As local council elections fast approach in Melbourne, more controversy has sprung up in the culturally vibrant suburb of St. Kilda, once again involving Port Phillip Council, who recently enforced a bizarre music ban in the area as they entered caretaker mode.
Two running candidates for the council election have been involved in a scuffle, reports The Age, with an intervention order served to Jason Evans, preventing him from being within five metres or communicating with rival candidate and current councillor Serge Thomann.
Evans, is a local music activist best known as the founder of Melbourne’s Community Cup, who is running for the third time as a candidate for Catani Ward in the Port Phillip Council Elections, which take place tomorrow, Saturday 27 October 2012. Cr Thomann is his rival candidate, who has also demonstrated his support for live music – most recently with grilling his fellow council members about the funding controversy surrounding St. Kilda Festival.
The order that was issued Evans follows an incident involving the two at a Port Phillip Council after party last Tuesday night, in which Evans was supposedly removed after harassing Cr Thomann, who said he was “pleased with the Australian judicial system which protects its citizens.”
Mr Evans says the intervention order was a “farce and an injustice, and an abuse of legal process on the part of Serge Thomann.” Video footage published by The Age “clearly vindicates me,” said Mr Evans.
“My opponent has manipulated the court system to make an attack on democracy,” he continued. “This not only highlights the flaws in this system, but also shows how little Serge Thomann cares for truth or justice in his ruthless drive to stay in office.”[do action=”pullquote”]Mayor Rachel Powning expressed concern that the intervention order against Jason Evans would “compromise the running of a fair and proper local election.”[/do]
Adding that: “Intervention orders should not be used for political purposes… I believe this is an inappropriate course of action taken by Cr Thomann and as a fellow councillor I wish to distance myself from it,” Cr Powning said.
Mr. Evans’ candidacy is running on a platform of supporting live music and local culture, and in responding to music advocacy body Music Victoria’s open survey to potential candidates about their policies on music in their electorate, he noted that while he felt that St. Kilda didn’t have “many big issues” his key policies would be to address local noise complaints and aiding in the development of local strategies to support live music and culture.
He also added that not enough funding was given to music initiatives “in 20 years the Community Cup has never received one dollar from the City of Port Phillip,” adding however “we have a thriving culture music community, policy does not make this happen, people do.”
Mr Evans also stated that “If elected I propose to set up a proper St Kilda Music Festival. Similar to the Melbourne Music Festival and the soon to be launched City of Yarra Festival. This Festival would highlight the City Of Port Phillip’s Venues and its local musical community.”
The survival of the St Kilda Festival has drawn a lot of attention to the City Of Port Phillip’s attitudes to live music, with the future of the popular music event looking grim after major funding deficits of approx. $1.2 million was discovered in the budget, with council threatening to cancel the 2013 iteration of the event until pressure from local community and traders urged them to come to their senses and seek government funding to assist in bearing the costs.
Councillor Serge Thomann was a key figure during the whole controversy, the Catani Ward councillor was fighting in favour of the festival’s survival was making detailed enquiries about a refused Jeep sponsorship deal back in July that could have fixed the budgetary concerns, saying the cancellation would have been a “slap in the face” to the community.[do action=”pullquote-2″]”(The serving order) is a farce and an injustice, and an abuse of legal process on the part of Serge Thomann.”[/do]
Thomann also recognised that funding for the festival’s projected $1.2 million remained a challenge, “hopefully we will find a saviour in the next two to three months,” adding that crowdfunding through the likes of Kickstarter or Pozible may be a viable option if the state government chose to ignore offering financial assistance.
Thomann serving Evans with an injunction is another bizarre turn of events from the local council, who seemed to have turned a new leaf regarding their support of live music, who after calling for government funding the $1.6 million St. Kilda Festival budget, turned around weeks later and began enforcing a bizarre ruling that’s attempting to ban amplified music being played outside in Acland Street, one of Melbourne’s most popular tourist attractions.
Cr Thomann noting that the music ban ruling was first introduced in line with EPA guidelines in June 2010, following noise complaints made about amplified music playing in the street, adding that traders had already been offered to make a submission at the time, but had failed to do so.
Port Phillip Council had also helped balance out the issues over St Kilda’s beloved venue-come-record store Pure Pop Records, who were the target of staunch council restrictions before they did a backflip and helped the venue rather than hindered it. There’s also been the upward turn of fortunes for the Prince’s new bandroom over their Public Bar re-opening.
These events will all be taken into account as Victorians prepare for upcoming local council elections, with several potential candidates responding to music advocacy body Music Victoria’s open survey about where they stand on music in their electorate. Including former Mayor Dick Gross claims that the ‘campaign of complaints’ from residents grumbling about noise levels were “unreasonably undermining the viability of music venues in long standing entertainment precincts.”
Mr Gross also bluntly criticised the Port Phillip council’s inability to negotiate sponsorship for St Kilda Festival, nearly ruining the popular music event; “The current council have been hopeless. Imagine being unable to sell sponsorship to the largest open air festival in the southern hemisphere!”