Exclusive: New push for public to decide Mayor

Penrith Councillor Marcus Cornish. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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A referendum to gauge Penrith’s appetite for electing its own Mayor could be on the horizon.

The Weekender can exclusively reveal Councillor Marcus Cornish will table a Notice of Motion at Monday night’s Council meeting, seeking Council conduct a constitutional referendum at the Local Government elections on September 4.

Cr Cornish said it was an issue constituents kept asking about and needed to be addressed.

“I’ll be putting that forward because the people have a right to choose who their Mayor is,” he said.

“At the moment, our Mayor is selected by 15 Councillors, where it should be voted on by the 200,000 people in Penrith.”

A popularly-elected Mayor would also squash a deal between the major parties that has seen them take turns at the top job in recent years, Cr Cornish contends.

“It will certainly stop the political coalition of Labor and Liberal voting for each other and therefore muting the opinion of Independent Councillors,” he said.

Fellow Independent Councillor Kevin Crameri is expected to second the Motion.

“I think it’s good for Penrith to break that cycle because the junior Liberals and junior Labor have no say,” he said.

Cr Crameri admitted he hasn’t always been supportive of a popularly-elected Mayor in the past.

“You can get somebody who is useless but popular, you can get one that is good but has a hostile Council,” he said of the pitfalls.

“It means that you would definitely not have any more Independent Mayors – they would all be Labor or Liberal unless there is an extremely popular one, which would be unusual out here.

“But having weighed up the pros and cons, I feel I have to support it.”
However, Council’s third Independent Jim Aitken remains undecided.

“It’s a difficult one, you’re not necessarily better off,” he said.

Out of NSW’s 128 Councils, 36 are due to hold an election for a popularly-elected Mayor at the 2021 Local Government elections, an Office of Local Government spokesperson said.

“Popularly-elected Mayors hold office for four years (as opposed to two years for Mayors elected by Councillors),” they said.

“If the constitutional referendum is passed, it will take effect from the 2024 election.”

A majority of Penrith Councillors have to first agree to the referendum on Monday night for it to proceed.

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