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Meet The Five Women Trying To Unseat Clover Moore After 17 Years As City Of Sydney Lord Mayor

By Paige Cockburn Wed 24 Nov 2021 at 5:03am

Angela Vithoulkas has put her hand up to become Sydney's next Lord Mayor, but she keeps being told to take it down.

The founder of the Small Business Party has received numerous anonymous phone calls demanding she drop out of the race.

"I'm already getting calls, I won't say from who, but calls from other political parties who are telling me I'm wasting my time and saying, 'why are you even bothering to run, you're not going to get elected'."

"I formed a political party in NSW, which is almost completely impossible from a red tape perspective ... yet (some say) I only run in an election to get a husband."

Ms Vithoulkas is one of five female candidates vying to end Clover Moore's 17-year reign over the City of Sydney when NSW's local government elections are held on December 4.

It's the first time in history there's been an all-female field for the position.

The hopefuls admit they have little chance of unseating Ms Moore, who has had the keys to Australia's biggest city for almost two decades.

In the past two elections, Ms Moore has attracted more than 50 per cent of the vote and is expected to enjoy an easy return to power next month, even aiming to win eight of the 10 seats on council.

The 76-year-old said she had a lot more to give.

"I really want our progressive work to continue, I don't want the city to go back to the major parties and I don't want it to go to people who are inexperienced," Ms Moore told the ABC.

"City making is something I have dedicated my life to and it's been so worthwhile and I really love it."

It's tipped to be a fierce, albeit one-sided battle.

There has already been allegations of dirty tricks now that pre-poll voting is open, with some candidates' campaign posters being ripped down and replaced with their opponents' material.

The six candidates are campaigning on similar platforms, with most putting climate and affordable housing as their main priorities.

Indigenous candidate Yvonne Weldon — the niece of prominent activist Mum Shirl — has thrown her hat in the ring after years of being concerned about what she calls a growing divide in the city.

The Wiradjuri woman was endorsed by former federal politician Kerryn Phelps who dropped out of the mayoral race last year due to family issues.

Ms Weldon says she did not always have political ambitions, but couldn't sit by and watch any longer.

"The city is changing in such a way that it's not inclusive like it was when I was growing up here ... we won't have the diversity we love if we don't change how council is run," she said.

"When you have a voting bloc, you don't have people representing the underprivileged voices in Sydney."

Ms Weldon has attracted attention over her plan to deliver "urban billabongs" across Sydney after calling the incumbent's plan for harbourside pools "elitist".

The candidates are also all pushing for more support for businesses in a CBD reeling from a COVID-19 downturn.

Liberal candidate Shauna Jarrett says she is being driven by a fear the city will never rediscover its mojo.

"So many businesses have closed down. It's empty Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," Ms Jarrett said.

"We need a council that will let people put their ideas about how to recover into action.

"Let them do it, don't spend two and a half years for a development application to be approved."

Ms Jarrett has promised free parking in the city on the weekends and is hoping to win over the approximately 30 to 40 per cent of people who live in the City of Sydney and vote Liberal in state and federal elections.

The City of Sydney has an unusual voting rule that isn't seen in any other NSW council — eligible businesses can have two votes in the election.

It's a controversial policy that was imposed by the Liberal state government in 2014 in an unsuccessful attempt to increase the business vote and loosen Ms Moore's grip on the city.

All mayoral candidates bar Ms Jarrett are opposed to the rule and Greens candidate Sylvie Ellsmore insists it's time the "undemocratic" quirk was repealed.

"Individuals should be able to vote in the place that they live and that gives everyone an equal shot ... why is it more valuable to own a business than say work in an area?" she says.

The Greens have no councillors in Sydney and Ms Ellsmore, who is a native title lawyer, is focused on getting the party a seat at the table.

Her policy on affordable housing differs to others as it aims to stop relying on developers reserving small percentages of social and affordable housing.

"Essentially, we want the city to invest," she says.

"The city's got more than half a billion dollars that's just currently just sitting in the big four banks ... so what if we had a housing fund where the city built its own public housing and then rented it at low rents?"

Ms Moore says she has always focused on a responsible financial policy as the city almost went bankrupt in the early 90s but many candidates want to see the purse strings loosened.

Labor candidate Linda Scott, a former deputy lord mayor, says there's no use in sitting on cash which could be used to invest in the community and create more jobs.

"The city of Sydney is in a extremely fortunate financial position where it can afford to provide our communities with more support and services instead of hoarding away money in the bank at a time of global economic crisis," she said.

"In spite of delivering a $200 million surplus at the end of the last financial year, the city's infrastructure programme has been cut back."

The Newtown local has made "fun" part of her election pitch, proposing that book stores and office spaces be converted into performance venues at night.

She has promised to donate her full wage to the council if she is elected lord mayor and has differentiated herself from Ms Moore by describing herself as a "work horse, not a show pony".

In fact many of the candidates have taken aim at Ms Moore's celebrity status and accused her of not being available to the community.

Ms Vithoulkas, who has served as a councillor for nine years, is pitching an anti-corruption mechanism for council, regular "questions without notice" with the public and a three-year cap on mayoral terms.

"Twenty to 25 years of the same leadership – where does that happen outside of communism and a dictatorship?

"When Clover’s team announced their aim of a super eight majority, it literally made my heart stop … people may not vote for me but they should turn up to vote, that super majority should motivate them enough."

Ms Moore has been lauded for creating a greener, more liveable city and has always focused on beautifying Sydney by forcing developers to take design excellence seriously.

Her vision for a world class city has people swapping cars for bikes, with more open recreation spaces and al fresco dining.

Last year, she met her target of 70 per cent less operational CO2 emissions nine years earlier than planned and she now has her sights on zero emissions by 2035, which she admits is a tough ask.

Most of her competitors insist it's time for a refresh but Ms Moore is quick to respond.

"They haven't given any good reasons for that though have they?"

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