Peter Jenkins is once more mayor of Dawson City.
His slim victory by seven votes was contested last week by the incumbent, John Steins, who worried that ineligible voters from outside the city boundaries had tilted the vote in Jenkins’ favour.
Yukon’s flimsy election rules don’t require voters to produce proof of identity or residency, relying instead upon the honesty of residents.
But, after examining the names of voters on Friday night, Steins concluded that “the honour system was used responsibly,” and conceded defeat.
Jenkins is the Klondike’s political heavyweight, having held the mayor’s seat for 14 years before serving as a cabinet minister for a decade.
His upcoming three-year term is sure to be a sharp contrast to the leadership of Steins, a gregarious artist who has never been shy about expressing his opinions, no matter how controversial.
During his term, Steins accused local gas station owners of price-gouging customers. This earned cheers from some, but his council reared up against him and banned the mayor from publicly discussing the subject.
By contrast, Jenkins, who owns the Eldorado Hotel, is often reticent, preferring to arm-twist in private rather than make public pronouncements.
His first priority as mayor will be to re-open talks with the Yukon government about the funding arrangements for Dawson’s sewage treatment plant, to be built for $25 million by 2011.
Jenkins is concerned that the operating and maintenance costs for the facility will prove to be “way in excess” of what the territory predicts, and that Dawson will be stuck with the bill.
He’s seen it happen before. During the late 1970s or early 1980s, while Jenkins was mayor, the territory installed new water and sewer pipes in Dawson.
The city was assured operating and maintenance would cost about $177,000, said Jenkins. The bills came in to be “just shy of $1 million.”
“History has a funny way of repeating itself,” he said.
A memorandum of understanding already ensures Dawson will receive help with any cost overruns for the sewage plant, said Steins. But Jenkins has his doubts.
Another priority for Jenkins is improved water treatment. He describes the city’s potable water as “corrosive.”
“It’s full of carbon dioxide, as well as a high content of manganese. The carbon dioxide eats copper pipe, and commercial buildings are piped with copper. The manganese discolours everything. Your wash water comes out black, and it stains your sheets.
“It will actually discolour stainless steel appliances.”
Jenkins has amassed his share of controversies, but it’s never stopped him from being re-elected.
He earned the nickname Pirate Pete with a scheme, while mayor, to purchase a residential satellite subscription under the names of long-dead pioneers and broadcasting the signal for free.
Earlier, in the 1970s, he spent six months in prison for perjury, where he studied to get his pilot’s licence. Around the same time, his hotel was found to be stealing electricity.
Jenkins had an acrimonious break with the Yukon Party in 2005, which resulted in him quitting cabinet to sit as an independent for a year before sitting out the 2006 election.
Jenkins owed the territory $300,000 in loans at the time. A collection agency was eventually called in to collect the money.
His abrupt departure from the Yukon Party won’t affect his ability to work with territorial ministers, Jenkins said.
“I have a responsibility to represent the city as mayor, and that’s what I’ll be doing,” he said.
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