Victorian city of Wodonga elects mayor from NSW border neighbour Albury

Radio host Kevin Poulton has made history becoming the first person living in Albury in southern New South Wales to be elected mayor of Wodonga in Victoria’s north-east.

He secured the title after defeating candidate Ron Mildren 4-3 at last night’s Wodonga Council election.

Cr Poulton, who managed to secure the job in his first year as a councillor, made the controversial decision to run for office in Wodonga instead of his home city of Albury.

The neighbouring border city of Albury will hold its council election in September next year, like the rest of New South Wales.

The newly elected mayor defended his decision to run in Wodonga.

“Having grown up in this region, Wodonga has given me just as much in my life as Albury,” Cr Poulton said.

He also pointed to Albury-Wodonga’s status as twin cities and the fact that the region operates as a single community — despite being separated by the New South Wales-Victorian border.

“It’s a reflection of how we work as two cities,” he said.

“If it’s making history and making people more engaged and loving where they live, I think it’s a great thing.”

The new mayor will continue to work as a breakfast co-host at Radio 2AY.

Cr Poulton said his priorities as mayor are positivity and culture.

“We need to have really great relationships both within the community and outside of the community at a state and federal level,” Cr Poulton said.

Nominee withdraws last minute

The victory comes after popular contender and former Wodonga mayor John Watson withdrew his nomination at the last minute, citing a “lack of a seconder”.

Left to right, Cr John Watson, Mayor Kevin Poulton, Cr Libby Hall and Cr Olga Quilty.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Ashlee Aldridge)

Cr Watson, who served as mayor almost two decades ago, voted for Cr Poulton along with Kat Bennett and Graeme Simpfendorfer.

During last night’s meeting, council also voted to make the mayor’s term one year instead of the usual two years served by previous mayors.

This means Cr Poulton will face another election in just 12 months.

A decision was made not to elect a deputy mayor for the coming year.

“All councillors agreed that you don’t necessarily need a deputy and this will allow each councillor to have a say on the particular thing that matters to them,” Cr Poulton said.

“All seven of us will work together absolutely cohesively to ensure we deliver for the community.”

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Delaware elects first transgender U.S. state senator

U.S. Democrat Sarah McBride won a state Senate race on Tuesday in Delaware, and would become the first openly transgender state senator in the U.S. when sworn in.

McBride defeated Republican Steve Washington to win the seat that became open following the retirement of the longest-serving legislator in Delaware history.

She won in a heavily Democratic district stretching from northern Wilmington to the Pennsylvania border, and joins several other transgender legislators around the country but will be the first transgender state senator.

“I think tonight’s results demonstrate what I’ve known my entire life, which is that the residents of this district are fair-minded, and they’re looking at candidates’ ideas and not their identity,” McBride said Tuesday night. “It is my hope that a young LGBTQ kid here in Delaware or really anywhere in this country can look at the results and know that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”

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McBride interned at the White House under former President Barack Obama and made history at the 2016 Democratic National Convention as the first openly transgender person to speak at a major party convention.

She succeeds fellow Democrat Harris McDowell, who had held the Senate seat since 1976 and endorsed McBride’s candidacy.

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McBride’s campaign generated interest and money from around the country, generating more than $270,000 in donations as of early October, eclipsing fundraising totals even for candidates for statewide office in Delaware.

A former student body president at American University, McBride started in politics as a volunteer for Matt Denn, former legal counsel to Delaware’s governor, during his successful 2004 campaign for insurance commissioner. Denn, who later served as lieutenant governor and attorney general, worked with McBride’s father at a Wilmington law firm known for its close ties to the Democratic Party establishment.

McBride later worked on the campaigns of former Gov. Jack Markell and former state Attorney General Beau Biden.

McBride is one of several members of the LGBTQ community who were elected to the state legislature on Tuesday.

Social worker and political newcomer Marie Pinkney also was elected to the state Senate after knocking off the Senate president pro tem, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1978, in a September Democratic primary. Pinkney identifies as queer and is the first openly queer woman elected to the legislature.

Similarly, Democrat Eric Morrison became the first openly gay man elected to the General Assembly on Tuesday after defeating an incumbent House member in the September primary.

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Progress: New Zealand elects diverse gov’t, crime rates drop, and more

1. Canada

A nationwide initiative is helping First Nation and municipal leaders redefine their relationships. Funded primarily by Canada’s federal government, the First Nation-Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative aims to promote regional problem-solving, joint economic development, and reconciliation between neighboring communities. With the help of third-party mediators, participating partners have been able to confront the painful history of colonialism – including ignored treaties, exclusion from major development decisions, and forced assimilation – and right past wrongs. “If it appears to be uncomfortable, and you seem almost out of your place, then I think that’s a certain indicator that you’re doing something groundbreaking,” said Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation’s Chief Paul Prosper.

Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett (on screen) discusses a dispute between commercial and Mi’kmaw lobster fishers on Oct. 19, 2020.

Today, nine partners are finishing the program, having worked together to address water supply issues, improve transit infrastructure, and launch united tourism strategies. The initiative will welcome a new cohort in 2021, with the hope of focusing the partnership model on post-pandemic recoveries. (Reasons to be Cheerful)

2. United States

Violent crime declined in the United States for the third consecutive year, according to new estimates from the FBI. The rate of violent crime – including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault – dropped 1% in 2019, with an average of 367 cases per 100,000 residents. This is the second lowest level since violent crime rates peaked in 1991 at 758 per 100,000. In 2014, there were 362 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program uses data from thousands of agencies at the federal, state, local, university, and tribal level to compile annual reports on crime throughout the country. The overall number of violent crime cases, not adjusted for population, also declined for a third year in a row, with 0.5% fewer reported offenses in 2019 than the year before. In 2015, a Brennan Center for Justice analysis concluded that many factors are each responsible for a small percentage of the drop in crime, and that a range of efforts would be better public safety investments than mass incarceration. (Department of Justice, VOX)

3. Guatemala

Conservation groups in Guatemala are helping a growing number of refugees find work as park rangers. FUNDAECO, a Guatemalan nongovernmental organization that works in national parks and reserves across the country, has partnered with the United Nations refugee agency on the empleos verdes (“green jobs”) program, placing candidates in ecotourism, trail maintenance, and park management positions.

FUNDAECO is currently employing 55 refugees and hopes to place at least 100 candidates. Rangers who fled gang violence in places such as Honduras now work to prevent illegal activity, such as logging and poaching, in national parks that house important species. To avoid fostering resentment among Guatemalans looking for conservation work, FUNDAECO also hires one local for every refugee placement. Alexis Masciarelli, a U.N. refugee agency spokesperson based in Guatemala, said having a permanent job helps “bring back [refugees’] dignity and their capacity to contribute to a new community and feel more settled.” (Mongabay)

4. Tunisia

In a move hailed by anti-racism advocates, a Tunisian court will allow a man to change his name to remove a word associated with slavery. “Atig” – or “liberated by” – is a common part of many family names in Tunisia, having once been used to denote a freed slave from people still in bondage. Black Tunisians make up 10%-15% of the population, and although the country was among the first to abolish slavery in 1846, critics say the government has done little to acknowledge the discrimination descendants face, including unequal employment opportunities and racial stereotypes in the media. The ruling will open doors, activists say, for other Black Tunisians to shed the stigmatized label. “Every person born in Tunisia is born free so I don’t see why we keep that on paper,” said Saadia Mosbah, who campaigned for the right to change names. “In history books OK, but not on our identity.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

5. Thailand

Villagers of Ban Boon Rueang are being recognized for their novel approach to community forest management and advocacy. When the government announced plans to infill wetlands for development, the northern village mobilized supporters in academic and conservation fields and presented their case to the national human rights commission, prompting authorities to withdraw the proposal. Nearly 300 families manage the wetlands today, mainly using traditional methods, and protecting their livelihood and culture in the process.

Evictions from forests and farmlands have risen in recent years in Thailand as villagers struggle to protect natural resources against tourism and mining, but the Ban Boon Rueang victory is part of a growing trend of successful community pushback. The United Nations recently awarded the village its Equator Prize for “outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” and for its use of social media campaigns to highlight forestry management models that are inspiring similar communities. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

6. New Zealand

New Zealand is welcoming its most diverse Parliament ever. Of 120 parliamentary seats, the ruling Labour Party won 64, more than half of whom are women, and 16 are Indigenous Maori. The incoming Parliament will feature the country’s first Latin American, Sri Lankan, and African MPs.

A remarkably diverse roster of new members will soon join their colleagues in the Parliament Buildings in Wellington, New Zealand, pictured here on July 5, 2020.

It also has the highest percentage of LGBTQ representation in the world, with 10% of the seats to be held by openly LGBTQ candidates, which surpasses the percentage in the United Kingdom’s Parliament. Massey University Professor Paul Spoonley noted the new leaders include several millennials as well. “What we have seen is a departure of many of the older, male, white MPs including some who have been in Parliament for over 30 years,” he said. (Reuters, Radio New Zealand, Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

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Ferguson Elects First African American Mayor

Ferguson, Missouri, elected Ella Jones as its first African American and first female mayor on June 2, a victory that coincided with nationwide anti-racism protests. Ferguson saw weeks of protests and riots in 2014, after police killed 18-year-old African American Michael Brown on August 10. A Department of Justice investigation later found a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department. Jones, a local councilwoman, defeated another local councilwoman, Heather Robinett, with 54 percent of the vote. This footage was taken on the evening of June 2 by local outlet Real Stl News. Jones can be seen celebrating her victory with supporters. Credit: Real Stl News via Storyful

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