Wednesday, 31 August 2011

How three singing butchers got me thinking about my campaign

The other day I was in that great Fremantle institution, Frank's butcher, waiting while a young apprentice pounded my steak for me.  Another couple of staff also in their late teens were busy behind the counter. There was a song playing on the radio, something modern that my wife would know the name of, sung by a woman in a clear, pure falsetto.

I was watching my meat being tenderised when the song reached its chorus and something odd and really quite wonderful happened - with perfect synchronicity, the three young staff downed tools, shut their eyes and started singing along, unashamedly, in falsettos that matched the original vocalist's in power and feeling if not in purity.

When the chorus finished, the young men opened their eyes and resumed their cutting and pounding without so much as a murmur.

It occurred to me then that it wasn't just the quality of the meat and the service that attracted me to Frank's.  It was the fact that if I went to the nearest supermarket for my sausages, I'd have missed hearing three teenage boys raise their honestly quite tuneless voices in song in a way that was truly unforgettable.  I'm pretty sure that singing to the customers is against the rules in supermarkets.

It's because of things like that, that I will always support the local over the conglomerate, the smaller trader with sincerity rather than the supermarket with a customer service charter.  Whether I'm in Frank's getting free music, or at Villa Roma with my 3 year old nephew getting free lemon mousse because Nunzio's remembered he likes sour things, it's the sincerity that makes the difference.  Try to run a top notch business according to a charter dreamt up by a marketing team, and you'll always end up with less soul.

And the more I think about it, the more I feel that the same applies to candidates running for council in local elections.  There are several types, as far as I can see: the supermarket kind, who are in it for business reasons and who care deeply about a narrow set of isssues but not much else, or who are aligned with a political party and operate according to the party line, often at the cost of a right decision for the locality...and then there are those like Frank's Butcher.  That's the candidate I feel like I am, and that I will strive to be.  Local, sincere, unaffiliated to any party, switched on to what's really important at the end of the day.  And not good at singing.

I'm not saying that every other candidate for this seat won't be capable of making good decisions (and not just because it would get me into trouble).  I'm just saying - ask the questions.  What are going to be the influencing factors when it comes time to make a tricky decision - party lines, business interests or what's good for Freo?  For me, it will always come down to the fact that I live here and I love it - and I want Freo to keep growing into everything it promises it can be.

In praise of crosswalks

This opinion may make me unpopular in some circles (certainly with my parents-in-law), but one of my favourite examples of what works in Fremantle is the crosswalks on Cantonment Street.

These humble white stripes to me are a kind of marker to the entrance of the Fremantle city centre, both physically and philosophically.  Outside this boundary, cars rule the road and strolling the streets is not encouraged.  Approach Cantonment Street, however, and the crosswalks send a clear message – here, a different state of mind is demanded of visitors.  Suddenly, you’re in a place where it’s pedestrians, not motorists, who are given priority.  It’s a nice place for a wander and a browse in shop windows, or a coffee at an alfresco table.  Families and children can feel just that little bit safer knowing they’re not walking next to four lanes of traffic roaring past at 60 km/hr.

One of my favourite sights at the crosswalk is watching the courtesy, the small but significant moment of connection, that occurs between motorists and pedestrians.  Watch for a few minutes the behaviour of people crossing the road.  As a car approaches and stops, most pedestrians will give a slight nod and a smile of thanks, or a wave, or even a thumbs-up sign, and often receive a friendly nod in return.  Where else in Perth can you find this, I wonder, when so often motorists and pedestrians and cyclists are opposing parties in an ongoing struggle for ownership of the streets?

This friendliness often continues further down the road.  Head towards Market Street, and wait by the side of the road to cross.  Often, an approaching motorist will stop and wave you across.  They’re on board with the Fremantle vibe, you see – they know that here we’ve figured out how to share the road.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Fremantle must move ahead so that we don't lose the future

"If we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future."

- Winston Churchill

Fremantle has stayed still for too long. I'm not satisfied that this great city has laid anchor while other local governments are pushing forward and overtaking us. I'm not satisfied that we have to look to the City of Perth to see how to create a liveable, vibrant and fun city centre. Most of all, as a father who will be raising my daughter in this great city, I'm not satisfied that we are in danger of losing the future.

My task is not merely one of itemising Council's failures since the America's Cup. Those residents who have retreated into their homes in the city ward because of antisocial behaviour will know how to vote. Those residents who want to be able to enjoy Kings Square with other people instead of seeing the place devoid of life will know how to vote. Other residents who resent seeing vacant buildings being left to decay will also know how to vote. The traders who lie idle on a Wednesday afternoon, the landowners who are struggling to attract tenants and who are subject to restrictive red tape so that they cannot plan for the future with certainty, the parents of children without adequate, fun places in the city centre: they all know that it's time to change.

I'm not satisfied. The challenge is too urgent and the stakes are too high to permit staying still and quarrelling between the present and the past. Today our concern must be with the future of Fremantle, for all around us the times are changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do. As she grows up I want my daughter to be proud of this great city because her friends, her teachers, her colleagues will be looking to what Fremantle is doing instead of the City of Perth.

Monday, 29 August 2011

What's working, what needs improving, what's not working in Fremantle

Fremantle is a great city. I am running for Council because I think that it can be greater. I think that we can make Fremantle move ahead again. In this post, I outline what I believe is working, what needs improving and what isn't working in Fremantle.

So what works?
- Walking around the city on a sunny spring Sunday afternoon and feeling the place buzzing with families and friends gathering to have fun. For the time being Fremantle is still a destination.
- Fremantle's history, heritage and character set the context for the future. We have a city that can be the place to see past, present and future mix.

What needs improving?
- The city centre feels old and tired.
- Getting more activity into the city centre.
- Priority for pedestrians and cyclists.

What isn't working?
- Antisocial behaviour.
- Needless red tape.
- Too many vacant buildings.

In all these areas, I believe that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We must build on our strengths, make improvements where necessary and fix what is not working before it is too late. If we can succeed then Fremantle can become a leading city again.

I'm not satisfied with continuing to lay anchor and staying still while other local governments move ahead. I'm not happy seeing this great city fail. That is why I believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure - my medicine will get Fremantle moving ahead again.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Why I'm running for Council

This is a great city, but I think that it can be a greater city. I'm not satisfied that our population is not growing. I'm not satisfied being confronted with antisocial behaviour every afternoon and evening. I'm not satisfied walking past rundown buildings, old infrastructure, dirty pavements and empty storefronts. I'm not satisfied with red tape that restricts innovation and creativity.

More people living, working and visiting Fremantle combined with innovative, local and successful businesses means a strong and vibrant Fremantle. It means that we can be competitive. It means that we can start building up to a standard instead of down to a price. I think that we can do better. I don't want the proud history of this city and the talents of our residents and businesses to be wasted.

I am motivated to create a better, safer and fun Fremantle for our residents, businesses, workers, visitors and for my daughter. I want people around Perth to start looking to Fremantle to see how we're doing things - like they used to when Fremantle pioneered alfresco dining in the 1980s. Mostly, I think that it is time Fremantle started moving forward again.

I seek your support, to elect me on your behalf and the community for the type of thoughtful, planned growth that gets Fremantle moving ahead again.

My background in brief

My wife and I live in Cantonment Street in the City Ward. Fremantle is our backyard. We are expecting our first child later this year and I'm looking forward to her growing up in Fremantle.

I am independent and not aligned with any political party or business association. I am not a single issue candidate. If elected, this means that I will be able to take a broad view and have an open mind on all issues and vote according to achieving the best possible outcome for the future of Fremantle.

I work in strategic urban planning in local government and have a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a Post Graduate Diploma in Project Management. My fresh perspective, skills and local knowledge provide strong credentials for being an effective Councillor, working diligently and persistently for a better Fremantle.


Welcome to my Fremantle Council election blog!

My name is Michael Swanepoel; I am married and live in Cantonment Street; my wife and I are expecting our first child later this year; and I'm running as a candidate for the City Ward in this year's Fremantle Council election.

I'm using this blog to provide information about my candidacy.

Leading up to the local government elections in October, I'll be including information about my views on local issues and what I intend to focus on as Councillor.

So sit back and enjoy - and make sure to get in touch if you have any questions or issues to discuss.

Michael Swanepoel.