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What do the Griffith’s 2021 mayoral candidates hope to achieve in the top job? | The Area News

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The Area News caught up with each of the candidates to find out their vision for the city’s future. Here they order by alphabetically by surname; Councillor Doug Curran said this election was the perfect opportunity for the city to set its future direction. “We know we’re going to have a new mayor, there’s about 70 years of experience retiring at this election,” he said. Cr Curran said council needed to adopt new ways of doing things and take advantage of what had been learned over the last 15 years. If successfully elected as mayor, Cr Curran said the personalities and egos of councillors and staff would have to be left at the door. “We’re 100 per cent there to serve the community and if every decision is made on that basis, we’ll be successful,” he said. “In my first four years we had a different mayor and I’ve seen the ways two of Griffith’s mayors have worked. “For all John (Dal Broi’s) faults you can’t say that he hasn’t done a great job for the community. “Mike Neville has been my mentor for 15 years, and I’ve run for election with him many times. “If there’s an issue I have, he’s the first person I ask for guidance from.” Cr Curran said the role of mayor was a full-on job but not a full-time job and often meant after hours work with functions and meetings. “As deputy for five years, I know what to expect,” he said. While currently employed full-time as an operations manager, he said nothing was set in stone and there was still an election to win. “You’ve got to guide the people, it’s not just being a figurehead, but have to get the best out of the councillors around the table and senior management,” he said. “Every problem doesn’t stem out of council, some problems need other community bodies to solve, but council needs a seat at the table.” While Cr Curran has been on council for 13 years and lived in the city since 1994, he says it’s not a career and there needs to be a plan for succession. “I’ve never had any intention to get into this, I sort of fell into it and if I win, I want to see an end to it.” Cr Curran is hoping to see Griffith grow to a population of 30,000 to 35,000 in the next few years. To achieve that Griffith “absolutely” needs an increase in housing. “If we can raise our rate base, it increases what we can invest our ratepayers’ money in,” he explained. He said that meant finding something to benefit the community rather than just maintaining the viability of the city’s local roads. “Instead of focusing on keeping roads viable we could build something like a soccer academy or improve the theatre to make this place better for our youth.” READ MORE | ‘Despicables can’t be stopped’: How councillors deal with the trolls Carmel La Rocca has lived in Griffith since 1964 and is only candidate standing for mayor who isn’t already an elected councillor. However Mrs La Rocca said that’s not a problem because for decades she’s dealt with not only Griffith City Council’s planning department as a professional building designer, but with other departments and elected officials over the years. “For the past few years Griffith has become sluggish, there’s a bottleneck in housing and development,” she said. “I want to help return it to its vibrant old self and make Griffith a place to come, not just to work but for people to live their lives and raise their families.” Mrs La Rocca said Griffith was geographically isolated and needed to invest in recreational facilities for adults. Developing the shores of Lake Wyangan to provide another place for people to go and to complement City Park which catered to children was vital. “Adults don’t have much aside from sport, you need recreation aside from sport,” she said. Mrs La Rocca also wants to see the Multicultural Festival grow and the community wanted to see a parade to go with the festival. “We could grow it into something really special, bringing in tourists to help promote the region,” she said. Mrs La Rocca wants to ensure there aren’t “stumbling blocks” for people looking to develop in the city. “We need to open up housing and development and make it attractive for developers to develop,” she said. “We need to be planning for infrastructure so that it’s less arduous for developers.” She said some of the infrastructure can be achieved by council on its own, and some will need advocacy to deliver funding. “The lifeblood of the city is its community, if the community can grow then the town will grow, they’re both sides of the same coin.” Mrs La Rocca wants to see more advocacy for transport links for people and freight leaving the city. As improving those links will support future development plus the city’s commercial and industrial sectors. “They always say they’re going to send migrants to Griffith but it’s hard to find houses and hard to find a way out by rail, bus or plane,” she said. “There’s only so much local government can do, but they can do a lot when it comes to lobbying and advocacy. “The elected councillors and staff need to work together to make a change in our town. “If you have a council that is forward thinking and cares for the community, then the rest of council will follow.” READ MORE | Election corflutes become city’s hottest property Councillor Rina Mercuri first arrived in Griffith in 1975 but it wasn’t set to be a permanent move. “We were only supposed to be here for six months, we were supposed to be home no later than mid-December, but we just fell in love with the people,” Cr Mercuri said. Fast forward to now and with one council term under her belt, she was keen to ensure the community was heard. As someone who moved to Griffith, she wants to ensure that when people come to work in the city, they stay. More housing is key to that as well as adding to the diversity of the city’s industries to attract more professionals. “We can only thrive, if we work together – there’s no ‘i’ in team,” Cr Mercuri said. She said a review of the city’s planning policies was important to ensure developers were welcomed, and felt they could develop in the city. “I really hate hearing that ‘it was too hard to deal with Griffith City Council’ and they went somewhere else.” Cr Mercuri has a long history working with community groups as a volunteer and Justice of the Peace, and she has spent many years working with her husband on building sites. “I know my way around a building site and have my contractors’ licence, I’m quite good at making fair decisions on development applications,” Cr Mercuri said. “I’d like to see more development and see our retail sector open up a little more. “I’m happy to work the government of the day and work with the business chamber with what’s happening with our retailers and industries.” Cr Mercuri said she had runs on the board when it came to working with the villages and after helping instigate work to build the amenities block at the Yenda cemetery which had been needed for 25 years. “I want the villages involved because they’re Griffith, we’re made up more than just the city,” Cr Mercuri also wants to see councillors express themselves, and create an atmosphere of openess, fairness and freedom of speech. “We should be able to speak on behalf of the people people who elected us.” READ MORE | Voters encouraged to vote early ahead of local government elections Councillor Anne Napoli wants to see Griffith thrive and prosper and said she would draw on 18 years experience as a member of Griffith City Council to do it. “We need to work with the government of the day, and we need to build relationships with our state and federal members,” Cr Napoli said. She says unity, transparency, accountability, trust and inclusion are lacking from council currently. “We should respect each other, staff and the views of our community.” During her time on council, Cr Napoli previously served as deputy mayor and was grateful to have represented the mayor at state and national conferences. “Listening to the community, they would like to keep rates low and I support rate pegging.” Examining the fees and charges levied by council is also a focus to help encourage development to increase the city’s rate base. “I would like to encourage development to improve services and improve roads, we need to make it easy for developers,” Cr Napoli said. “I don’t want to see developers go elsewhere, I want them to come here and with council under my leadership that will happen. “As the city grows, we get more money coming into council from rates and charges.” That growth would help create the accommodation, infrastructure and services to attract and retain teachers and medical workers the city needed. Cr Napoli said council had a number of internal policies which she believed were old and needed to be updated. Bringing fruit fly eradication programs to Griffith is another way Cr Napoli hopes to look after the city’s farmers and its community and it’s something she says will be a priority. Cr Napoli has lived in Griffith for over 50 years. While retired from work, she said she was lucky to have the support of her family so she could help achieve the community’s ambitions as a councillor. READ MORE | Advice to candidates: ‘You’re not going to change the world tomorrow’ Of the five candidates for mayor, only Dino Zappacosta has worn the mayoral chains before. Cr Zappacosta was mayor between 2006 and 2008, and led delegation to Griffith’s sister-city in Italy. He joined council in 1987 and has also served as deputy mayor for 16 years. “Griffith does need someone with experience to lead Griffith into the next few years,” Cr Zappacosta said. He said planning was key to the city’s future because it led to projects going from the wishlist to reality. Cr Zappacosta said both the Lake Wyangan and Hanwood cycleways became reality after the planning was done and state politicians saw the value and delivered the funding. He said the Southern Industrial Link was another example, and even though it’s partly complete it’s already delivered dividends to the community. “Heavy vehicles would go through the main street instead of Thorne Road.” Cr Zappacosta said he wanted to encourage people to do their part to help the city grow, he said there were a number of lands around which had approval to be sub-divided but were still being used as farmland. He said council could help by bringing forward the construction of infrastructure to enable growth before reclaiming the money later on. Before and during his time on council, Cr Zappacosta said he been involved in a number of community committees and prided himself on being able to being able to feel the mood of what the people want from Griffith. He said his Build More Dams committee, started during the Millennium Drought, had had helped shift the conversation to the need for more water storage infrastructure through lobbying. “Raising of the Burrinjuck dam wall is being considered and Lake Coolah is being thought as potential storage,” he said. “With water spilling from dams it reminds us we need to capture more water.” He said family-owned companies would be one of the economic drivers of Griffith’s future, as well as a focus on value-adding onto the what’s grown in the region. “Our role is to facilitate and assist in opening doors, meeting political contacts, I love getting out there and meeting people and making contacts,” he said. “I would rather fly and meet someone else on the other side of the world than send an email.” Increasing youth representation would be a focus, Cr Zappacosta said, with plans for a youth council to address issues and to find new and innovative solutions to those problems. Cr Zappacosta emigrated from Italy at four years old with his parents and two brothers and two sisters in 1949. Co-owner of Hanwood Village Store with one of his sisters and sole owner of a small winery. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:

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What do the Griffith’s 2021 mayoral candidates hope to achieve in the top job? | The Area News Source link What do the Griffith’s 2021 mayoral candidates hope to achieve in the top job? | The Area News

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