More than any other level of government, the municipal offers the most rewards and opportunities to make a difference.
It does not take years to get a bylaw passed. Your area of responsibility is small enough to view the big picture and to project possible future outcomes.
Unlike a territory, province or country, all members of council are a team working for the same goals.
Wards are needed in the mega cities where there are very different needs as they expand, but in smaller cities, the key is good planning and ensuring all needs are met in an organized way, not as a result of a squeaky wheel.
Community associations, which we have in a number of our subdivisions, provide excellent input to council on the needs for their area.
Your city must have a good zoning bylaw; a good maintenance/replacement plan; a good review process for public input when new areas are developed; a bylaw review committee to ensure things are up to date and meeting the needs of a growing city; and citizens’ forums to get feedback. One thing you quickly learn: everyone has an opinion on how you should do things to meet their needs and no two opinions are the same. Whatever you do, at least half of the population will think it was wrong.
There are good ideas out there and it is in the review and forum process that these ideas come forward and help in correcting the flaws in a plan.
But there are lots of very bad ideas too, ideas which are self-serving and not beneficial to the city as a whole. If you do not use these ideas does it mean you are not listening? Everything you do affects everyone in the city, and a council must always be balancing the good of many over the few.
“We need bigger lots and more greenspace in our city!” OK, but that means a greater cost of running services Ã water, sewer, paving, garbage collection, street cleaning Ã opening up more wilderness space, and more taxes, which everyone has to share.
Greenbelts are wonderful oases in a concrete jungle; a great place for our kids to play, we don’t want them on the streets. Greenbelts also attract garbage, grass cuttings, extended backyards, vehicle storage, vandalism, ATVs, motorbikes, and greater access/escape routes for thieves and drug users.
Green space forces new expansion outwards and such heavy islands of trees are a potential forest fire hazard.
Whitehorse is in the middle of one of the most spectacular wildernesses in the world, 10 minutes in any direction and you’re on your own. Infill and building up to keep that ‘10-minute’ boundary is what we need to do. We all live in the Yukon for the great openness, beauty, lifestyle and freedom, but with all that comes the responsibility to preserve it so it is still there for our grandchildren to enjoy.
We do not need more space for all our toys, what we need are fewer toys.
I applaud more rules for yard care. No, everyone does not want a garden and lawn. Natural yards are great, but in an urban setting they need control and care. Seeds and roots from unkempt yards travel to other yards and are not welcome. Unsightly backyards should not have to be shared by the neighbours.
During elections, we hear criticism of city staff: “They are running things and council is doing what it is told, council should be in charge!”
Councillors are not experts. Council hires persons with expertise in law, administration, finance, design, law enforcement, parks, building management and recreation to advise it and provide options.
If council needs more information they can always get it. But the buck stops there. Council has the final decision and if it chooses to do its own thing and ignore the advice, then your city can get into some very big problems.
A careful reading of the municipal act will clearly identify the role of council.
The city has had some difficult litigation problems, McLean Lake and Takhini to name two.
There is a very long history in both these areas and this council is trying to deal with issues that should never have been allowed to develop in the first place.
Whitehorse has never had a bad council, we have been very fortunate.
Some have been better than others, but they all have been dedicated, hardworking, ordinary citizens trying to make Whitehorse a better place in which to live.
There is a wide slate to choose from in our upcoming election.
It is up to the people of Whitehorse to care enough for their city to go out and vote so this trend will continue.