Municipal issues are always a “hot topic” around Michael Kokiw’s dinner table, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
The executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines is running for city council.
It’s the first time that the 37-year-old father of two has run for municipal office.
Accountability and fiscal responsibility are two areas that the city needs to improve on, said Kokiw.
“The city’s financials are supposed to be out six months after the end of their year, which would be the end of June,” he said. “From what I understand, those financials are still not available … and this is not the first time that’s happened.”
Without that kind of information it’s difficult for citizens and organizations to make plans and partnerships with the city, he said.
“I think the city’s done a really good job through some of its campaigns on trying to engage citizens, but I think sometimes they miss the mark,” said Kokiw, who pointed to the recent uproar over the city’s decision to ban dogs from city-run buildings as a case in point.
“I think it’s possible when the city makes policy that they’re able to offer some sort of solution when they know that they’re cutting off people, when they know they’re causing issues,” said Kokiw.
He’d like to see the city look at converting Teegatha’oh Zheh or “420” Park at the end of Main Street into a dog park.
Not only would that help drive the “rowdy parties” out of the park but it would give dog owners a place to socialize their pets.
It won’t completely solve the issues, but it’s a low-cost “creative solution” that won’t require a big study, he said.
Like most Yukon immigrants, when Kokiw first arrived in the territory he never planned on staying. “It’s a typical Yukon story,” he said.
A decade later, he has no plans on leaving. Kokiw even moved his parents up to Whitehorse a few years ago.
Born in Montreal, Kokiw was raised in Mississauga, Ontario.
Coming to the North was a chance to get away from the rampant competition that he faced in the south.
“Even if you have the qualifications you’re not even guaranteed a chance at an opportunity,” he said. “A lot of coming north was seeing some of these opportunities.”
When he first arrived he made his home in Watson Lake, where he worked for CIBC. A few years later, he moved to Whitehorse to take a job in the business banking division. When the CIBC shut down that division – shortly after he made the move – Kokiw took a job working in economic development, first for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C., and later for the Yukon government.
Last year Kokiw left government to take over the Yukon Chamber of Mines.
“With my expertise in finance and First Nations relations they decided I was the person for the job,” he said.
It’s those same attributes that would make him an effective member of city council, said Kokiw.
Whether it’s finding new sources of revenue, treating wastewater or creating energy programs, the city can’t do it alone. It needs to find partners, he said.
“That’s something that I feel the city has lacked in the past, and that’s something else that I think I could bring to the table,” said Kokiw. “I’ve made these connections and I can help build the city’s partnerships.”
The municipal elections will be held Oct. 18
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