Down with NIMBYism
It is often lamented that people, younger ones in particular, won’t become politically active until their self-interest is threatened.
Personally I am somewhat less cynical, but at the same time recognize the motivating force of self-interest.
Self-interest was out in full force last summer when a handful of local residents pushed hard to limit the power of our elected city council to responsibly manage residential growth within the city.
They were successful in their efforts despite the fact that only 10 per cent of the city’s eligible voters turned out to support their ballot initiative and an almost equal number turned out in opposition (whether or not the result was a demonstration of democracy I will leave for another day).
On Thursday May 31st, I hope that those who, like me, have a self-interest of our own in responsibly managed, reasonable growth in Whitehorse will show up to vote in the city’s plebiscite and referendum.
While the issues at the ballot box might sound dull and technical, the results of Thursday’s votes will have serious consequences.
The economic issues are quite simple: If the measures are defeated, any hope of seriously alleviating the shortage of served urban lots within Whitehorse in the near future is lost.
The consequences of this will be continued increases in the cost of a new house and price growth that will outpace inflation and put the dream of owning a home further out of reach for many working Whitehorse families.
To add insult to injury, higher house prices will undoubtedly lead to higher rent for those who don’t own a house of their own. If you think housing prices in the city are high now, you are in for a surprise.
If new lots do not come onto the market with reasonable expediency things will only get worse.
These are the facts.
I will spare readers from any moralizing about whether development is inherently good or bad, and who is right of wrong in the ongoing struggle between NIMBYism and reasonable growth.
That is not my aim. My hope is simply that those whose self-interest is tied to a market for affordable homes in the not-too-distant future recognize their stake in new residential development and feel compelled to act.
Let’s not let those with vested interests in expensive real estate and illusory fears about green space somehow disappearing (a proposition that I frankly find ludicrous in our sprawling city where trees and bike paths are abundant) cause us any further economic harm.
A good gamble
It is time for someone to express a positive view of the deal hammered out between Yukon Energy Corporation and Sherwood Copper.
Seen from my perspective, Yukoners stand to gain three significant things: a free $7 million contribution by Sherwood toward a power line between Carmacks and Stewart that we would someday have to build anyway; the sale of at least $12 million of surplus electrical power over four years (with expectations of much greater consumption and many more years of lucrative revenues following that); and a likely consumer electrical rate reduction, which would at least offset the YTG consumer rate subsidy that is about to be withdrawn.
That is quite a bundle of benefits, but there are some risks to taxpayers.
First, the taxpayer is gambling that the mine will remain in production for more than two years, by which time it will have returned more than the cost of the power line between Minto and the mine site.
Supporting that gamble are two favourable indicators.
First, the extraordinarily high price of copper (more than US$3.30 last Friday), and second, the foresight of Sherwood in selling most of its first four years of copper at fixed prices so they do not have to gamble on what the price of copper may bring anytime during the first four years.
Further supporting the gamble is the likelihood that Sherwood will produce much more copper than needed to meet its pre-sold contract obligations while copper prices continue to sit at their record levels, which will then mean we will have a chance to sell even more surplus electrical power than already agreed to.
And, then again, as the early years of production go by, the risk we taxpayers have assumed decreases to lower and lower levels, as a result of the $5 million or so we will receive under the agreement in each of the first four years, keeping in mind that there is virtually no operating cost to selling excess power production.
By my estimate, taxpayers will have received enough revenue to cover the up-front capital cost of the line from Minto into the mine site within two years.
A further cushion against a drop in the price of copper forcing the closure of the mine is the knowledge that the mine can still be profitable at copper prices lower than 70 cents a pound – one-fifth of today’s price.
On the other hand, based on the current projections, Sherwood will have returned no less than $40 million to Yukon Energy in the first seven years of operation — some $10 million more than the total cost of the entire project.
Even if all the numbers concerning construction costs don’t work out perfectly, there is sufficient upside to the deal for Yukoners to expect to gain a huge return on their gamble.
Gambles like that make a poor economy good, and a good economy great.
No tolerance for dog abuse
Open letter to Yukon Quest organization:
Iditarod musher Ramy Brooks was disciplined on May 18th for abusing his dog team towards the end of the 2007 Iditarod.
On behalf of sled dogs and those who are concerned about their welfare, we ask that you honour the two-year disqualification/three-year probationary period imposed on Ramy Brooks and not allow him in the Yukon Quest for that time period (Brooks is an ex-Yukon Quest champion).
He was seen by numerous witnesses punching, kicking and even hitting his dogs with a ski pole. One of his dogs died later on the trail, although race veterinarians determined the death was not attributed to the beating.
In a perfect world, Brooks would not be allowed to own one dog, let alone the numerous dogs he keeps in his racing kennel.
His Iditarod team should have been seized from him and placed in good homes or with kinder and gentler mushers.
Those who were quick to defend Mr. Brooks immediately after learning of the incident, and before all the facts were out, described the dog beating as tuning up the team.
Brooks needs a tune-up of his own and should take some anger-management courses.
For further information, track down Anchorage Daily News reporter Beth Bragg’s May 20th story about the disqualification.
Terry Cumming, Sled Dog Watchdog Coalition, Whitehorse