At the far end of the market sat a parked bus that announced itself as a 'Talk Bus'. People with black t-shirts and balloons covered in hashtags were trying (and mostly failing) to connect with passers-by. They wanted to know what we loved about living in Sydney, and our ideas for making it better.
Someone from the bus tried to give one of my kids a balloon. It kinda freaked her out and she grabbed her mum's leg. Exactly, girlfriend. They also tried to stop my Mum for a chat. Mum's nice, and she politely declined. But in a classic spruiker move, that politeness was twisted into an invitation to talk some more. Mum tried to escape by telling them she was old, and that if it was all about the future, maybe they should be asking younger people. The frustrated spruiker then had a crack at her -- "what, younger people like the ones you're here with? They just walked past without talking to me!". End of engagement. I wonder what box got ticked on the woman's clipboard...?
It turned out the Talk Bus people were from the newly-established Greater Sydney Commission.
Here's a tweet of a picture of a camera filming a moment of consultation in front of the Talk Bus, with a guy with one of the hashtag balloons in the background:
Greater Sydney Commission in action, working with some people and their
dog to "co-create a more prosperous and liveable Sydney" |
Image source: GSC Twitter Feed
Apparently, the Talk Bus will be travelling around Sydney for the next few weeks. Planning Minister Rob Stokes says it's all about "hearing directly from the local community to help shape the future of Sydney".
My blood is starting to boil just from typing out those words ... honestly.
I don't know anyone who works at the Greater Sydney Commission. They might be lovely people, for all I know. But I do know some bullshit when I smell it.
With the recent establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission, a bunch of appointed Commissioners have acquired incredible powers to shape this city. They've been given those powers by a Tory NSW Government that claims Sydney's problems are caused by the lack of a metropolitan planning authority. Apparently we need such an authority to make 'strategic' decisions for the city as a whole. Reduce silos! Cut red/green tape! Blah blah blah.
But the things that are most wrong with my town are not going to be fixed by the creation of the Greater Sydney Commission. In fact, the way that the NSW Government has gone about establishing the Greater Sydney Commission is a perfect example of what's most messed up with the way this city is governed.
When my mum extricated herself from the Talk Bus, she suggested maybe I should go talk to them and tell them what I thought. Best if I don't, I said. I'm not a fan of tokenistic consultation, and had no interest in contributing to their 'engagement' statistics. I was also a little annoyed that they had tried to get to me through my kid, and then made my Mum feel bad about not talking to them. And I had spotted the empanadas.
But I probably should have stopped for a yarn, because I just ended up spending the rest of the afternoon being a little distracted, thinking of the kinds of things I coulda-shoulda-woulda said. You know the feeling, right?
Then I remembered I have a blog...
I don't have a problem with the idea of a planning for the city as a whole. In fact, I spend a lot of my time thinking about 'the city as a whole', and how it might be organised and represented and made more just, beyond local initiatives.
But as I've argued elsewhere on this blog, when people make claims to be representing 'the city as a whole', we have to ask some critical questions about the kinds of authority on which those claims are based.