Secretive city needs oversight

Secretive city needs oversight Recently, council approved, without discussion, an agenda item billed as "Comprehensive Funding Agreement." The obscure term is the way Whitehorse chose to describe a couple of mysterious Firesmart pilot projects and an

Recently, council approved, without discussion, an agenda item billed as “Comprehensive Funding Agreement.”

The obscure term is the way Whitehorse chose to describe a couple of mysterious Firesmart pilot projects and an evaluation of Firesmart projects, funded by the federal government.

My sense is that the pilot projects Clive Sparks described (one is adjacent to the McLean Lake Road, the second is an area between MacRae and the Yukon River), as attempting a more “efficient” approach with “heavy equipment” could have something to do with extreme proposals in the Whitehorse West fuel-management plan.

These suggested converting coniferous forests to primarily deciduous, and treatment boundaries greater than the norm. It seemed to me at the time it was proposed that it would result in a landscape so altered it would appear agricultural.

But I can only speculate, because I was told the plan itself was only a draft and could not be released to the public.

Apparently it never was.

I’ll leave it to others to ask the obvious questions – such as a more precise description of the work; why pilot projects are being conducted before or simultaneously with an evaluation; a more complete and less dismissive response to the ATV problem than Doug Graham accepted; and, hey, what about the alleged green space plan? Shouldn’t these things be integrated?

What I can say with certainty is that it’s become ever more difficult to find out what the city is up to lately.

This project came in under the public health and safety committee. It didn’t form a bylaw and, for some reason, though it covers dozens, if not hundreds, of hectares of public lands, isn’t considered a land-use issue. So Sparks can have his way with the landscape with no need to inform the public or allow the public a chance to respond, other than through the council meetings.

Since the planning department’s fingerprints usually show up on just about everything, including voter registration and the threat that CBC’s AM signal will be stripped from the entire Yukon, their absence in this case is conspicuous.

Whitehorse council has not posted current minutes on their website for months. Most of the material that should simply be posted online, and/or made available for pickup, such as council minutes, and various reports, has to be requested from city administration. In effect, this makes accessing public documents about city business equivalent to making an ATIPP request.

The city is more forthcoming with council and senior administration minutes. But a large, even unreasonable, number of those meetings are in camera, so that’s not saying much.

The only documentation of council meetings lately is the video. The video for the council meeting of July 6, when Clive Sparks presented it, wasn’t available till July 14 Ð the day after council voted to let him do it.

This careless, even furtive, treatment of the public record serves as another way to inhibit the public participation that is a fundamental principle of the Yukon Municipal Act.

Of course, the 10 people or so currently running things at city hall have been emphatic that they have no use for that aspect of the legislation, and so far have been permitted to cherry-pick their way through which parts of the act they like to be governed under.

Let’s hope they’ll have to answer for their attitude during the upcoming election.

Marianne Darragh

Whitehorse