SPIN CITY

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.
Amalfi the publisher of Fremantle StreetWise magazine
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?

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Homeless and in sight of the Mayor’s office. This person was camped here for weeks and  then the election campaign got into gear. It appears that he has found a home or was moved on by Fremantle Council’s security squad. In the past few days a lot of people seem to have been ‘moved along’. In defence of the security detail it must be said they operate with a great deal of tact and understanding but they are only a band aid solution.

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.”

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The CBD’s latest victim closed last week

FINANCIAL GOAL POSTS MOVED IN A SMOK 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’.

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Fremantle’s existing  administration building would benefit from a coat of paint and a flashy new market piazza . We could save $50,000,000 using little more than a paint pot.

$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?

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Homeless on Monument Hill. A number of people have been sleeping here recently. Will this type of image become an epitaph to Fremantle’s once vibrant lifestyle and economy?


NOTE:
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.

Roger Garwood

editorbackchat@gmail.com

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FREMANTLE: RUNNING ON EMPTY

While council deliver a mantra of sustainability the signs of a collapse in the Fremantle economy is glaringly evident in the CBD.

I took a walk around  the area and counted in excess of 40 properties which are empty, offered for lease, or moving. The total is probably closer to 60 as the Woolworth’s building houses a number of vacant outlets  as does the Coles Woolstore.  These pictures were taken within about 250m of the Town Hall

Very recently one new retail outlet, selling high quality home furnishings and decorations, has closed after six months. It was located in the Mall, opposite the Town Hall. The rent was $240,000,  higher than similar sized properties in downtown New York.

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VILLA, closed after six months about a week ago. The rent was $240,000 a year but trade for this high quality retail outlet  didn’t materialise. This is in Fremantle Mall, opposite the Attwell Arcade development.

Shepherd’s News agency have to move from their prime spot. It holds the longest serving tenancy of Fremantle. The original Shepherd’s News Agency was established in this building in 1908 and the current business owners have been there for 26 years. They now have to move aside for developers.

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Shepherd’s Newsagency have been located in the Manning building  since 1908. They are the oldest  business in Fremantle still operating from the same premises. Now they have to move to make way for development.

The Woolworths shopping centre, next to St Patrick’s, has been closed for a couple of years. It was gleefully broadcast that this would bring new life to the east end of the city. Opposite them the Hilton site, which used to contain a number of shops, is derelict and scheduled to become a temporary car park.

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The Woolstores centre is hosting many empty premises. Even with a carpark in situ it was not able to survive

The centre  hosted about 20 retail and office business’s. They were not included in my count of about 40 empty premises.

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The Hilton Hotel site, due to become a temporary car park. 

CODA, a mainstay of council’s PR sustainability spin, have closed shop and amalgamated with a Perth based company. CODA was a foundation stone of the Future Fremantle organisation, established to build a better Fremantle.

 

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CODA’s vacant office

 

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Coles Woolstores site is home to several vacant retail premises
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A small selection of over 40 empty retail and office premises in the CBD is shown below.

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And finally, in one vacant shop window the mayor delivers his mantra of a vibrant city.

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LOW KEY KICK START IN BEACONSFIELD

FREMANTLE COUNCIL ELECTIONS ARE WARMING UP

A  small, low key, group of supporters gathered at the Hilton Bowling Club last night (Friday 21st July) to support Fedele Carmada’s run for a Beaconsfield seat in the Fremantle elections.

Mayoral challenger Ra Stewart and former mayor Peter Tagliaferri  attended but primarily this was a family affair. Even the candidate’s grandmother was sitting quietly in the background, underlining a deeply established local family. It was a modest, ‘Very Freo’ grass roots event at which Fedele Carmada appeared as an intelligent, well informed, home grown, candidate emphasised by the fact he is a third generation local fisherman.

He delivered no bullshit, no rallying cries, no political platitudes but a straightforward ‘we’ve got a job to do, let’s do it’ attitude.

Hannah Fitzhardinge, the incumbent councillor, will be tenacious and highly credible in defending her seat, making the battle for Beaconsfield  the bellwether to watch in the lead-up to the elections.

STIR THE POSSUM

Fremantle traditionally has a higher turnout of voters than many local council electorates, though not high enough. Because local councils effect daily living more than any arm of government it is essential for ratepayers and residents to get out, stir the possum, listen to candidates’ objectives and make a seriously considered choice. In October the city will experience the most interesting election for decades at a time when contentious issues related to development, heritage and city finances are surfacing.

SUNSET  SHAMBLES

COUNCIL ADMINISTRATION ADVISE ‘KILL THE LEASE’

RA STEWART:  ‘COMPANY’S LACK OF DUE DILIGENCE SHOULD NOT BE COUNCIL’S PROBLEM’

Tomorrow night (Wednesday, 28th June) Fremantle council will consider what to do with the troubled Sunset Venues’ lease.
As a result of financial issues the company’s  request for a 12 month period of grace before their lease is implemented will be decided by the full council.

SUNSET ‘LOOK LIKE MOBSTERS OF ROCK  – THEY’RE ON THE NOSE, FROZEN FREO’S LIVE MUSIC SCENE’

A critic of the Sunset companies, Robby Lang, said in a comment to Fremantle Backchat: “Sunset have frozen the live music scene in Freo for the past 3 years with their inaction on the old Fly by Nite site and J shed.
“These sites should be given to people whose actions will benefit the community. Sunset is on the nose and for council to prop them up is bullshit. Unfortunately they are looking like the Mobsters of Rock, Not paying their sub contractors etc.”
Sunset have admitted to financial problems in settling outstanding debts and now wish to implement the J Shed lease on 1st July 2018. However Sunset Events are a different company from Sunset Venues but it appears that Sunset Venues, who have a lease on the old Drill Hall in central Fremantle, are not in a position to activate plans for the former location of the ‘Fly By Nite’, a popular music venue.

COUNCIL ADMIN ADVISE CONDITIONS MUST BE MET OR KILL THE LEASE

The lease is due to be activated this Saturday, 1st July. Sunset Venues have said they hope a 12 month extension before activation may trigger investment. They offer no guarantee that granting extra time will succeed in attracting investors.
Council administration have recommended an alternative suggestion to councillors which includes granting additional time but concluding that if conditions are not met : “ [by] the deadline of 1 December 2018 … the lease is terminated”.
Councillor Doug Thompson who voted against the company’s request for an extension at Council’s Finance, Policy, Operations and Legislation Committee  meeting on 14th June feels the administration’s alternative proposal is preferable. He said: “This would also mean that Sunset Venues must show they have the financial capacity to deliver the Lessee works to Council’s satisfaction. Subject to hearing the debate I have a view that an earlier date than December 2018 for conditions to be met has merit. Of course Sunset Venues would have to agree to any condition precedent being included in the lease.”

$105,000 SUBSIDY ISSUES

The issue of a $105,000 subsidy has been raised and compared to the withdrawal of $97,000 funding from the Wirrawee Woman’s Refuge. The term ‘subsidy’ was challenged by a reader on the Freo Massive Facebook page.

Whichever way this reduction in rent is considered it is a subsidy. It is designed to assist Sunset Venues establish a brewery. The  term ‘assist’ is a direct translation of the Latin ‘subsidium’ from which our language gets the word ‘subsidy’.

City Ward Councillor Rachel Pemberton explained there is no comparison between the withdrawal of Council funding from a womens’ refuge in 2015 and the funding of Sunset’s project.
She said: “The State Government significantly cut funding for Warrawee and so we decided not to tender to run the service and allow a specialist service provider take over. The operator that won the tender has taken over the management [Warrawee still exists and operates in Fremantle] and has other refuges so can  provide a better service more efficiently than we could”.
Ms Pemberton continued, “Council was committed to direct its previous funding to Warrawee to provide specialist legal advice at the Fremantle Community Legal Centre to help people, including women fleeing domestic violence, avoid becoming homeless”.

RA STEWART: ‘PRIORITY IS TO SUPPORT THE VULNERABLE : NOT IN COUNCIL’S BEST INTERESTS TO SUPPLY CONCESSIONS ON LEASES’

Mayoral candidate Ra Stewart commented: “The Warrawee Women’s Refuge provides safe, affordable and supported crisis care accommodation for women and children subjected to domestic and family violence. This service was managed by the City of Fremantle until 2015, after which time Council decided not to reapply to run the service thereby saving approximately $100,000 per annum. Given the recent focus on domestic violence at both State and Federal levels of government, and its social impact on our community, my priority would most certainly have been to continue to support these vulnerable members of our community”.
Commenting on the J Shed brewery proposal Ra Stewart said: “It is important to attract interesting and viable businesses to the City of Fremantle for the enjoyment of all, it is not in Council’s best interests, nor the ratepayers it represents, to provide concessions on lease agreements, or absorb the costs of a company’s oversight in regards to the due diligence around its commercial arrangements”.

 

Roger Garwood : Editor

editorbackchat@gmail.com

AUSTRALIA DAY CHANGE: NO 79%, YES 17%, DUNNO 3%

 

Australian Associated Press have reported that the Australian Local Governments Association (ALGA), gathering in Canberra, has today (Tuesday) voted 64-62  for councils to consider efforts they could take to lobby the government for a date change for Australia Day.

A statement issued by ALGA said: “The ALGA board noted the level of debate and the closeness of the result of the debate and will take these matters into consideration when determining a course of action.”

Of 560 local councils represented by ALGA only 126 were at the Canberra meeting. This leaves room for doubt as to an overall opinion of councils’ for a change of date for Australia Day.

VOTE COULD BECOME AN ELECTION BATTLE GROUND

The vote by the local councils represented by ALGA at the meeting was close but an online poll published today shows nearly 78.87% of the population do not want change, 18.44% do and 2.69% are undecided.

Fremantle Council initiated a change and the national debate this year. With local council elections due in October the issue of a change of date could become a campaign point for voters to consider.

Roger Garwood
editorbackchat@gmail.com