No vote is a ‘yes’ vote

Whitehorse is undemocratic, according to some residents. However, city politicians blame the territory for making the rules that way. The saga of the Black Street improvement project is still ongoing.

Whitehorse is undemocratic, according to some residents.

However, city politicians blame the territory for making the rules that way.

The saga of the Black Street improvement project is still ongoing. A number of residents attended the public hearing on Monday to oppose the city’s practice of counting uncast ballots as “yes” votes, among other things.

“The way it’s presented, appears to me as undemocratic,” said Nathan Millar, who has lived in Whitehorse for two and a half years.

“Why would you count ballots that are not cast? We don’t do that in any other system. It’s a way of just pushing a project through.”

Ballots on the project have been sent out and counted twice now, but the question the city presented has remained the same, said Millar, who then asked why people would cast another vote on a question they have already answered.

“When we went through and did the vote again, more people were in favour,” said Mayor Bev Buckway. “(But) we work to the municipal act, which tells us how the vote is held and how the vote is counted.

According to the act, if a majority objects the project cannot proceed.

City officials interpret this to mean only objections should be counted. Silent residents are considered to support the proposal.

But it’s not the city’s act – it’s the territorial government’s, said Buckway who then encouraged disgruntled residents to speak to their MLAs.

The act comes up for review every couple of years – the last time being two years ago, said Buckway.

“The public didn’t come to that meeting to talk about it,” she said.

Apart from the way voting is managed, Black Street residents are opposed to having to fit the bill for things they do not want.

The improvement project would involve tearing up the entire road to fix water and sewer infrastructure underneath. However, when putting the road back down, certain standards would have to be met, said Wayne Tuck, manager of engineering and environment with the city.

“I can’t possibly replace the sewer and not the road and it’s not possible to lay new road without making improvements,” Tuck said.

Accessibility and safety standards are the main focuses for the above-ground work, said Tuck. Sidewalks and curbs have been advocated for by local organizations that lobby for disabled people, he said. As well, making a clear separation between the road and walkway is a major safety concern for pedestrians.

All new infrastructure will have to abide by these standards, said Buckway. These are national standards, not just ones imposed by the municipality. Especially, she adds, if there is funding for the project coming in federally.

But one-third of the money is coming from the residents themselves, which is what has them so upset.

“It’s not that we necessarily don’t want it but if you’re asking us to pay for it, then we don’t want it. We’re OK without it,” said Millar, who predicts he’ll have to pay $11,000.

“These people are getting a great deal,” said Tuck. All new developments, like Ingram and soon Whistle Bend, are paying all their costs while Black Street residents are only being asked to cover about 10 per cent, he said.

Once the improvements are done, residents will see that things are better, he said, adding that four or five years ago these people came to him to ask for improvements.

Improving the look of downtown is the goal, he said, and Black Street will set the precedent.

“Bit by bit, we’ll be able to make the downtown look like an urban area like it should,” he said. Ogilvie and Wheeler Street have already contacted him for similar improvements, he adds.

City council expects a report on this issue by November 15.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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