On Thursday this week, the South East Brisbane Chamber of Commerce hosted a Meet the Candidates forum for the wards of Morningside and Doboy. Belinda went along to see what they had to say about active transport. Thanks to all the candidates for a respectful discussion: Councillor Lisa Atwood (LNP) and Jo Culshaw (Labor) for Doboy, and Councillor Kara Cook (Labor) and Rolf Kuelsen (Greens) for Morningside.
Thanks also to Kath Angus, Greens candidate for Lord Mayor and Cr Ryan Murphy (former Doboy Ward councillor, and now representative for neighbouring Chandler Ward) for coming along to support their running mates.
Belinda writes: Clearly I can’t cover everything that was said in a single post, but on reflection it feels that we have well-meaning candidates prepared to personally work very hard, but still doing what urbanist Brett Toderian refers to as “doing the wrong thing better” or “trying to have your cake and eat it too”.
Seriously, kudos to Cr Lisa Atwood for bringing the enthusiasm and energy of a newly appointed councillor to the task of fixing bikeways (like the Bulimba Creek Bikeway through Minnippi Parklands) and completing missing connections, and for mentioning the importance of shade, green spaces, working with community and sporting groups, and encouraging local businesses – especially in the difficult start-up phase.
Well done to Jo Culshaw for Doboy for highlighting that one of the most important aspects of ‘community’ is inclusion. Festivals are nice, but an incomplete or broken footpath can be enough to prevent someone from reaching their local bus stop or getting out in the community if they’re elderly or in a wheelchair. To Jo, ‘community’ must incorporate not leaving anyone behind because their neighbourhood isn’t safe and accessible.
Councillor Kara Cook (Morningside Ward) also spoke on the importance of accessibility, and championed Labor’s policy of making the cross-river ferries free (in the face of a challenge from an audience member about the cost nd who would benefit). As Cr Cook pointed out, it is a drop in the bucket of Council’s $3.1billion annual budget, and making the ferries free will make it much more attractive for people to cross the river and utilise the great cycling infrastructure on the opposite bank, which sadly we just don’t have on the south side.
We have no doubt that Cr Cook is listening to the residents and business owners asking for an upgrade to The Corso precinct at Seven Hills. But that’s where councillors have a genuinely difficult job; even if business owners insist that the key to making their area thrive is providing more car parking, doesn’t make that true. In fact repeatedly, evidence says the opposite.
That dilemma was also evident with in answers to a question from the audience about increasing parking requirements for new developments. Superficially it might seem logical that on-street parking problems will be solved if more private land is set aside for car parking, and three of the candidates appear to subscribe to that position. It was left to Rolf Kuelsen, Greens for Morningside to attempt to explain in less than two minutes that more parking has the effect of attracting more cars, and what we actually need are less cars and less car-dependency built in to our suburbs.
Rolf told us that what first convinced him to run for politics at the Morningside by-election two years ago was hearing a resident complain that it took almost an hour to drive his child one kilometer to school, and that should be solved by widening the road…
When it came to building a better city, Rolf was the only candidate who mentioned the herd of elephants in the room: we don’t need better ways to deal with more cars; we need fewer cars!
PS. Please don’t complain that this post show a bias to the Greens; our bias is towards candidates who are serious about making Brisbane more bicycle friendly. It’s an observation that of all the responses on Thursday night, Rolf’s calls for policies to help reduce car-addiction were closer to steps 4 and 5 (“doing the right thing”) than the others. If your political ideology or loyalty lies with another party, we encourage you to at least engage with their candidate to challenge the idea that more tinkering with roads and building carparks will solve anything!