Letter to the editor: Has Liberty Theatre's fate already been decided?

The possible resurrection of the Liberty Theatre has been a talking point for a decade or three. Fifteen years ago the Smith family bought the theatre with a passion, a vision and a business model.

The story of our struggle is well known and not the reason for this letter. We moved on to selling the theatre, but still have the passion for it to be in community ownership, as the building - what it can offer the town and district as a theatre and community hub - far outweighs retail use or a quick buck.

Empty seats in the Liberty Theatre. Photo: Ray McJannett

Empty seats in the Liberty Theatre. Photo: Ray McJannett

[Yass Valley] Council's lack of motivation for involvement seemed to change late last year and we were asked to write to the council offering [them] the Liberty Theatre. We did this in August 2018.

Following this letter, council staff were asked to provide a report. The report and a recommendation was put to the February 2019 meeting: that councillors vote to not consider any involvement in the theatre.

As the report was inaccurate, incomplete and lacked research, we Smiths provided councillors with facts contrary to the staff report. We were also made aware that 'Friends of the Liberty Theatre' made representation at the open forum preceding the February meeting.

It seemed a majority of councillors agreed with fact rather than fiction and so voted in February: "RESOLVED that Council seek the owner's consent to conduct a community forum, followed by a council workshop, on options for the Liberty Theatre."

Things then went all quiet. There was nothing in the March minutes and no letter to date [April 7].

Enquiries to those in the know advise there is no will to send such a letter and there is to be no community consultation prior to a council workshop as per the resolution. It seems the faceless have changed things to have the workshop first so the questions, and might we say the answers, can be formulated.

It seems the council is not up for a discussion with the community, but wants to control any consultation with a pre-determined agenda. It seems a resolution by a majority of councillors can be overridden by a select few. It seems the fate of anything that looks like a community debate as to the merits of community ownership of the Liberty Theatre has already been decided.

This is another example of Yass Valley Council being coy and cute by saying one thing and meaning another. Yes, the council wants to consult, but on its terms. This is not to say all councillors, as that would not be fair. This is not to say a majority of councillors, as the vote for community consultation followed by a council workshop was carried. This is to say the council is not run by elected representatives, but by other means. If it was run by the elected, we Smiths would have a letter as per the resolution in February and community consultation would precede any council workshop.

We feel a sadness as those who have picked up the baton and are trying to promote a conversation with the council and the community are seemingly also destined for failure.

Touie and Denise Smith, Yass