Baubles, Bangles, Beads & Beliefs

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You have been appointed Mayor of a local government region in Australia known as ‘Backwater Shire’. Backward Shire is governed by ‘Backward Shire Council’.
You are shortly to Chair a special meeting of Council to consider a ‘Matter of Public Importance’ (MPI). This MPI concerns a proposal to re-introduce a prayer at the commencement of each Council meeting. As Mayor, it is also your responsibility to chair Council meetings. The meetings of Council are governed strictly by meeting procedure. This is the first MPI ever to be bought before Council.
You have been presented with a draft report of proposed changes to the meeting procedure. Essentially, the changes are to permit for a prayer to be said by a nominated councillor at the commencement of each Council meeting. Details of whether the prayer will be non-denominational or based on certain beliefs and values have not been specified.
Council abolished praying before each council meeting almost two years ago. The prayer was replaced purely with a public acknowledgement to the good people of Backward Shire and good governance of the Backward Shire Council. The reason the issue has surfaced now is owing to a number of reasons, some of which are discussed below.
About You
You are known for your strong social skills and positive work relationships. Empirical studies suggest that there is strong linkage between a leader’s social skills, organisational health and positive work relationships. You have recently accepted the position of Mayor. The fiscal health of the organisation is sound but population satisfaction with the performance of the Council is at an all-time low. There have even been rumblings regarding succession in some areas of the Shire.
About Backward Shire
Backwater Shire is predominately urban with localised commercial centres. It covers an area of about 450 square kilometres. It has significant areas of natural bushland in a mountainous terrain in the west of the Shire. Much of this terrain was affected in 2012 by bush fires with some residents losing their lives, others lost substantial property holdings.The north of Backward Shire is in a lower socio-economic income group than the south and south east sectors which has average household incomes three times that of the north. In the north there is a much higher proportion of households with income below $550 than the state average; in the south, household earnings above $900 show a much higher percentage in Backward Shire than elsewhere.
Backward Shire Council’s total expenditure per capita (including infrastructure) is lower than the state average. The Shire Council is heavily reliant on residential rates as its primary source of income. Rate increases have been substantially above the state average over the last 10 years. The rates and charges income is high on a per assessment basis when compared to rates levied by other local government authorities.
The revenue position is characterised by:
• Lack of or underdeveloped land for industrial use;
• Lack of or underdeveloped land for commercial use;
• Low levels of revenue from parking permits and fines etc.; and
• Inability to access state assistance owing to
o Outdated classifications regarding zoning of shire areas
o Overall relative socio-economic affluence.
Backward Shire Council has the largest operating surplus of any local government authority – for 2013/2014 the figure was approximately $50 million. The State Government has let it be known they are not happy with this amount of operating surplus. Unless it is substantially reduced in the near future it will be requisitioned by the State Government for projects within Backward Shire to be assessed and implemented by the State Government. A ‘turf war’ between Backward Shire and the State Government is anticipated.
The population of Backward Shire is expected to grow by some 20% by 2020. This population increase is anticipated to be primarily from overseas sources. Currently 75% of the population of Backward Shire is Australian by birth, with the remainder from non-English speaking countries. Backward Shire is seeing an influx of migrants, mainly refugees from overseas. The top five countries for origin of settlers is (not in population size order): New Zealand, Malaysia, Sudan, Haiti and Fiji. The indigenous population level of the Shire is negligible. Backward Shire has a higher proportion of population aged 0-14 (22%) than the state average, and a lower population aged 65+ (6%) than the state average.
In Backward Shire, a majority of the population has identified with a code of religious beliefs. In a 2012 General Census, some 73% of respondents identified with some form of religious belief; of these, 13% per cent of respondents identified with a specific denomination: ‘Jedi’. This also means that a substantial minority (some 27%) of residents possibly identify with no religion or with religious traditions in which the monotheistic use of ‘God’ is difficult to accommodate. The religious beliefs of the citizens of Backward Shire are irrelevant to the legality of the Shire’s existence or the constitutional arrangements of the State.
Examples of the ‘Pro’ lobby for prayer
1. A local religious leader, the Rev. John Smith of the ‘Walk the Plank’ Church Congregation, has been making public pronouncements that the fire devastation to Backwater Shire was as a result of the stopping of the prayer at Council meetings. Rev Smith claim to have had a vision that the protection of the Almighty had been removed from Backwater Shire and that Backwater Shire would suffer similar catastrophes in future if the prayer is not returned. Details regarding the professing numbers of the Walk the Plank Church are not known, but numbers are understood to be equally spread across the Shire. Rev Smith is known for his regular public pronouncements on varying issues and the local media (e.g. ‘The Backward Shire Bugle’) is favourably disposed towards carrying opinion pieces from him, especially on slow news days. Rev Smith is a charismatic figure seen as being somewhat eccentric, rather than malicious in intent in his pronouncements.
2. A wealthy, yet secretive religious sect the ‘Special Band of Brothers’ (SBB), wishes to build a 3,000 seat mega-church in north area of Backward Shire. They have been buying large tracks of land in the area considered wasteland owing to intense gold mining operations conducted on the land in the early 1900’s. It is believed that SBB has further plans to build a school campus, a health and spa resort, and to conduct other activities of a commercial nature. The establishment of the church and necessary support infrastructure alone (e.g. crèche, car parking, golf course for ‘playing between praying’ etc.,) would see spin-offs to the financial health of the area with an estimated initial increase in local income levels by some 15%. Local residents are not happy and do not support the proposal. When other SBB properties have been built (in other local government areas) the SBB maintain an existence separate from neighbourly interaction. They have been likened to a cult, but this is not proven. They have only one recognised spokesperson, who has not been available for comment.
Examples of the ‘Against’ lobby for prayer
1. The Shire also has two vocal, albeit numerically small but influential groups of citizens who are arguing against the re-introduction of the prayer. The first group are the ‘Tree Huggers’. The Tree Huggers cite democratic theory as their reasoning – political power is not divinely ordained as sovereignty belongs to the people. They believe that the re-introduction of a prayer implies a divine rather than popular sovereignty in Backwater Shire with one result being that residents can feel they may evade, neglect or be deprived of both the privileges and responsibilities of living in Backwater Shire. The Tree Huggers see the re-introduction of prayer as one way of the Council shifting responsibility for its actions. ‘God’ can be understood as a metaphorical representation of values which transcend day-to-day political expediency. Councillors may be inclined to hubris: a vision in which power is portrayed as originating beyond their visible institution – a useful corrective when things don’t go as planned. In the main, the Tree Huggers are affluent, educated and community spirited. They also have the potential to be militant and disruptive.
2. The second group opposed to the re-introduction of the prayer are Backward Shire’s Veterinarians. By co-incidence many of these hold deeply religious views (i.e. they believe in ‘God’). The Veterinarians cite their own strength of conviction as a reason for not wanting to violate others’ deeply-held beliefs. Their own belief, influenced, one suspects, by their professional calling, suggests that Backward Shire residents should have a heightened appreciation for the sensitivities of others.
They believe that the re-introduction of a prayer would be a religiously vacuous exercise. A far better approach they champion, is for humans to embrace each others beliefs, and also demonstrate that appreciation towards animals. They argue for mutual respect; that religion has no place in public discourse. The re-introduction of a prayer would purely be an unnecessarily contentious saying.
Holistically…
Backward Shire Council is twelve months into a four year election cycle. Your recent appointment follows the departure of the previous Mayor, who resigned to take up a ministerial position within the State Government, as Minister for Local Government, Recycling and Religious Affairs. You and that person have been close personal and political allies since the time you both studied Strategic Management together. You have no defining religious conviction, but you suspect your friend might be a member of the SBB.
You have taken up a position in an organisation beset with a number of difficulties…
The Task
1. Provide a process model for your intended course of action
2. Note the theorists you borrow from, give reasons for your use of their work.
The word limit is 10,000 words
Recommended Assignment Structure
You might consider, but are not obliged to carry out, the following for your assignment papers:
1. Title Page
With the assignment paper title, provide your name, student number, and group name.
2. Executive Summary
A short description of the topic and details regarding the discussion.
3. Contents and list of figures
This would list all the appropriate headings, sub-headings, and figures contained in the report. These should include the page numbers for quick reference.
4. Introduction
The introduction provides the main ideas to be discussed in the paper. It provides no examples. Write the introduction last, then you know what you are introducing.
5. Body of the Assignment
This develops and details the points made in the introduction, in the order they have been presented in the introduction. Evidence, causes, and limitations to points should all be explored. All work should be clearly referenced.
6. Conclusion
Your conclusion should not cover or make any new points. Instead, it should summarise the main points of the report.
7. Bibliography/ References
The reference section at the conclusion of the report includes all references cited in the text and only those references. Referencing should include all the books, articles, government brochures, letters, web references etc., that you refer to in your report. You will be expected to refer to the mandatory text and the necessary readings as shown in the Subject Learning Guide.
7. Tips
Your assignment and presentation are the only objective mechanisms for demonstrating both your familiarity and understanding of the topic content. It is therefore critical that you ensure your assignment work serves its intended purpose. Assignments must balance thoroughness with being concise (you will lose marks for waffling). All assignments and presentations must be presented in a professional format, as covered in the course outline. Your assignments and presentations must incorporate theoretical concepts and explanatory frameworks from the course teaching and readings or you will risk failing the course. The assignments demonstrate your knowledge and understanding, not your ability to substantially quote the work of others.
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