. Let’s get back to roads, rates and rubbish.”
Amid all the talk of pedestrian matters, political newcomer John Mullan vouched for “big ideas” and said Wollongong needed a shake up to draw attention to the city.
“Wollongong has to put itself in a position where it’s making itself a target for state government funding,” he said.
“Local politicians have to become stronger advocates for the city to gain outside funds… and councillors should be interested in standing up and making a case for Wollongong in a bigger theatre.”
“You’ve got to keep knocking on doors and sometimes you’ve got to bash.”
“I’d like to think that after three years [on council], I could do something to change the ethos of the city – Wollongong has to be proud to stand up for itself.”