Steve Roddick hadn’t planned to run for council, but two specific City of Whitehorse issues made him consider it.
“One was the tiny house development on Jarvis Street and (one was) the group home that was being built in Porter Creek,” Roddick told the News on Aug. 9, a day after announcing his run for council. “Watching how those stories unfolded and the conversations that happened at council, and in the paper, and people’s comments, it really made me feel like we need to work harder at building a community that’s for everyone.”
Roddick, 33, who’s on a leave from his job as acting senior analyst with the Yukon government, said he doesn’t think the negative comments that came out of discussions around those issues are reflective of the city.
That’s something else he said he’d like to address as a councillor — how the city can get feedback from a greater diversity of residents.
Right now, he said residents who are equally affected by council decisions are not supported in ways that allow them to participate equally.
Roddick said that during public hearings at council meetings, often no one shows up to speak, or the same handful of people show up to speak. It’s not representative, he said.
He said he’d like to see the city doing more of what it did with the Downtown Master Plan. The Downtown Residents Association (of which Roddick is a member) spoke with city staff about different ways of gathering feedback. This included a barbecue in south downtown, where there’s lots of social housing.
“I think a lot of people, when you ask what the city should focus on, have a hard time connecting city government to particular issues, which ties back to the lack of engagement between people who live here and the city administration,” he said.
“The issue right now is that people don’t have a real relationship with our city government. I think people pay their parking tickets and they visit the CGC and they take out the trash and that’s, for a lot of people, the extent of their engagement with the city.”
High on his list of priorities though is housing.
Roddick, who grew up in the Yukon, said he’s spoken to a number of residents in the lead-up to announcing his bid. A common refrain is that housing is a challenge for people across the spectrum.
There are low vacancy and high rental rates, which makes it hard for renters. High housing prices make it difficult for both younger people who want to own and older people trying to remain in the communities they know.
He said there needs to be a better mix of residential housing development. Rather than making a decision to get a low-density build on the market because demand is high, he would want to look at how that kind of development could potentially impact the viability of future transit or commercial space.
“The longer view is something I’d want to bring,” he said.
“I think being progressive is being committed to working for change for the better and, for me, there’s two main elements of that I think. And one would be that the decisions we make today don’t shortchange the next generation.”
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