My email inbox is usually fairly busy. Typically, I would receive somewhere between 30 and 50 emails every day.
The vast majority are unsolicited communications that include multiple newsletters, surveys, media releases and other general publications, all of which add to the flow of information that I am supposed to absorb on a daily basis.
Scattered among the normal work-related emails is correspondence from staff, ratepayers and groups that collectively contribute to the day-to-day activity of council. In addition, there is usually a smattering of emails from individuals, influencers and lobby groups trying to advance their particular cause.
With local body elections looming in the next few months, based on my previous experience, that smattering of emails from these sources will grow significantly, turning into something more akin to a flood.
The emails come from all manner of groups, many of which I have never heard of, so as the receiver it is often quite difficult to figure out whether they are credible, bona fide organisations and deserve due consideration or are they simply "press delete" material.
With the growth and availability of digital media nowadays, it is so easy to get on the keyboard and express a personal view. We can tell whoever we think might listen, anything we like and occasionally, just to encourage us, they will listen.
In the lead up to local body elections, I have already noticed an increase in generic emails from groups wanting to know the views of individual elected members, including myself, on a range of issues.
This will often be the forerunner of targeted campaigns aimed at individual candidates who don't share the same view. It can be quite disconcerting, especially for new candidates, to be put on the spot in this way.
It is doubly so, when the issue they are raising is of little interest to you personally or hardly applicable in the Stratford District. One such email arrived in my inbox a few elections back.
The email was from a bloke who was opposed to pigeon racing and he wanted to know what I intended to do to stop this from happening. He said it was not safe and was cruel to the birds. Really?
I couldn't help myself, so I responded and asked "how do the birds know whether they are racing or just having a fly around, after all, that's what pigeons do, don't they?"
He didn't answer my question, nor did I expect him to. My point is, and it highlights the fact, that if anyone has an issue or a cause to promote, regardless of importance or relevance, the coming months will present a grand opportunity to do so.
In contrast, I've noted recently an increase in lobbying around the issue of problem gambling and the impact of pokie machines within local communities. This is quite timely for the Stratford District Council because we are currently reviewing our gambling policy before it is released for public consultation.
Pokie machines are always a very contentious issue. Historically the public views range from both extremes; total prohibition through to open slather. Individual councils generally seem to end up with a policy compromise that is influenced mostly by local factors, primarily centred around socio-economic indicators.
It is definitely not a "one size fits all" issue and nor should it be; in reality, it's probably more of a "one size fits nobody" issue, but nationally based campaigns have a part to play.
There is no doubt that the coming months prior to the local body elections will be fertile ground for the influencers, lobbyists and keyboard warriors with a view. Genuinely important local issues run the risk of being smothered in the melee, something that I hope doesn't happen.
The word "local" is the key, let's not be distracted by issues outside our control or sphere of community interest.