You may recognize his voice from the radio, but this fall, Oshea Jephson wants to use it at the Whitehorse city council table.
On Sept. 13, the former CKRW reporter announced his intention to run in the municipal election. He told the News that city politics are something he got interested in shortly after moving to Whitehorse in 2016.
“Working as a reporter, I was covering a lot of it and there was always a lot of stuff that I was really excited about but couldn’t necessarily comment on or get involved in,” he said.
Chief among those, he said, are traffic issues, helping at-risk populations and homeless Yukoners, and the housing crisis.
Having previously lived in Nunavut, which shares some similar concerns, Jephson said it surprises him when he runs into people who seem to accept that social issues are par for the course, and simply part of the way things are.
“A lot of people don’t want to make those big steps to address those issues,” he said.
He said he sees it as necessary to work in tandem with established organizations that are already addressing those problems, to help people realize that at-risk populations aren’t suffering because they’re making the choice to do so, but rather because a series of events have led them to the positions they’re in.
“No one wants to spend a night outside,” he said.
Another of his major concerns is engagement with residents.
Jephson, who said he regularly talked to Yukoners over social media when he was a reporter (he now does communications for the Yukon government), said he would continue to do that as a councillor.
He said Whitehorse has historically had a low voter turnout for a city that’s otherwise very involved when it comes to municipal politics.
He’d like to see people in council chambers during Monday night meetings to share their thoughts and give feedback on council plans.
“Whether you’re for or against, sharing views with council on the record plays a big role in how council shapes its policy.”
One set of plans he’s particularly excited about is the city’s new downtown plan, which would see more social spaces in the core, including venues for artists and musicians, as well as short-term patios taking over parking spaces in the summer.
At the same time, Jephson said he’s aware that parking and traffic are a big issue for a lot of people downtown. He said with most city issues, having discussions with both sides is key, in his mind, to finding solutions that work for everyone.
For example, there’s a surplus of pedestrian crosswalks on Second Avenue, so he recognizes there has to be a balancing act between moving traffic, and making the core safe for people on foot. A lot of residents want to bike more often, but there’s a rift between cyclists and motorists, so Jephson would like to see more education around sharing the road.
“Everyone is willing to compromise a little bit if you help them to have a discussion and you kind of work with them,” he said.
Having just announced, Jephson said he hasn’t had much chance so far to speak with residents (“But as a reporter I was granted a lot of insight into what drove people nuts”), however, he plans to speak with people face-to-face by knocking on doors, and online via Twitter and Facebook.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org