‘Fremantle Society Will Hit The Wall’

Former President Warns of Financial Crisis

Several members of the Fremantle Society, including the treasurer, were surprised to hear The Society had sold a house which had been bequeathed to it. Had it not been sold The Society would have an asset valued well in excess of $1,000,000.

The current treasurer admitted that he had no idea of the sale which occurred several years ago.

The information was revealed at last weeks annual general meeting of The Society by former president, architect Ralph Hoare, who said the society could not continue to bleed financially.  Hoare demanded a membership drive and an immediate increase in membership fees to save the organisation. In the meantime The Society is losing financial ground and can only survive a few more years at best.

Roel Loopers, while president, had promised he would initiate a membership drive but later admitted he had failed as president and resigned from the position (twice).  He still remains on the committee. Membership numbers dropped dramatically when Loopers was at the helm.  He regularly indicates how close he is to the Mayor and councillors creating concern as to  whether Loopers is sincere in his position on committee. For the AGM he organised a public relations stunt by a council staffer to present a PowerPoint show and lecture describing the city’s achievements and plans. It revealed a handful of appalling developments. This is the style of development the society should be condemning, not endorsing. Loopers has recently come out in support of a nine story development in the harbour.

Loopers must have been aware of the financial crisis facing The Society. However instead of looking for fund raising opportunities he initiated an undignified campaigns to send socks to Premier Barnet. John Dowson, a candidate for the presidency, speaking at the AGM pointed out: “Were the committee not aware the Premier is a member of the Fremantle Society”  He said Colin Barnett would have been happy to examine the issue in question without being insulted by The Society which has in the past maintained a degree of decorum in it’s protests and negotiations.

QR Code Costs Blow Out?

Loopers illustrates his hubris, taking pride  in establishing the QR codes system in Fremantle. These codes are expensive, outdated, technology  with niche appeal and the project is running well behind time. The plan was for 500 buildings to have QR codes attached. So far 70 have been installed according to Loopers and he is now asking for more money to complete the project. It has been reported that BID put in $10,000 and that a further grant of $5000 was raised. It has not been possible to substantiate these figures but it does mean if only 70 have been completed the project could cost as much as $35,000 to complete. That far exceeds the assets of the Fremantle Society. Fremantle Council and BID must question the worth of proceeding with additional funding of outdated technology with, at best, a niche market.

At the current rate of progress the least the project is likely to cost is a total of $12,000. The actual financial planning of this project should be made clear to ratepayers by the council, BID and to the remaining  members of the Fremantle Society.

Proud of Routing Hard Core Members, Committee Remain Under Legal Threat

Loopers is proud of the fact that he rid The Society of what he refers to as ‘The Old Guard’ (he has just turned 65 and was treated to a birthday lunch by the mayor). They were the hard core of  The Society who won many battles. Under Loopers The Society went backwards. He has not yet explained why he failed to attract new and younger members. Nor has he apologised to many people he has defamed. As a result the entire committee remain under the threat of legal action from a number of people because The Society automatically repeated his blogs on their sites.  Individual committee members may be liable for considerable damages if any one of a number of people choose to press the ’sue’ button. There is a growing number of people considering  joint action.

Many Members Want Loopers to Resign

John Dowson has strong support from half of the new committee and though he failed to gain the presidency many members feel the presidency is not important. They see a combination of Henty Farrar and Dowson working together, and promoting their support for medium rise, high quality development as a strong leadership function which will save the city from a repeat of the 1960s architectural disaster.

Loopers has promised to resign if Dowson is co-opted to committee and comments from members indicate they would welcome his departure.

Loopers’ Attacks on Dowson Are Dangerous and Devisive

The Politest Description of Fremantle Society’s Former President Roel Loopers is ‘Enigmatic’. 

Even the most casual observer will have noted that he seems to change his mind with the wind, to blow hot and cold with the same breath.

Closer examination reveals he continually manipulates the truth about his experience and achievements.  For example it was only about two weeks ago that Loopers said he had been a Fremantle resident for 17 years. Now he says he has been living here for 22 years. Soon we’ll be told that he was born here.

His flippant attitude to facts and analysis can be noted from his recent attacks on John Dowson, referring to him as ‘the old guard of Fremantle Society’.

Many of the members of The Society have lived in Fremantle for decades longer than either Loopers or Dowson. John Dowson, an historian and lecturer, has a genuine passion for the city’s architecture as well as a deep seated knowledge of the history which accompanies the infrastructure – not only the buildings but the lifestyles which blended into the old city and latterly into the immediate suburbs.

Dowson, has been maligned by detractors who see him as pedantic and have successfully labelled him as anti-development. Those detractors are developers or the supporters of developers. That includes Roel Loopers.  Do they have a vested  interest in destroying Dowson’s reputation in his drive for high quality development? You bet they do.

When studying Dowson carefully he emerges as an avid supporter of development. Backed by his study of the city and its social and economic lifestyle, he strongly favours high quality, low rise structures. Most Fremantle people favour quality development of no more than six stories.  That belief is shared by two members of The Society’s committee who have resigned saying they  cannot work with Loopers. A third recently resigned but the reason is unknown.

 Dowson Want’s High Quality development. Looper’s Changed His Mind.

Loopers had been a great admirer of Dowson. Suddenly Loopers once more changed his mind. Why? There is no reason other than the fact he sees  an attack on Dowson as another feather in his cap among his, Loopers, supporters. Loopers will always, carefully,  go with the flow but Dowson has not flinched from his “high quality,  low rise” stance. Dowson, or for that matter, any other member of the committee (other than Loopers) is not driven by ego or vested self interest. It must be remembered that before joining The Society Loopers was an advocate of high rise developments. He posted pictures on his blog, admiring proposed concrete and glass boxes of ten plus stories.

The best thing that could emerge from a Dowson victory is that Loopers keeps his promise to resign from the Fremantle Society’s committee.

Looper’s Achieved Nothing … Except turn the Society’s Newsletter into a Public Relations Mouthpiece for Developers.

And why is that? Loopers was greeted as a saviour by the society a couple of years or so back. He promised to rejuvenate the organisation. To attack  –  a cut and thrust knight in shining armour who would devour anybody who dared to ruin the city. Now he has turned the society newsletter into little more than claptrap supporting council and developers, spending much of his time socialising with the very people who plan and support crass developments.

The membership of the Society has halved in two years and, in spite of Loopers promises, has not attracted a younger brigade.

When Loopers finally retired as president (for the second time) he openly admitted he had achieved nothing.  He said:

“I have had enough of ramming my head against brick walls, my input being ignored, and my time on workshops and committees being taken for granted. When elected members become arrogant and patronising and unwilling to compromise at any level, it is time to move on and stop wasting my time”.

It didn’t cross his mind that his ideas may have been impractical, that better minds didn’t agree with him, that they had picked him as being a manipulator of facts to boost his own standing.

Blind Followers Faced Legal Action

His ideas appear to be poorly researched. A case in point is QR coding which is described world wide as being an outdated technology being replaced by more efficient systems. For some reason people blindly followed his idea. We’re yet to see it working in spite of considerable public expenditure being invested.

Recently the Society committee had to disassociate  themselves from Loopers’ blog under threats of legal action for defamation. It emerged the entire committee would be responsible for legal action following Loopers defamatory remarks made against several people (including this writer) with no supporting evidence whatsoever, being reposted on the Society’s blog.  The committee came within a hair’s breath of being sued but the simple fact is that people with no profile, let alone those who have a high public profile, will not tolerate being called cowards, nazis, bullies etc.

Loopers, and by default, the committee, were saved by the fact that Loopers is a failure (he has admitted that in his blog several times). As such he is simply not worth suing. However some of the committee members do have substantial assets and the legal advice was clear:  ‘Sue them as they have repeated his  defamations via The Society’s blog and web site’.

A Vote for Dowson Will Emasculate Loopers.

So, a vote for Dowson at todays meeting will be a vote to emasculate Loopers in much the same manner as he, Loopers, has emasculated the society.

Hopefully Dowson and Farrar (who claims to be a great friend of Loopers) can make things work between them and rescue The Society by offering constructive opposition to poor quality developments. They would also regain the profile the Society had under it’s stronger leaders, who include Dowson,  all of whom Loopers failed to invite to The Society’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Dowson would attract many of the people who have deserted the movement. The committee would find themselves on an even keel and able to do what the society does best – encourage high quality development, and attack the fast buck gang of developers and architects who seem intent on killing off Fremantle’s character. That may go some way towards attracting the city’s newer residents to an experienced society which has respected membership base of experience and intellect. The old guard have a prodigious  record and a new and intelligent group is needed to join them to ensure a smooth transition which is less enigmatic and more decisive than the immediate past history has shown.

There is little question that if Dowson becomes president he and Henty Farrar could work well together. They have a deep respect, built over many years which will re-form the Fremantle Society into a powerful and respected body.