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"I wanted to make sure there was a progressive voice on council"

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Adelaide’s newly-elected councillor says she will add a “very strong cultural voice” to the city, but denies her election represents a major shift in the local government’s dynamic.

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“I don’t think it’s a shift,” arts administrator Sandy Verschoor told InDaily.

“I think it makes the balance work.”

Nonetheless, Verschoor’s previous work for the council, as general manager of city culture and community services for three years from 2012, saw her heavily involved in a number of measures associated with the Stephen Yarwood era, including the arrival of the contentious food trucks and “working closely with the Government on changing liquor licensing laws”.

“When I was in council I looked after cultural and social programs and they are very important to me … they’ve made such a difference to the city over the last few years (and) I wanted to make sure they continued,” she said.

“I wanted to make sure there was a progressive voice on council… I wanted to make sure culture and social entrepreneurship, and everything that goes along with it, remains very much on the agenda.”

Verschoor believes there are “huge opportunities” with the looming shift of the medical precinct and “particularly in creative industries”, but “there’s always a danger” of failing to seize them.

“The balance on council is always a precarious one in that you needs lots of different voices … mine is very much arts and culture, creative industries and a social voice,” she said.

“I know all the councillors, most I know very well … some people are really strong on heritage, some on planning – I hope to add a very strong cultural voice to the mix.”

But she doesn’t expect to be a divisive figure, saying council “has to be a collaborative effort”.

“I don’t have any problem with debate … we should applaud debate,” she said.

“The food trucks (issue) was always going to be reviewed … we were never going to get it right straight off.”

The council’s Economic and Community Development Committee last night endorsed a clarification of the council’s new food trucks policy, after it received legal advice to clear up confusion over the number of vendors allowed to trade in the city.

The new policy, to go to a vote of the full council next week, makes it clear that 20 mobile food vendors will be allowed to trade in the city before 6pm. These will include 10 general permit holders, five “entrepreneur” permit holders, and five permits to be set aside for owners of “fixed” food businesses.

Despite the protracted confusion, Verschoor says “I actually understand what they were trying to do”.

“I think the way it played out didn’t really match the intent … the intent was to try to put something in, to have food trucks to be there and add to vibrancy of the city,” she said.

The message, she believes, “became muddied” because council “got a bit caught up with the words we used”.

“But the intention was never to put a coffee food truck outside a café … we need the terms to be able to be flexible and move things and adjust things, so that it works for everybody.”

She said council walked a fine line striking a balance between being prescriptive and “bringing new life into the city”.

“The council is trying to do best for everybody, not just one group,” she said.

“(Adelaide) has to be a great local place to live, and a great capital city – and sometimes those things are in conflict.”

She said the main residential areas “have their own unique character” but the city centre “needs to be vibrant and activated”.

“If people choose to live right in the centre they have to understand if live music is playing next door, they’ve chosen to live there … if you’re going to develop residential right next to live music, for God’s sake make sure there’s soundproofing,” she argued.

“Put in the things that make it work.”

Verschoor’s election also marks a watershed moment for the Adelaide City Council: “It’s the first time in history there’ll be an equal number of men and women in the chamber.”

In the final count, she won with 1348 votes, ahead of small business owner Lauren Nguyen with 1167 votes.

“When it got down to the last two, Lauren and myself, we went and got a coffee and gave each other a hug and said ‘fantastic’,” Verschoor recalled.

“There were some really good candidates running… I would have been very happy if others had won as well.”

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