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Tough tussles for the top job

BOARDROOM RIVALS: Tensions between current mayor Mike Brunker and current councillor Jennifer Whitney have been increasingly visible in the leadup to the local government election on April 28.
BOARDROOM RIVALS: Tensions between current mayor Mike Brunker and current councillor Jennifer Whitney have been increasingly visible in the leadup to the local government election on April 28.

TENSIONS in the mayoral candidate camp have become increasingly evident in recent weeks, particularly between the incumbent mayor Mike Brunker and current Division 3 councillor Jennifer Whitney. Both candidates are competing for the region's top job along with former actor Grigor Taylor and change advocate Tony Maine. On two occasions in the past week the four candidates have fronted the public at forums in Proserpine and Airlie Beach.

Ms Whitney is promising a new style of leadership that will bring democracy to the boardroom. She plans to give councillors portfolios and allow them to talk to the press. She says she has endeavoured to stand up for electors rights in a "very difficult term of council" and would "hit the ground running" as mayor.

"Vote 1 for Whitney to get the wheels back on this bus," she told the Proserpine crowd.

Mr Taylor has nine promises, which include capping rates in the first year and never increasing them beyond CPI. He promises to preserve open spaces for future generations and prepare for the resources boom to ensure we have "prosperity without hurting our quality of life".

Mr Brunker says he wants to finish the main streets of Proserpine and Airlie Beach and create an entertainment hub that will give residents and visitors more to do. He says far from being dysfunctional, this current council has achieved a lot.

"Everybody's had their voice over the last few years and to project us as a dysfunctional council is just wrong," he said.

Mr Maine says he will engage PriceWaterhouseCoopers, one of the world's top accounting firms, to produce a public report into council's finances. He has policies for "funding the future" for "waterways" and for ramping up our ailing tourist industry. He plans to hold a strategic transport hub conference that would be open to the public, within 90 days of being elected mayor.

But with the mayoral candidates open to public scrutiny it was the issues that the community raised which took centre stage. At Thursday's forum in Proserpine this prompted an exchange of words between Ms Whitney and Mr Brunker about casting votes and majorities.

"I think the scrapping going on at that end of the table has the scent of the past about it," Mr Maine said.

Mayoral candidates' comments

Jennifer Whitney - "I am totally frustrated with council's style of management and I feel the only way to start is from the top... We need to embark on a different style of governance and it's up to you to make sure that occurs."

Grigor Taylor - "We've got this remote, executive council. We've got to have a council that governs back to grass roots - where people count, not process."

Tony Maine - "Councillors should have roles instead of being reduced down to voting machines. I think you've got to look at the process not just the vote."

Mike Brunker - "Yes I've heard it all - Brunker's fixing all the roads in Bowen, there's nothing in Airlie beach - well that's rubbish."

Random topics for debateRaising public concerns at council meetings

"Council meetings aren't a rabble. As a chairman it's a prerogative to make sure you don't turn into a cat house." Mike Brunker

"As mayor I'd welcome any questions from the community [and] I'd make sure those questions are responded to. The recurring problem we've got at the moment is the same people are coming back with the same questions because they're not getting the answers." Jennifer Whitney

"There's a big thing to be said for interaction. The way to make it work is to listen to the community." Grigor Taylor

"I think that there are some organisations within the community that need to realise democracy needs some courtesy." Tony Maine

Portfolios for councillors

"I have identified six portfolios and I would invite the winning councillors to work amongst themselves to choose one." Tony Maine

"I do agree with what Tony said there. I think that people will suggest their portfolios." Grigor Taylor

"I see councillors having portfolios, being more involved in the community and being able to speak to the press." Jennifer Whitney

"This council is way too small to look into portfolios. If you want to bind up a council with bureaucracy go for a committee system." Mike Brunker


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