Whitehorse city councillors are sworn in 2015. Council meetings are divided into two separate categories: standing committees and regular council. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

The beginner’s guide to city hall

Got a beef with city hall? Unsure where to start? Here are the basics

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis appeared with his typical gavel — and an atypical crab hat, the result of a lost bet with the mayor of Juneau — to preside over council functions July 10. While most people know there are weekly council meetings, not everyone may be aware of how these meetings function or how the voting outcomes at these meetings affect the day to day workings of the city and the citizens who live here.

Council meetings are held every Monday night at 5:30 p.m., and are divided into two separate categories: standing committees and regular council. Standing committee meetings are informational meetings, where city staff present information on items and issues to council. Council then has a week to mull these issues over before they are presented again for a vote at regular council meetings.

“No decisions are made at standing committee meetings,” said city clerk Norma Felker. “One is info and the other (regular council) is decision.”

Standing committee and regular council meetings are rotating, with committee meetings typically the first and third monday of each month and regular council meetings the second and fourth meeting of each month.

Bylaws governing everything from budget amendments for public works projects to taxi regulations — are voted on at regular council meetings.

Blyaws must undergo three readings before they can be approved, Felker said. Typically the first and second reading, can be done at the same regular council session, but they cannot all be done in one sitting. First readings are simply the formal introduction of the bill. Votes at this stage are typically a formality. Second reading is where extended debate among councillors often happens.

Finally, at third reading, councillors vote on whether to pass the bylaw. It is only after this final vote is held and a bylaw is approved that it is said to have passed or been adopted. It is only at this point that a bylaw is enforceable, she said.

Standing committee meetings also provide space for public hearings, which must be held in instances where “at least one person will object” to the motion being voted on, said Felker. This applies to things like local improvement charges (LICs), such as the one recently voted down by Hillcrest residents, or land use changes, such as the much-contested proposed infill lots. Both of these issues have received multiple public hearings, which are mandated by the territorial Municipal Act, said Felker.

Standing committee meetings are typically where delegates speak, said Felker. A delegate is any citizen who wishes to speak to the council on a matter they feel is of concern to the city. At a committee meeting, anyone may speak on any topic, but at regular council meetings, delegations are limited to items on the agenda. Delegates have five minutes to speak, and may be asked follow up questions by councillors.

So how do issues get put before council? City staff decides what to put on the agenda based on the projects currently underway, such as the approval to take out a $18.8-million loan for the operations building project, which will receive third and final reading at the July 24 regular council meeting. There are also annually recurring issues, such as the awarding of contracts for winter road services, which came up at the July 3 standing committee meeting and were awarded the following week at the July 10 regular meeting.

Felker said it is important that people know they are welcome to speak at city hall and that the public is welcome to participate in and attend meetings.

“All meetings are open to the public,” she said. “Municipal government is close to home and it’s the stuff that affects our day-to-day lives.”

Information about city council meetings or on how to register as a delegate, plus agendas and the minutes of past meetings is available at www.whitehorse.ca.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

City HallexplainerWhitehorse city council

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Mayor Dan Curtis sports a fun hat after losing a bet with the mayor of Juneau. (Lori Garrison/Yukon News)

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Most Read