SPIN CITY: $650,000 BUDGET FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS
Fremantle journalist Carmelo Amalfi has revealed Fremantle Council has so far spent $650,000 on a public relations campaign.
Ratepayers Face Conflicting Evidence of Visitor Numbers
The Mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, paraphrasing spin from Sirona, stated in late September that Fremantle has 1,600,000 tourists per year.
He claims this will increase to 3,000,000 when the Myer makeover is completed but quickly contradicted himself, announcing the Fremantle Festival Parade will be cancelled because visitor numbers are not high enough.
The parade will be replaced by a shopping trolley race to held in King’s Square to raise money for charity. There should be no shortage of competitors. Within fifty metres of the mayor’s office there are enough homeless people using shopping trolleys to harness their belongings in their shopping trollies and head for the starting line.
On the 5th October the Mayor quoted conflicting visitor numbers. These show that in the financial years of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 visitor figures were a little short of 1.3 million per year, 300,000 less than figure of 1.6m Dr Pettitt had previously quoted which he said were obtained from the Department of Tourism.
The Mayors latest statistics show the Festival period of November has a very high visitor rating, only marginally lower than the Christmas and Easter holiday periods.
So why cancel the Festival Parade which has been the highlight of the annual ten day festival for 20 years?
EMERGING DYSTOPIAN SOCIETY
It’s not difficult to spot the city’s emerging dystopian society. Retail trade in the West End is collapsing. Within a stone’s throw of the Town Hall, where rents for a medium size retail outlet are as high as $240,000, homeless people sleep in the empty doorways. Of course the problem is solved easily – move them on. We now have a security team recruited by council to clean up the streets, moving less than fortunate people away. Out of sight, out of mind! A band aid solution for an increasing problem and a clear sign of a city in crisis.
While this is happening Spin City HQ is in full swing. The council are reportedly burning a budget in excess of $650,000 to try and make the Magic Pudding rise. Coincidently this feel good spin is happening during the lead up to an election where challengers to the Koolaid Council, followers of The Cult Of Brad, are fighting for seats and salaries Fremantle ratepayers are funding the spin campaign.
THE ONE EYED MAN IS KING
We’re told that the Myer makeover will see Fremantle’s economy rise, Phoenix like, from the ashes of an eight year autocracy.
The Mayor is commendably one eyed about the city’s future. But in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. There is also a biblical saying: ” When a blind man bears the standard, pity those who follow.”
FINANCIAL GOAL POSTS MOVED IN A SMOKE AND MIRRORS ACT
The city’s overbearing spin has sparse factual substance but when the financial facts related to the King’s Square development were exposed by financial expert Martin Lee and City Ward candidate Claudia Green, they were brushed under the carpet. Those facts, based on figures obtained from council, show Fremantle faces a financial collapse leaving ratepayers to fill a black hole of up to $50,000,000.
This financial collapse was recently endorsed by the Minister who stated Fremantle is a city at financial risk. Fremantle had the worst financial rating on the State’s Local Government website.
Fremantle Council claimed that was not the case explaining they had moved the goal posts in the accounting system, hence the poor showing of 42 points in a statewide list of councils’ finances. 70 points is the benchmark for good financial health.
Within a fee days the goal posts were moved again. Fremantle now has a rating of 85! Questions must be asked about how this smoke and mirrors act came about.
Was the Minister mislead, were Treasury so incompetent they misread the city’s accounts? Did all ratepayers come down with the last shower and believe this overnight turnaround? Was there a moment of panic in the Mayor’s office?
LIPSTICK ON A PIG
The Myer makeover materialised from an architectural competition and is described in Spin City’s publicity as world class. It is not. It is simply putting lipstick on a pig. The style is a Neo Lavatorial throwback to the 60s similar to that used in the in the east end of the city. That too was promised to be a miracle trading area for the city. The area is now little more than a third world eyesore with a promised hotel development put on hold and becoming a temporary car park. The new Woolworth’s site, next to St Patrick’s, which we were told would bring life to the east end of the city, is closed after a few years of trading. At least 80 retail and business premises are now visibly vacant in Fremantle’s CBD alone. The total is probably over 100.
OUTSIDE FORCES BLAMED WITH SMOKE AND MIRRORS SPIN
Outside forces are blamed: the GFC; mining boom collapse; State Government finances et al. Yet other shires flourish while operating under identical state, national and international burdens.
What we are getting is more Spin. Smoke and mirrors distractions: Australia Day; plastic bags; charity collection pillars; speed humps; shopping trolly derby; ‘Yes’ vote. Non of these issues address the core problems facing the city and the spin bait seems to be swallowed hook line and sinker by every member of council.
Does council really need a new administration building? The old one seems to have worn quite well and bears a striking resemblance to the Myer makeover, a carry over from ’60s style architecture. The market in Kings Square has not succeeded in attracting visitors and there is no reason to assume that the glossy spin from Sirona will be any more successful. These lifestyle promotions can result in spectacular failures. An example is the Docklands development in Melbourne which now has retailers and restauranteurs walking away from their leases and apartment owners saying ‘this is not the lifestyle we were promised’.
$1.3 BILLION INVESTMENT MANTRA : ONLY 20% HAPPENING
We are told that investments of $1.3 billion are progressing in the city. They are not. In fact they are nearly all stalled, put on hold. The only visible progress is Sirona’s where we’ll see concrete Botox slapped on Miss Piggy. That is less than 20% of the investments the Mayor claims are happening.
THE ASIAN CONNECTION
Sirona is a company with strong connections to Alvarez and Marsal, a corporation specialising in turning sluggish areas into sustainable growth. Are Sirona a pimple on the back of a massive overseas corporation and can we expect to see a sell out? In that respect council have helped by selling assets at bargain basement prices to Sirona. Many of the ratepayers’ assets at well below market value. We can be 100% certain that the real winners will be the developers. Who negotiated that deal?
Dr Pettitt has been asked to clarify the visitor figures and has been asked whether there was any other reason the Festival Parade has been cancelled.