24 June 2012

Petitions;What value do they have?

The petitions in this month's Council Agenda has set me thinking again at the value that Council should place in a petition when making decisions. I believe they are an excellent forum to bring to Council's attention an issue that the petitioners believe is one that Council is unaware of or unaware of the depth of feeling that a group of people have about a particular issue.
However, if I look at the petitions in the Agenda;
  •  35 Young St, Parkside; the petitioners are asking for the property to be sold by the owners as they regularly select what the petitioners believe to be unsatisfactory tenants.These people are genuinely fearful of their personal safety and amenity and yet Council can do little more than redirect the petition to those who can change the way in which the house is manage. The petition has nine signatures.
  • Fraser Reserve; this petition calls for perimeter fencing and better lighting at the reserve to make the area safer for dog exercise. This is a concern that has not been raised with Council before and Council should respond by investigating the issue and then budgeting to implement any changes deemed necessary.
  • Third Ave, Forestville; these petitioners are calling for their footpath to be paved as they believe the current state of their footpath is intolerable. I have enormous sympathy for their position. However, at the current time the footpath is scheduled to be repaved in 2015/16. The 53 signatures are all from local residents. They highlight the principle reason why they believe their footpath is constantly overlooked and that is that Council assess the state of the footpath and then multiply this by a factor that staff believe represents the volume of foot traffic.  This is the factor they often get wrong.
Now consider the value of a petition if one arrives  wanting the soon to be installed speed pillows in Leah St to be removed? If the petitioners were residents of Leah St I would have no hesitancy in accepting the validity of the petition, if they live nearby and still in Unley their signatures would still have validity but would need to be weighed up against the Leah St residents views ( and they probably were not asked to sign the petition and if they were refused to). What then if the petition came from signatories south of Cross Rd? Most of you would agree that these people could have chosen an alternate route and as such the petition would have little validity. Then there are all the grey areas between these scenarios.

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