There is a need for someone to lay out a new, sustainable vision for the city.
In fact, it’s never been more important.
Whitehorse is a marginal location for a city.
It’s stuck out in the bush. Its supply lines are long and expensive.
There are local foods, but it’s highly unlikely mushrooms, spotty wildlife and berries could sustain the current city population for long.
We mention this simply to remind people that modern Whitehorse owes its existence and recent growth to its accessibility to cheap fuel.
But the world is changing.
On January 2, oil hit US$100 a barrel.
Eight years ago, it was trading at US$30.
The impact has yet to be fully felt in this town. But that’s coming.
Airline fares, gas prices, fuel-oil prices, food … it’s all going to get more expensive.
The rising price of oil will impact the fringe faster than it will affect the core.
And Whitehorse is definitely on the fringe.
Which brings us to the need for vision.
The continued prosperity of Whitehorse will depend on civic leaders laying out plans for a sustainable future.
Currently, politicians are planning more urban sprawl through the expansion of the Porter Creek subdivision.
Is that the right move? Or would politicians be wiser to sell people on increasing population densities in existing subdivisions and downtown?
Sure, residents have balked at such plans in the past, but perhaps the political leadership has done a poor job of selling citizens on the merits of such a plan.
Drive down Fourth Avenue and look at the land available for residential development. It could easily accommodate huge increases in population. The same holds true for much of the downtown core.
And such development would curb crime, cut infrastructure costs and bolster the town’s retail possibilities. It would also preserve vast tracks of wilderness on the outskirts of the city that could be used for recreation for all to enjoy.
We’ve heard very few suggest such a plan. The focus has been on residential lots at Whistlebend, the new Porter Creek development.
The same holds true for transit.
Affordable, efficient city bus service is widely seen leaching city revenues. In fact, it could save people a lot of money.
The politicians have done a poor job convincing people of its merits.
As a result, the current system isn’t used by many people.
But as fuel prices rise, that’s going to change.
And it would be better, and cheaper, to plan and implement the system and work the bugs out before the crunch hits.
The point is, changes in the global economy are going to affect this town. So far, it has been shielded from that change. But that’s unlikely to continue for long.
Civic leaders should be anticipating the future, and laying the groundwork to ensure the city is sustainable.
That effort should start immediately.
The 2008 budget is up for discussion tonight at city hall, starting at 7:30 p.m.
We encourage people to participate. (RM)