I’ve gone from a mayor-drought in Brisbane to a veritable mayor-flood here in Melbourne.
Whereas Brisbane is a one-mayor town, where the elusive Campbell Newman sits enthroned behind a Kafkaesque labyrinth of media advisors and endlessly transferred phone calls, apparently in Melbourne mayors are a dime a dozen. In fact, you practically can’t walk down the street without tripping over a mayor or two, and they’re all eager for media coverage.
Yesterday I was given an assignment to follow up on a story about a local council’s plans to strengthen anti-smoking legislation. The editor told me to call around the myriad councils in the Melbourne area and try to get comment about whether they were going to follow suit. Now, I’m quite mayor-averse after my experiences with the Brisbane City Council, and when I received this assignment my heart sank somewhat, although I responded with a “can do!” worthy of Newman himself.
At first it seemed as though mayors in Victoria were as shy of me as they were in Queensland, with calls being transferred to semi-helpful media advisors and wary receptionists keen to wash their hands of me. Little did I know, however, the mayors were just playing it cool, like a gang of leather-jacketed Fonzies hanging back, combing their hair, and watching the new girl in town from across the milk bar. By about 1 o’clock they finally made their move. One of the braver mayors took my call, then another, and finally I had mayors and their advisors emailing me and calling me throughout the afternoon, circling around me like cats eager for my attention.
So many mayors! I lost track of the number that got in touch with me. I had to scrawl their names down on a rapidly-filling post-it note before I gave that up entirely and abandoned myself to the mayoral tide that engulfed me. I was hungry, cold, and needed desperately to go to the toilet, but I was on a deadline and the mayor tsunami was still crashing down around me! The sheer density of mayors made breathing difficult! I struggled through, drowning in comment, half an hour to go until deadline, trying to find some kind of order in the chaos. Fifteen minutes left and I still hadn’t put in the “nanny state” comment from one particularly strident species of mayor, nor had I included the more measured remarks of a more cautious coastal variety of mayor. A final flurry, a final cutting and pasting and the mayors were all assembled, lined up in my article and ready for filing. It was done. I filed and sat back, and breathed a sigh of relief as the mayors subsided, leaving me exhausted….
My final story ran to about 70cm, which was massacred by the subs to a more realistic article that got a run on page three of the paper and can be found here:
Now, looking back at the great mayor flood of 2010, I remember it fondly. But despite the flood, some mayors still maintained a mayorly distance. The darkest of the dark horses was the mayor of Melbourne City itself, who I courted extensively but who remained a shadowy figure, unreachable, unquotable. It’s my one mayor-related regret, that I couldn’t get comment from him. But, as I said, in Melbourne there are plenty of mayors to go around and if you can’t get one, there’s about twelve more lining up to take his place.