the greening of municipal politics

It is that time in the three-year municipal political cycle: local council elections are due in the Yukon. This year they take place on October 15.

It is that time in the three-year municipal political cycle: local council elections are due in the Yukon.

This year they take place on October 15.

It is duly noted that not all candidates for mayors, councilors and advisory council representatives run as environmentalists or even as green candidates.

But since some environmental issues are now so mainstream it would be wise for all candidates to at least be familiar with the main issues.

Recycling is something all Yukon citizens do, whether it is taking empty beer bottles back for refunds or dropping off cardboard.

At least visit the local community recycling centre and discuss what the issues and problems are facing the organization.

One does not have to promise to solve the problems the minute one gets elected but it is probably prudent to at least be aware of them.

The next visit should be to the community dump.

While some are well managed and minimize their environmental impact, some dumps still burn garbage inflicting who knows what sort of environmental air-borne damage on nearby citizens.

If elected to sit on an advisory council whose geographic region encompasses one of these dumps, interacting with Yukon government officials and politicians to deal with this issue would be an important duty.

All Yukon municipalities have variations on an Official Community Plan.

The one dedicated to the municipality where the candidate intends to run should perhaps be read by that candidate.

The plan will lay out all sort of arcane details, from subdivision growth to green belt designation.

Get to know the budgets from the previous few years.

Find out where the money is being spent and, more importantly, where the money is coming from.

It is no good trying to get elected by promising constituents expensive projects if they cannot be paid for.

Likewise, campaigning on tax cuts might not be appropriate if large chunks of the budget are being spent on essential items like clean drinking water and safe sewage disposal.

Of course a really good thing for any candidate to do would be to ask local voters what they think the issues are.

After all, one is running to be their representative.

Some local issues will no doubt crop up within certain neighbourhoods.

Dirt bikes and snowmobile use of local walking trails might be of concern.

Smog from wood-burning stoves might be an issue.

Noise pollution from those who live near busy roads could be a complaint.

These are all examples of environmental issues that are sometimes neglected by politicians.

Of course, in an election year now is the chance for the electorate to bring these issues to the fore.

A candidate should be a little wary of special interest groups.

These range from non-governmental organizations to business associations.

While the concerns these groups bring up might be interesting, the candidate must be aware groups do not vote.

It never helps if a candidate is seen as a representative or, even worse, as a puppet of a special interest lobby.

Even if that group is an environmental group.

Only individuals vote, so they are the ones who should be listened to.

For those running in Whitehorse there are some other issues to consider.

Take the bus for a few days to understand why some citizens complain about it.

It will also provide an opportunity to understand the operational difficulties it faces.

Get on a bike and try out the various bicycle paths within the city of Whitehorse.

See how easy, or how difficult, it can be to get around town without a vehicle.

Some voters are totally dependent on the bus system or bicycles for transportation, and both require infrastructure paid for with tax dollars.

Whitehorse candidates should also visit the city sewage lagoons.

While not exactly on the tourist map, these are a rather essential piece of infrastructure and every candidate in Whitehorse should be familiar with it.

Besides, it is an appropriate introduction to some aspects of the world of politics.

For more information on running in the 2009 municipal and local advisory council elections visit the Association of Yukon Communities website and the city of Whitehorse website.

They both have information packages available for would-be municipal politicians.

Lewis Rifkind s a Whitehorse-based

part-time environmentalist.