At the shop where I get my morning coffee, the pie and soft drink deal usually in the window has been replaced with a picture of a well known local identity and “Vote 1” in big letters.
Further down towards the entrance, there’s another face with the same message. It gets a bit like that at this time every four years – the faces become blurred, the messages strikingly similar.
Tomorrow, Penrith residents will moan and groan as they head to their local polling booth to cast their vote for somebody they’ve probably never heard of, representing a ward they didn’t even know they lived in.
The good news is, a cheap sausage sizzle will probably be on offer. Tomorrow is indeed an important day, and whilst Local Government elections hardly produce the fanfare of their State and Federal counterparts, the truth is that the result of tomorrow’s poll is actually very important.
Decisions made at Council level affect the nitty gritty of your everyday lives, often more than what happens higher. Many have said they don’t know who is standing or what they represent, and hopefully we clear that up today with a significant feature that profiles every lead candidate on each ticket.
Candidates speak in their own words, and leave it up to you to sort the well intentioned from the glory chasers. It wouldn’t be a Penrith election without a little bit of controversy and I would like to quickly address the claims made by councillor Marko Malkoc in a Sunday newspaper last weekend.
The Weekender, myself and journalist Cassandra O’Connor have been aware of this story for several weeks and we have treated it very seriously given the veracity of the allegations being aired.
However, we made a decision not to report those allegations on the basis of several things, including the timing of them being shopped around to the media.
The fact that this story ultimately broke six days before an election, despite the incidents apparently happening some time ago, is very telling. I’m not here to be judge and jury, nor am I declaring Cr Malkoc’s allegations true or false, but the timing combined with a severe lack of proof led to us taking the responsible decision to not print the allegations.
Clearly, The Sun Herald saw something we didn’t. When you consider what this election is actually about – electing community representatives to make responsible decisions about the area in which we live and the rates we pay – voters could be confused about who’s who and what’s what.
This is highlighted most by the carbon tax, which has got a run from a number of candidates over the last month. The carbon tax is in no way a local issue nor will the problems surrounding it ever be solved in the Council chambers.
But, it’s the buzz term of 2012 and hence it is hardly surprising that it is being used as a vote-grabbing tool. There’s been some positive local announcements, too, but no candidate has a run a particularly strong, standout campaign.
There’s of course a rather bizarre twist in this election in that no Liberal candidates have been endorsed, forcing Liberal Party members to run as Independents.
This is a confusing, farcical situation that has forced such candidates to be rather creative with their election material to get the point across that their political background and allegiance is with the Liberals. In the process, the electorate just gets more and more confused.
For those who follow local Council closely, you will go to the ballot box tomorrow with some form of confidence that you know what’s been achieved, what hasn’t and who the right people are to take the city forward.
For those who don’t follow things so closely, my comment would be this: The vast majority of people who have put their hand up for election tomorrow have done so because they are passionate about Penrith. No matter what their histories, day jobs or CVs say, most care about this city and want a say in its future.
Of course, the odd candidate whose intentions are poor will always slip through, but we’re usually smart enough to avoid them. I’m one who believes that if you don’t want to vote tomorrow, you shouldn’t have to.
The vote of somebody who is passionate about who is elected should not be of the same value as someone who couldn’t care less. But the reality is that all of us have to vote, and hence, we would be foolish not to make it count. If you choose not to care, you have little right to expect others to care in return.
This current Council has done a pretty good job in a time of immense change and growth in Penrith. It’s up to you to make sure the next Council matches or exceeds that.