Why is the Inner West Council trying to date its residents?
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Why is the Inner West Council trying to date its residents?

Look, it's really flattering, but your inhabitants think of you more as a local bureaucracy than a BFF

With the dramas in NSW about the legality of forced council mergers, the potential limitation of local planning permission powers, allegations of corrupt behaviour and the upcoming War on Golf, you can understand why the question foremost in the mind of the Inner West Council is effectively "do you like me? Y/N".

Its adorable insecurity (and possible wild misunderstanding of the nature of the relationship between the relatively new council and the people living within their merged borders) was on charming display in a recent mailout to constituents.

Rate your council? More like a dating site than a customer feedback form.

Rate your council? More like a dating site than a customer feedback form.

In this cutesy piece of future landfill entitled Creating Our Inner West 2036, the question was asked: "If your Council were a person, who would you want them to be?"

And you can understand why the council would … sorry, what?

See, normally councils don't ask that sort of question, since obviously most people would immediately say "Batman", or at least "Bette Davis circa Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte". But the Inner West Council went one better.

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The question was followed by a series of 12 emoji-style options that suggest either someone at the council has ambitions to create their own alternative zodiac or that OK Cupid are now running local council elections. Presumably future surveys will ask, "What's your idea of a perfect weekend with your council?" and "What's a council deal-breaker in the bedroom?"

The options for the personification of the IWC include "Sage" (an owl representing "wise, adviser, credible, knowledgeable" – although presumably not so wise as to know it's spelled "advisor"), "Rebel" (a fist signifying "non-conventional disruptive, challenger, liberated"), "Lover" (a heart that is "passionate, harmonious, connected, relationships") and "Creator" ("imaginative, innovative, initiative, original", seemingly represented by … um, a person in a woolly beret with magic on it, or something?).

Interestingly the list of adorable cartoon options representing what residents might look for in their council does not include "democratically elected", which is at least on message with recent history.

The Inner West Council has been in administration since May 2016, when the state government decided to sack the mayors of Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield and amalgamate their districts into the one council with a government-appointed administrator.

That decision saw an exodus of experienced staff and a great deal of furious, WestConnex-inspired protests. Maybe that "Rebel" option is a bit risky, then?

Now, let's remember that historically governments at all levels have been keen and enthusiastic users of management consultant garbage-nonsense, paying thousands to external advisors to help them shape their mission statements in order to better resonate with their clients, who for the most part just want their bins collected and for there to be a minimum of street closures when the assistant mayor celebrates the beginning of his doomed marriage.

And this would seem like an adorable wheeze if you didn't also know that it inevitably involved hours of meetings brainstorming on a whiteboard, with a team of people on eye-watering salaries looking to innovate proactively outside the box.

And look, for my part, I'd like my council to be "Everyperson" ("egalitarian, partner, collaborative, unpretentious", evocatively represented by a series of chess pieces fading into ghostly oblivion). But more importantly, I'd like my council to … well, be my council.

Look after local issues. Represent the community of which I am a part. Mow some verges, provide recycling services, hold the odd street festival. You know, just be a council. We really don't need to be pals, much less sign off on a list of strategic values that will gel with my core beliefs.

A democratically elected council rather than state-appointed administrators would be a nice start.

Maybe we'll get one of those after September.

Andrew P Street

Andrew P Street is a columnist for Fairfax Media.

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