Graham and city councillors clash over skate park site consultations

Education Minister Doug Graham received a tongue lashing from Whitehorse city councillors this week for appearing before them as a delegate - rather than in a formal meeting setting.

Education Minister Doug Graham received a tongue lashing from Whitehorse city councillors this week for appearing before them as a delegate – rather than in a formal meeting setting, as they had asked – to talk about the future site of the Second Haven Skatepark.

Graham addressed city council during its committee meeting on Tuesday evening, where he talked about the importance of working with the city to find a suitable location for the popular facility.

“It’s really important when you’re dealing with these issues to listen to these kids,” he said, talking about representatives from various user groups who were also in attendance and scheduled to address council.

Earlier this month, the French school board selected the site of Riverdale’s skate park for a future high school.

But both Graham and Minister Scott Kent have said that a new school will not be built until after the skate park has been relocated.

Members of the Skate for Life Alliance have expressed a strong desire to see the new park located somewhere downtown, to ensure both accessibility and visibility.

They say the current park has outdated equipment, is too small and doesn’t cater to the growing number of scooter users.

Councillor Dave Stockdale expressed frustration with the way council was being consulted, and said he wanted to sit down with Graham to ask questions.

“This is not the forum in which to ask these,” he said. “Some of the answers that come out aren’t what might come out in a forum like that.”

Coun. Mike Gladish told Graham he was pleased that the skateboarding community would be consulted on the future skate park, but wondered if the same courtesy would be extended to the general public.

“I’m a great believer in consultation when it’s appropriate and necessary,” Graham replied.

“As elected officials we’re elected to make some decisions and this is one of them. A short consultation period to get information from residents is a good thing but it’s not always the best thing.”

Mayor Dan Curtis said he was still “perplexed” as to whether the future francophone high school would indeed be built at the site of the current skate park.

He also wondered about whether the Riverdale Community Association had been consulted, if a traffic impact assessment had been carried out or if an increase in traffic would necessitate upgrades to the Robert Campbell Bridge.

Moreover, council was still waiting for a reply to its request for an audience with Graham and Kent, one that was made two weeks ago, Curtis added.

“Because I’ve been accused of negotiating with ministers directly I’d like to have our council meet with your administration and yourself, to address these concerns,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate that a minister comes here, showcasing a bunch of kids, saying that we won’t have a public consultation. The right thing, Mr. Graham, is to have a public consultation.”

Graham responded by saying he had misunderstood the process, adding that he hadn’t heard a question from Curtis.

He said council had given him two potential meeting dates but neither of them were suitable for both parties.

“We’re trying to work it out so we can meet with you,” he said.

He told council that he was there to speak about moving the skate park, not the construction of the francophone high school. “Focus on that,” he said. “I didn’t realize I was also going to be subject to harangue by yourself, imputing motives to me that I don’t have. You misconstrued my words completely, which I think is very immature.

“Use the words that I’m using, or else don’t do it.”

Graham is scheduled to meet with city councillors and administrators next Friday, Curtis said today.

During question period in the legislature on Wednesday, NDP Leader Liz Hanson accused Graham, and the Yukon Party, of once again choosing confrontation over consultation.

“You have to hand it to the premier: his repeated snubs at Whitehorse city council make for a great case study in not to build relationships,” she said.

Graham said that users of the current skate park would be “subject to a long list of consultations by legislation” about where to build the new facility and what it would look like.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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