By Claire Ottaviano
THE decision to change the City of Swan mayor’s method of election from Council elected to publicly elected will have to wait until the City’s next ward review after a motion to hold a referendum on the change was squashed on Wednesday night.
The motion, by Cr Claire Scanlan, asked the chief executive to prepare a report on the process and implications of changing the election method but it was defeated 4/11.
The motion also included consideration of holding a referendum during the October local government elections to gauge the community’s stance on the change.
Cr Scanlan said the motion was not put forward as an attack on the current or previous mayors, but in the interests of the City’s future.
“This motion has come to us from our electors, many who have indicated they would like to have the choice to elect their mayor,” she said.
“The indirectly elected mayor, or Council elected mayor, is based on the Westminster system founded in England, and now even in the UK there has been a great move to introduce directly elected, or popularly elected mayors.
“Recent trends in moving towards a popularly elected mayor is part of broad changes sweeping across local governments.”
Other local governments of a similar size to Swan with publicly elected mayors include the Cities of Stirling, Wanneroo, Rockingham and Joondalup.
But the motion was strongly opposed with several councillors speaking against the item including deputy mayor David Lucas.
“I don’t believe in popularly elected mayors,” he said.
“If you want to become a mayor of a large Council like the City of Swan, you have to have a lot of money because you will have to campaign.
“So then what happens – maybe businesses will start to donate and or maybe you’ll have parties involved in running particular candidates.”
He also contested the change as it could require an abolishment of the ward system in favour of a district system.
A popularly elected mayor is also elected for four years instead of two, which, depending on which side of the fence you sit, had pros and cons from both sides of the debate.
“Would you let the membership of a football team decide who the captain was or would you leave it up to the players who go out on the field to look for someone to direct that on the field leadership,” Cr Lucas said.
At the June Council meeting, councillors supported a recommendation to consider the method of mayoral election during the City’s next ward and representation review, meaning the decision will be back on the table again at some point in the future.
See previous Publicly elected mayor unlikely in 2021