More city control, less democracy

More city control, less democracy The upcoming municipal election is shaping up to be about nothing less than how candidates view their role as elected representatives. The views were articulated especially in the two public letters published on Friday,

The upcoming municipal election is shaping up to be about nothing less than how candidates view their role as elected representatives.

The views were articulated especially in the two public letters published on Friday, from mayoral candidates Al Fedoriak and Bev Buckway.

Fedoriak says he stands for open government and for being accountable to the people who elected him. Buckway assures us she will never break the confidentiality vow she took in the council oath of office.

The declaration seems to have been inspired by the Takhini North mediation, the settlement of which is not for our ears.

At the same council meeting where Councillor Doug Graham took an uncharacteristic stand about the public’s right to know, they passed a bylaw with the style that has marked the past three years of this council’s decisions.

The amendment to the Public Health and Safety bylaw decrees that lawns should be no more than 10 centimetres high.

By no stretch of the imagination is an unruly lawn a health and safety concern, and no, John Taylor, this is not a typical bylaw. Some municipalities have similar ones, not under health and safety, and all of them set the heights of maverick lawns much higher, more in the range of 45 centimetres.

This law, which also makes it illegal to show off our appliances to our neighbours, allows Taylor and his crew to come knocking on our doors to have a little discussion about our outdoor housekeeping habits. In fact, Councillor Dave Stockdale insisted on it, to reduce friction between neighbours, so he said.

In my opinion, this law has potential that makes me very uneasy. It was sold to council as being administered by the “common sense” of the avuncular Taylor.

As has happened before, it went from first to third reading in two meetings, and the draft bylaw was not available on the city webpage. No doubt, any citizen who publicly questioned it would have been scolded by council for not having their facts straight.

My intention is not to rehash another poorly conceived bylaw. It’s to point out that both the purpose and execution were typical of this council’s reign: to increase city administration’s authority over city residents; and to do so without sharing with citizens, in any meaningful way, the information that would have made it possible to have a public dialogue with city council about the substance of the bylaw.

That’s how commissioners used to govern.

The Yukon Municipal Act envisioned a municipal governance structure based on principles more in line with participatory democracy. But the recent BC Court of Appeal decision that outlawed the McLean Lake Park petition for referendum has thrown the municipal act into confusion.

I’ve been told by the Department of Community Services that addressing the repercussions of the Appeal Court decision is not a priority Ð not till after the municipal elections, strangely.

So we can only vote for what kind of governance we believe in, and not look to the municipal act to protect us from council decisions gone wrong.

With Fedoriak and several other council candidates who have said they see their role as representing citizens’ views, rather than telling people what’s good for them (or letting administration tell them), it doesn’t matter if I agree with all their positions on a host of issues.

If I understand their message correctly, they are promising they won’t consider our vote at the ballot box the last thing of interest we have to say to them for the next three years.

It’s a pathetic hope, compared with the aspirations of the Yukon Municipal Act for its citizens, who have been disenfranchised by the BC Court of Appeal.

But it will have to do for now.

Anyway, let’s all quit complaining for a day and get out there and vote.

Because I know one thing for sure: a low voter turnout favours the status quo.

Marianne Darragh

Whitehorse