Greens councillor Jonathan Sri paid for his controversial “People Before Profits” gazebo out of his own pocket. Photo: Ned MartinGreens councillor Jonathan Sri has found himself about $1600 out of pocket after a decision by the Brisbane City Council to not fund a ward gazebo.
Last month, the council’s chief executive Colin Jensen refused to allow the councillor for The Gabba to use his discretionary funding due to what Mr Jensen described as “political messaging” on the design.
Cr Sri had argued that messaging, “People Before Profit”, was not political in nature.
Brisbane’s first elected Greens councillor then went ahead and bought the gazebo, designed by local artists and manufactured by a local company, out of his own pocket.
“I ended up paying for it out of my own, personal money because we thought it was an important message to get out there and we thought the artwork was something that deserved to be shared around,” he said.
The gazebo has already made its public debut, popping up during an event in the neighbouring Central ward, in Fortitude Valley’s Brunswick Street Mall, barely 100 metres from local Liberal National Party councillor Vicki Howard’s ward office.
“We’d already ordered the gazebo because we assumed that the council bureaucracy had no right to tell us what we could and couldn’t print on the gazebo as long as it wasn’t party political slogans,” Cr Sri said.
“So we ordered the gazebo on the assumption that the council didn’t have the power to censor what messages we used.
“We’d already ordered it then found they wouldn’t reimburse us, so I thought, ‘Well, why not just pay for it myself anyway?’ “
Cr Sri said he was not sure whether he would have bought the gazebo had he not already ordered it by the time Mr Jensen made his ruling.
“We knew we weren’t allowed to use council funds to print party logos or party slogans, but we were quite confident ‘People Before Profit’ wasn’t a Greens party slogan,” he said.
“We didn’t expect there would be any problem with council and we didn’t even know that they would have that power to censor it in that way.
“So when they said they’d like to see a copy of the gazebo design, we sent it off to them not thinking twice about it.”
Cr Sri was not the only councillor to pay for ward gazebos out of his own pocket.
Morningside Labor councillor Shayne Sutton said she also paid for her own.
“I loan them to community groups for their local events and I use them for my own events,” she said.
“They are not council assets. I understand this may not be the case for all local councillors but it is for me.”
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