Responses to The Crag Community – November 21

Council is in Caretaker mode so there is no monthly report for November. Below are some answers I’ve put together for The Crag Community facebook group.

1.  General introduction

Personal Background

I grew up in the USA and am in my 12th year of living in Australia in Willoughby Council.  I’ve had the honour of representing Willoughby’s West Ward for the last 4 years as Councillor, and served the last 2 years as Deputy Mayor.

I am an entrepreneur with a business background, currently self-employed and successfully running a small business with 45 employees in the industrial machinery business.  I have previously worked in the export business lived in Germany, Denmark, Mexico, and the USA before I came to Australia (and I speak all of those languages plus a bit of Japanese).

My children attend Mowbray Public School (and soon Chatswood High), where I previously served as the president of the P&C. I also served as the treasurer of the Chatswood West Ward Progress Association. And of course, I have served the last 4 years as a Councillor and the last 2 years as Deputy Mayor.

Four years ago I was a fresh face on Council, and I passionately believe I’ve been able to make a real difference by bringing some energy, logic, and business oriented accountability to our local community. We’re on a good path, and I’d like to finish the work I started on our residents’ behalf.

Experience and credentials for the role

I bring a business background and approach to the role, augmented with my experience serving as a councillor for West Ward for the last 4 years as deputy mayor for 2 terms from 2019-2021.  I am a pragmatist, but one who knows how to build something up and achieve a vision (and keep to budget).  I am also community minded in the sense that I believe a strong and vibrant local community is by far the most important thing in our day-to-day happiness.  I am also conscious that decisions need to be made in the context of what’s best for the community as a whole—all of it, not just the small, vocal interests who do not always represent the broader community views.

Statement of any political affiliations (including membership of any political party)

I am a member of the Liberal Party, but not endorsed, so I am free to act as I see fit.  I waited for more than 10 years after coming to Australia to join a party in order to see how the various options actually acted in addition to what they said, and I ultimately landed with the Liberal Party, as it generally acts in accordance with my views. 

Short summary policy statement.

I am standing because I love this community and want to continue the good work we’ve done this Council term—to deliver the projects we have in the pipeline, to continue building Willoughby into the best place to work and live on the North Shore, and to improve where we can.  I will be bringing a community-based approach together with my business background and my experience on Council with 2 terms as Deputy Mayor.  I want to lead our economic recovery and ensure that the Council remains financially stable and responsible.  My children are also involved with the Chatswood Rangers, Norths basketball, Scouts, and attend local schools. I know the importance of our open space and a community focus for our public facilities and would bring that into my decision making.

2.  Policies

The operation of the Council

Our Council is operating well.  Our budget is balanced; we have great projects in the pipeline; we have the right strategic plans in place; and our residents are generally happy.  This needs to continue.  But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum—the staff need strategic and financial support to make sure we deliver.  Also, COVID has left a $20 million (and counting) hole in our budget, so it will be critical to make the tough choices to ensure we continue delivering and performing well.

However, we can also improve in some areas, especially in the area of resident customer service.  We need more transparency on processes and resident requests, so that everyone can easily track issues through the system and get answers quickly.  We also need to improve our bias toward action—things should not take forever to accomplish just because that’s always the way it’s been done.

Willoughby generally

COVID has decimated our local businesses, and we’ve all been locked up for quite a while.  We need to bring back events as often and as broadly as possible to recapture that sense of community.  That will also help out our local businesses by bringing people into the area.  We need to stick to our plans of revitalising our local centres to being the village feel back to our neighbourhoods, and we need to stick to our plans of concentrating development density in the core transport hubs in the CBDs of Chatswood and St Leonards so that our neighbourhoods retain their unique character.  We also need to protect our industrial areas, core business zones, and hospital precincts from residential development.

Castlecrag specifically (including any views regarding Quadrangle redevelopment, village redevelopment, parking and the Haven)

I support the Castlecrag local centre plan, and whilst I technically cannot comment on the Quadrangle due to the fact that there is a chance I will be called on to vote on that DA when it comes through the Sydney North Planning Panel, let’s just say I am happy to see the decision my colleagues recently made on the Quadrangle development.  I believe that we should protect and add parking where we can, and any developments need to take into account the blunt reality that people like to drive, despite all the incentives for them to take public transport.

Regarding the Haven, I am pleased to see that Council has returned it to its original state and brought back the Carols (albeit interrupted for COVID).  I would like to see the stage completed in a more practical form than is currently proposed, although it also needs to be compliant with the law.  I am open to revisiting the 50:50 funding model, especially if we can secure some grant funding.

Any other planks in your policy platform.
  • Sound Finances.  I intend to maintain financial stability and a balanced budget, despite the COVID hit to the budget.  This will mean some hard choices, but we can do it.
  • Community Projects / Sport & Leisure.  I intend to deliver on the keystone capital projects currently in the pipeline (like the Gore Hill Sports Centre and the Willoughby Leisure Centre pool upgrade), and I believe we should add recreation facilities and investment wherever we can.
  • Local Centres.  I intend to support our local centres strategy so that we see some revitalisation of our local neighbourhoods and better amenity for our residents.
  • Local Businesses.  I intend to continue supporting our local businesses in any way we can – they are the lifeblood of our community vibrancy.  This includes helping develop a night-time economy in our CBD.
  • Events and Community.  I intend to support more frequent and better events to bring the community together and recapture the magic of living in Willoughby.
  • Focus on Residents.  I intend to make sure Council serves residents, not the other way around.  This includes improving our resident customer service and making our interactions with Council more transparent.
  • Sustainable Development.  I intend to stick to our guns on development strategy.  We have a good one—density stays near the transport hubs and in the CBDs.  Developers are constantly pushing the envelope—often using tools handed to them by the NSW planning laws, and I will push to keep that from happening.  I intend to follow our Green City Plan in that respect.
  • Lower Rates.  I intend to keep rates low.  We have some of the lowest rates on the North Shore, and our infrastructure levy will lapse soon, which means the overall rate burden will actually decrease.  This needs to continue, and our operations need to live within the budget we have so that this can be the case.
  • Keep our Bins.  I intend to keep our bin service as it is.  There are forces out there pushing for smaller bin sizes and less frequent collection schedules, but this just leads to frustration and illegal dumping.  We have an excellent service that handles our recycling well, and we should keep it that way.
  • Traffic and Parking.  I intend to push to consider traffic matters holistically in terms of flow, not just as local matters with the hope that everything works out in the end.  I support protecting our parking and adding more where we can.

In summary, why should people consider voting for you?

I love our community and want to see it succeed even more.  I want to continue the good work we’ve done so far, and I have the practical business and council experience, including serving for 2 years as deputy mayor, to back it up and make it happen.  I believe Council should function efficiently and quietly, avoid activism, and make life as easy for our residents and businesses as we can.  I am not a career politician, and do not see this role as stepping stone to something else or as a resume enhancer.  I keep my promises.  I would be honoured to serve as your mayor, and I believe I would be good at it.  I humbly ask for your vote.

4.  Anything else you would like to share with the community?

The best source of info is my website:  www.craigformayor.com.au.  It contains a large amount of info on my record so far, my beliefs that inform my decision making, and more info on my policy platform.  I am also on Facebook under Craig for Mayor.

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