By CASEY NEILL
“ALL Anglos are voting against this decision.”
This comment from Councillor Jim Memeti at Monday night’s council meeting sparked cries of racism from his colleagues.
It came as Cr Peter Brown spoke to a motion about selling land in Springvale to Islamic school Minaret College.
“I’m trying to explain why I’ve changed my mind and effectively Cr Memeti has called me a racist for doing so,” he said.
But Cr Memeti was quick to defend his remarks.
“I didn’t call Cr Brown a racist I said ‘all Anglos are voting against this decision’,” he said.
Mayor Sean O’Reilly brushed off a call from Cr Brown to kick Cr Memeti out of the meeting.
“I’d ask Cr Memeti not to address things on a racial basis,” he said.
In the cold light of day, Cr Memeti stood by his comments.
“I just said to some of my fellow councillors all the Anglo-Saxons are voting for this,” he said.
He said the “multicultural councillors” had voted in favour of selling the land to Minaret and the Anglo-Saxons had not.
“I didn’t say they were racist or anything like that,” he said.
Cr Memeti said he didn’t foresee any tensions going forward.
“What happens on the floor stays on the floor and we move on together for the betterment of our community,” he said.
“It’s our responsibility to move on.
“To me it’s all done and dusted.”
Cr John Kelly said Cr Memeti was “not the sharpest tool in the shed with a comment like that”.
“He called us Anglos. That is so racist,” he said.
“I’m really upset.
“It was really terrible.
“It was about saving that bit of park down at Springvale.
“It’s a shame Jim has turned this into a racial issue.”
Cr Matthew Kirwan said the five councillors who voted against the sale acted to preserve the land for all Springvale residents, whatever their ethnic backgrounds or faiths.
“Having been at the forefront of efforts by council to assist asylum seekers and refugees, and a strong supporter of the Interfaith Network, I found that implication particularly offensive.
“This is an open space decision, pure and simple,” he said.
“It could have been Minaret College it could have been a state school, it could have been a Catholic school, it could have been a not-for-profit like Salvation Army … ”
Cr Peter Brown said he based his decision on feedback from the public.
“They were from a variety of different ethnic groupings,” he said.
“It wasn’t just blue-eyed blondes making submissions.
“Jim might be happy to leave it all behind but he has to remember that mud does stick.
“I think it will stick to him on this occasion.
“I think his comments did him more harm than anyone in the room.”
Cr Roz Blades said councillors would have to be professional and move on.
“I have,” she said.
“Everybody believed their argument was genuinely right.
“Everyone was passionate.
“That’s where you get the big throw up of emotions all over the place.
“People are feeling a bit bruised but we’ve got a city to run here.”
Save Glendale Reserve spokesman Mark Dalton said the decision to abort the sale was great news “soured by the disgusting behaviour of Cr Memeti who pulled out his racism card again”.
“That’s been the furthest thing from my mind all the way through,” he said.
“We were invited to go to the college to have a look around. It is a very well-run school.
“I’ve got nothing against the school. It’s the loss of the park that’s the problem.”