Lord Mayor slams former "stupidity"
Darwin’s new Lord Mayor did not mince words in an attack on his predecessors this week.
Kon Vatskalis has officially been declared mayor following the city’s August 26 election, and while he says his own political career still takes him by surprise, he considers his win a victory for multiculturalism.
“For me it's a special honour because I'm the first Greek-born mayor of Darwin, and considering the Greek population that's significant because this is a true multicultural Darwin — somebody, doesn't matter where they come from, can reach a position like mayor,” he told the ABC this week.
He said claims of “sheer stupidity” and “stupid decisions” by previous councils had prompted him to run.
“I've seen Darwin in really good times and I've seen Darwin in really tough times, and this is one of those tough times we're going through,” he said.
“At the same time, some of the decisions made by the previous council really boggled my mind.
“Politics 101; don't piss off the voters, and they did that one.
“But it's more than that, you need a council to lead, and unfortunately I think the previous council did not.”
He pledged to work as a team with the council to improve the city, rather than as “Kon Vatskalis the Mayor” alone.
The new Lord Mayor had previously retired after serving 13 years in the Northern Territory's Legislative Assembly as the Member for Casuarina with the former Labor Government.
But he insisted party politics did not play a role in his return.
Mr Vatskalis denied that party politics played a part in his election, and said the Labor NT Government had no role in his campaign.
“I choose not to renew my membership of the Labor Party when I decided to [run for] mayor,” he said.
“The Labor Party had nothing to do with my campaign, my campaign was assisted by my own personal friends with donations of friends and my money.
“At the end I was struggling to find volunteers to be at the polling booths to give how-to-vote cards, but we did it.”
On the raw numbers, Mr Vatskalis trailed previous Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim by about 1,500 first-preference votes, but won with 15,769 votes to Ms Fong Lim's 14,433 after preferences.
“The distribution is the system we have at the moment, we have to live with it, like it or not, it's been there for many years,” he said.
“I think everybody got the message that people want something different from the previous council … if they haven't got the message yet, there's something wrong with them.
“The other thing we know very well is that people want change and they have been watching us very closely.
“It's not going to be what I will do, it's what we as elected members are going to do for this place.”
“I want to see that people can come down to the city centre and do their shopping … and then how are we going to bring life back to the mall without ignoring the suburbs?
One of the new Mayor’s first moves will be a push for one-hour or 90-minute free parking in the CBD, because he believes the current 15-minute free parking spaces are not good enough.
“I don't believe that car parking should be a fundraiser for the council, it should be for the convenience of the people,” he said.
He also said he wanted to stop rates from rising by 3 per cent each year, and would plans to transfer the city's Waterfront area to the council's control with the NT Government.
“I find it unbelievable that we have such an iconic place under the control of a corporation and not working together under the control of the Darwin City Council,” he said.
“We've got a really full agenda which I'm pretty sure will keep us occupied for the next four years.”