May 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
It started with a public meeting and finished with a war cry : ‘We Have A Vision For Fremantle’
Two weeks ago the Fremantle Inner City Residents Association (Ficra) called a public meeting, chaired by Dick Baynam, to discuss three major issues which may affect the city’s future development: The Wardens’ Cottages in Henderson Street; the issue of a youth plaza and it’s placement on The Esplanade and issues surrounding the development of Arthur Head as an arts and heritage precinct.
The meeting was well organised and former councillor John Dowson made five-minute presentations prior to the discussion of each issue. It had the potential to show what can be achieved with public input. Inexplicably some of the 200 attendees jeered the mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, as he attempted to clarify issues.
In hindsight Ficra must see it as an error of judgement to discuss three major issues at one meeting. The net result was that two points, those related to the cottages and Arthur Head were completely lost in what amounted to a slanging match between West End residents and about a dozen skateboard park supporters who sometimes struggled to be heard.
While the meeting didn’t quite descend into chaos the mayor and Dick Baynam did have a heated discussion when the meeting closed.
Councillor Coggin: ‘We’re Not Mad’
The following Wednesday a general meeting of the Fremantle City Council was held and important lessons must be learnt from it. Principally Ficra and the Fremantle Society must realise if they wish to gain any traction against changes in Fremantle they have to understand the power of social media and the necessity to deliver messages succinctly across a broad base of residents.
With little effort the supporters of a Youth Plaza were able to encourage approximately two hundred skaters into the council chamber. Skaters confirmed they had responded to a Facebook posting. Well briefed enthusiasts, parents and teachers outlined their reasons for a skateboard park to be constructed in Fremantle, supporting the council’s preferred site of The Esplanade. The case was eloquently repeated by skaters aged anywhere between 15 and 40 who were greeted with rousing applause.
To coin a skateboarding term they effectively ‘kick flipped’ Ficra out of the debate. The evening finished with majority vote by councillors in favour of the skateboard park to be built on The Esplanade. Councillor Dave Coggin, in a moment of Churchillian eloquence and speaking on behalf of a united council effectively concluded the debate with a rallying cry:
“We are not mad. We know exactly what we are doing. We have a vision for Fremantle as a vibrant, creative and welcoming place. For more people living, working and recreating in Fremantle. Children and Youth are a core part of that vision, which is why we are welcoming them into our hearts with the Esplanade Youth Plaza”.
A point made after the meeting by Councillor Andrew Sullivan was that nobody, at any point in either debate, had offered a realistic alternative to the Esplanade site.
He said: “Objectors are telling us they’d support the Youth Plaza if it were built somewhere else but they’re being disingenuous because the only sites they mention are on the fringes of the City. Those who oppose the Esplanade would be even more outraged if we moved it to Kings Square, Pioneer Reserve or Princess May Park”.
Will Ficra and Fremantle Society Fightback? An Opportunity For Strong Leadership
Now that Roel Loopers has resigned from the Fremantle Society presidency (for the second time) there is a real opportunity for the society to elect a strong, unambiguous, leader.
Build on Overwhelming Vote
Former deputy mayor John Dowson said: “It is sad council has not put this out for public consultation” but in agreeing that residents want to have good youth facilities in Fremantle he reiterated the feelings of the previous night’s meeting at which an overwhelming vote against the Esplanade site was recorded.
The vote at the public meeting was close to unanimous. Several councillors who attended would attest to that but without a well organised campaign it is unlikely that challenges to current planning will be effective.
April 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
Roel Loopers Quits BID Committee
Fremantle BackChat understands that Roel Loopers, the President of the Fremantle Society has quit his position on the board of the Fremantle Business Improvement District (BID) committee. BID is an organisation which has been established to assist businesses in Fremantle and is partially funded by ratepayers.
Loopers resignation, unlike his resignation from the presidency of the Fremantle Society, was made without fanfare. Unlike that resignation he has apparently not been asked to reconsider his BID decision.
Deadbeats And Has Beens
Concerns had been raised about Loopers suitability to be a member of the board. Shortly before he was elected to the BID board the Fremantle based photographer had referred to a group of successful professional photographers and academics, who had organised the Fremantle Portrait Prize, as: ” … a bunch of dead beats and has beens” on social media.
The Fremantle Portrait Prize, run by a group of dedicated volunteers attracted close to 700 entries from 22 countries and world-wide publicity for the city. Though it received no public funding the success of the venture was such that about $6000 was donated to charity. Loopers comments reverberated throughout the Australian photographic industry, were condemned as unethical and unprofessional and prompted one committee member to ask : “Does Roel drink?”
Shortly after Loopers made the comments he was elected to the board of the embryonic BID and questions were asked as to whether a person who had condemned members of his own profession and openly admitted his own business was struggling was a suitable candidate to advise other business owners.
Looking For Work
In a recent blog headed “Fremantle’s Ugliest Man Looking for Work” (Freo’s View 29 March 2013) Loopers intimated that his business has failed and he is looking for work. He said: ” … as my profession has not sustained me … I am keen to find additional work to create regular income”.
Over a period of several years a number people, mostly friends and colleagues, made generous attempts to assist Loopers but that help and advice, in nearly every instance, was rejected.
Loopers is normally a generous, jovial and gregarious character, prepared to help anybody and to volunteer for many things. He has, as a result, received public recognition in the form of a citizen’s award. He also promotes himself as Fremantle’s most popular blogger using the social media as a cut and thrust, though often one sided and inaccurate, vehicle for his opinions and is frequently outraged when his debatable opinions are challenged.
However, in describing himself as the King of Uglyland he may be advertising another side of his character.
American Journalist Threatened
It has come to the attention of Fremantle BackChat that Loopers has periodically sent emails to members of the community who have agitated him. These emails often contain personal insults and threats of legal action. In some cases [including this writer] he made accusations of bullying and threatened to ‘inform police’. When asked to produce the evidence or to post a comment or retraction to accusations on his blog he has steadfastly refused to do so.
In one instance an American journalist, who wrote an excellent promotional article about Fremantle on the internet, was threatened with legal action for copyright infringement. The journalist was accused of illegally using Loopers pictures to illustrate the Fremantle article. If there was an infringement it was possibly on the part of the people who chose the picture and posted them on the blog, not the journalist. Loopers has never proceeded with his threats against anybody and in that case did not make an apology for his erroneous accusation.
In an incident involving a local entrepreneur Loopers voluntarily supplied a set of pictures, free of charge, to be used on a promotional web site. They were excellent images and did Loopers professional ability no harm at all. However it appears he had a fit of pique, presuming his work was not well enough appreciated. As a result he asked that the pictures be removed from the site and if they were not he would take action for copyright infringement. The email was impolite and his action appeared to have been churlish.
In light of these and other intemperate outbursts it seems that the choice for Loopers to be a BID member may have been poor.