Front Bar Diplomacy: Incumbents debate factions, the city’s future
In the second part of our city council election series, incumbent candidates Keiran Snape and Alexander Hyde meet at the Cranka to debate about council factions and what they’ll do for the CBD if re-elected in November.
After a long week at work, nothing tastes as good as a crisp, frosty pint of beer.
It’s only Tuesday when CityMag meets city council candidates Keiran Snape and Alexander Hyde, but a boozy beverage is required all the same.
There have been many late nights over the last term of council, and we’ve invited the duo to the Crown & Anchor to discuss their achievements to date and why they’re running for local government again.
While we wait for former south ward councillor Alexander and area councillor Keiran to show up (they’re both running late), we reflect on the colourful moments that have punctuated their plucky careers.
Alexander, a former staffer of Liberal politician Nicolle Flint and active member of the SA Liberal Party, came into the council before we started reporting on the round. At the time, he was highlighted by InDaily as heir-apparent to majority voting bloc, Team Adelaide.
After CityMag joined the council media scrum, we reported that Alexander overturned an original council decision to support the Marshall Liberal Government’s $662m Riverbank Arena, and hardened the city’s stance against CCTV facial recognition technology.
Keiran, a former hospitality worker and an active member of the SA Greens, joined the council in 2021 after successfully winning the vacated area councillor position through a by-election. He is a member of The Independents, a loosely affiliated group working against Team Adelaide.
Some career highlights for Keiran, a self-described progressive politician, include suggesting a female council adversary in Team Adelaide be “booted off” a working group set up to decide on the location of portraits of female former lord mayors in Town Hall, and advocating for the administration to setup blister-pack collection bins.
Both men belong to opposing factions, but at 3:08pm, Alexander shows up, followed by Keiran two minutes later, and, despite their conflicting political preferences, they both chat collegially at the bar while ordering their sparkling beverages. They then take a seat with us by the pool table.
And so, without further fluff, here are the Front Bar Diplomacy highlights, edited for clarity and concision.
CityMag: What is your drink of choice at the pub?
Alexander Hyde: Sparkling ale.
Keiran Snape: If it’s a warm afternoon, cider; if it’s a cold evening, red wine.
CM: Do you did you drink wine or water after those really long council meetings?
AH: I just slept. I’m not a big drinker. They sometimes run for a little while, but it’s not actually the length that is the issue. It’s that some of the debates can be gruelling, and some of the personal attacks are not nice either. But it’s actually [about] the content and the high-level decision-making, so you actually need to be switched on. You’ve seen those agendas. They’re 500 pages.
KS: It could be shorter. We could have fortnightly meetings.
AH: I don’t think that is good decision-making.
CM: What about you Keiran? How do you knock off?
KS: Definitely wine. I would love to share a bottle – with Councillor Moran, Martin and myself – [like we did] back in the day. We’d often break bread and have some food as well. It’s kind of how we keep the professional relationship [going], with wines, and treat people outside of the chamber. I’d love to see that come back to the wider council as well. Have dinner after meetings. Nothing expensive – keep it cheap and cheerful.
I don’t think anyone in that room is completely innocent. I will always give a fierce defence of what I believe is right and the values that I have.
CM: Can’t you do that, just not on the council’s dime?
KS: I’m happy to pay my way, for sure. But it’s whether or not other people would come along. I know Councillor Moran has often put out invitations to other councillors and executives to come along and enjoy the dinner she’s cooked. Me and Phil [Martin] would bring a bottle each or something. Every time it was just the four of us, including Greg Mackie.
AH: I think it’s all well and good to put out an invitation. But I think that the issue is a lot of new councillors, and I was new this term, we’re quite simply not made to feel welcome. And that was, I think, the issue why dinners degenerated. Now, I’m not of the view that [we should be] forking out $50,000 for three course meals after every meeting – and that doesn’t include the cost of alcohol, free grog.
What I don’t accept is that people can’t treat each other in a civilised way within the chamber meeting. And I think if it was done within the chamber, you wouldn’t need to have this silly idea of a kiss and makeup after. I think people can and should have robust debate on the merits of a topic, and they should be able to do that without getting overly personal.
CM: How would you both characterise your last terms in the chamber?
KS: In my case, it has been just over 12 months, 13 months now. It has been tough, but I knew it would be tough going into it. There is a lot of divisions; there’s just a lot of tension in the chamber.
I don’t think anyone in that room is completely innocent. I will always give a fierce defence of what I believe is right and the values that I have. I’m not a shrinking violet, that’s for sure.
CM: What about you, Alex?
AH: I ran quite simply because I wanted to do a few things in the community. I didn’t expect to have to help manage the city as Deputy Lord Mayor. That was a bit of a shock. But I think we rose to that challenge. I also didn’t expect to find the city in such poor administrative shape, and it probably took about 18 months to get my head around what exactly was wrong, but the place was incredibly inefficient, [and] incredibly bloated.
There was a $21 million deficit we inherited. We’ve now got it back to a surplus for the first time in nine years. It was $28 million dollars in debt. We’ve paid that down to $8 million.
KS: A lot of the basic services and staffing levels have been cut in the city. I’m not talking about the executives. I’m talking about the people who clean our streets and who look after our park lands. People are noticing these services are not what they used to be.
CM: What data are you referring to, Keiran, that supports this claim?
KS: Off the top of my head, I’m going anecdotally. People in the community and I myself have noticed that the services, the standards of the service provided, are not what it’s used to be.
AH: It’s because they haven’t and this is one of the big things we deal with as councillors: how clean something unclean it is. And that’s something we work through. We found efficiencies internally in the corporation. It wasn’t outwardly facing.
CM: You’re speaking a lot for the community that you want to advocate for and service, Alexander. But how can ratepayers trust that you won’t leave your council role again and run for preselection, as you did this year?
AH: There were two factors in that decision for me, and primarily my concerns were here at the city. Number one is that it wouldn’t have caused a by-election if I ran because of the timing of it, and that’s really important to me. The other is the track record of this council that actually shows that we’ve got more done in the last four years than most councils would do in a substantial period of time.
Some people injected some organisation to [Team Adelaide], but it was actually a worldview. It was a state of mind.
CM: Did you approach your prior term with the Adelaide City Council as a single drink or a lock-in exercise? Meaning, did you just dip your toes in or were you totally committing yourself to the job?
AH: The hours you put in shows that it’s not the sort of job you do for the money. It’s below the minimum wage. [But] if you want to talk about locking in, I don’t think it’s good for people to stay doing the one thing forever.
The way I see it, if I haven’t got done what I set out to do, within probably eight years so, two terms or something like that, then either I’ve failed or [have not] brought it to vision.
CM: Does that mean if you’re successfully elected next term you won’t run again?
AH: I don’t know.
CM: What about you, Keiran? Are you locking in or dipping out?
KS: I’m here for the night. I’m buying the rounds. I’m here to stay. At least for the near future, for the next term or two. I’m not going on a pub crawl like Alex and having the door shut in my face and coming back for another drink. To use that metaphor. Sorry, Alex.
CM: What do you mean by that?
KS: I’m using your terminology. Locking in or having a single drink. Alex went for a pub crawl, had one cold drink at each place, but had the door shut in his face and has come back.
CM: I still don’t understand the inference. Can you please explain what you mean?
AH: He’s talking about my other candidacy.
CM: Let’s look towards the future. What are you campaigning on for re-election?
KS: I want to bring more transparency and accountability back to the council. That’s crucial. I think there’s far too much held in confidence. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I want to bring the services back. Our footpaths need to be clean. Our roads, our rates, our rubbish. Our park lands need to be looked after and not chipped away at.
CM: Do you have specific examples of city amenities that have deteriorated?
KS: The cleaning of the streets and the footpath conditions are the two most obvious ones.
CM: Alexander, what are you advocating for?
AH: I’ve got a suite of policies, but I think to get to the crux of it… this election is actually about, you want to be a city that looks forward to the future, but don’t want to be a city that looks back to the past. There are clearly two driving forces behind a particular faction, being Team North Adelaide.
KS: There is no Team North Adelaide.
AH: That group represents the past.
KS: There’s no Team North Adelaide. There’s a bunch of independents across the city from all walks of life, who are fed up and sick and tired of the current faction of Team Adelaide.
AH: Sounds like a faction.
KS: Except we’re not agreeing to vote together. We’re not en-bloc. We’re not agreeing to print together.
CM: Are you preferencing each other?
KS: I’m preferencing certain people, yes.
CM: Are you meeting at Anne Moran’s house?
KS: There have been a couple of gatherings at Anne Moran’s place.
CM: Are you preferencing people who meet at Anne Moran’s house?
KS: No. I’m preferencing people I can identify who do not seem Team Adelaide. We need to stop this factionalisation of council.
To say that everyone who is not in Team Adelaide is a) a faction, and b) supporting this North Adelaide contingency, I just don’t think that’s accurate to say at all. This is quite simply just about getting as many people as possible, who are genuinely community-minded, running to replace the current group. There’s no pledging and no pledging of voting together.
CM: Are the meetings about getting rid of Team Adelaide?
KS: Effectively, yes. But we’re not a faction. We’re not organising preferencing. It’s up to individual candidates what they do, and part of it is introducing people to each other. It is showing who is friendly and who isn’t, and that’s up to each individual candidate to decide. But ultimately it goes to the voters and the voters will either project or confirm the current status quo of Team Adelaide.
AH: But you haven’t told ratepayers you’re an organised group.
KS: There’s not an organised group. It’s a gaggle of independents.
CM: Alexander, what about Team Adelaide? This is a faction you have been allegedly part of, historically.
AH: I would say that my colleagues that have been branded Team Adelaide, I would say that that’s largely their platform, and you can see that from their voting records. I haven’t had any organised meetings. I haven’t been coordinating anything like that. Some people injected some organisation to it, but it was actually a worldview. It was a state of mind.
I’m really hopeful that the voters will make the right choices they did last time and elect a majority group of people that just want to move the city forward. They just want to progress.
CM: Are you part of a faction now?
AH: I mean, that’s a really good question. I suppose. To the degree that people congregate together, yeah. Sure.
CM: Just to confirm – this is a yes?
AH: It’s not a secret for me.
CM: What do you want to do if re-elected, Alexander?
AH: I really want to see an equitable level of servicing for multi-dwelling residents. So that’s one thing. I’m really eager to see, obviously, we have a really big stimulus package coming out of the COVID stimulus that we put together. I’m really eager to look at what worked out of that and pick some good rolling programs for our businesses. And I want to double our events and festivals budget. We spend not much on festivals and events.
CM: For balance, do you want to add anything Keiran?
KS: My big policy announcement to declare here today, exclusively for you, Angie… I ran a campaign to save South West Community Centre that is still in progress, but the budget isn’t big enough for the land purchase that we need. I would like to increase the size of the budget for that purchase and also combine the South West Community Centre with a library, because we lost the library.
CM: You didn’t deliver on this last election promise before the end of the council term. Why should ratepayers believe you will this time?
KS: I’ve had no control over the last 12 months. We did successfully… search for the community centre. But as you clearly see, I have no budget over the last 12 months. This isn’t a last-minute gimmick. This is something I’ve been working towards for a while now, something that I think needs to happen.
CM: Are you approaching the next term of council with the the approach of the glass being half full or half empty? Meaning, are you a pessimist or an optimist about the next four years?
KS: The community I’m talking to or listening to is eager for change. And I think there’s a real chance of that happening.
AH: I’m a glass-half-full sort of person. Always. If there are people that get elected that don’t share my values or my worldview, it just means I have to do more work convincing them.
CM: Is there anything you want to add?
AH: Are we going to have another beer?
KS: I’ll second that.