At YkOnline.ca, we’re trying to keep you informed and connected to the people who would like to have a hand in the building and operation of Yellowknife but in a light-hearted way. We sent around the following questions to each of the candidates for mayor and council asking for a written or video response. As each candidate responds we’ll post their answers. You can follow all the 2012 Municipal Election posts with the tag “yzfelec2012“.
Where do you volunteer and why?
Last year I took on a new volunteer commitment as president of the Long John Jamboree Society. Given that it was a new event, it was pretty time-consuming, but also incredibly rewarding and entertaining. I hope to continue in this role until the rest of the Board gets sick of me and orchestrates a coup.
I recently joined Rotary. Through Rotary, I think I’ll have the chance to contribute to a much wider variety of causes than I otherwise could on my own.
I’m also an active member of the Yellowknife Trash Pick-Up Artists, which I co-founded with Paul Falvo in 2007.
While attending the University of British Columbia in 2010 and 2011, I volunteered with the Sierra Club Comox Valley, a grassroots environmental organization started by my parents. I helped with their fundraising and social media. I even donned a duck costume to promote the cause at local events.
What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in public?
I’ve always been pretty terrible at basketball. Despite my lack of skills, I tried out for my high school team in grade twelve. There must not have been a bumper crop of talent that year because I made the team. One afternoon our coach decided I was having way too much fun riding the pine so he put me in the game right after halftime. Nobody had bothered to mention to me that in basketball, you switch ends at halftime. Or, if I did know this, I forgot it on that day. I think readers can probably figure out the rest. Jump ball ends up in my hands, I streak to the hoop unopposed…massive two-handed reverse dunk at my own end. Or at least that’s how I recall it.
How will you communicate with residents, how will that be better than what is available now?
Several members of the current Council are active on Facebook and Twitter, and one councillor circulates an effective e-bulletin, but I haven’t seen much online in the way of in-depth analysis of issues. If elected, I would like to fill this void, and I believe blog posts are the best way to do it. For the last couple years I’ve written a blog called “Above All, Yellowknife.” Through it I’ve been able to explore and debate city issues in more depth than is usually possible through Facebook. Blog posts can also be linked to Facebook and Twitter, which gives them a lot more reach. I think it makes sense for me to continue to use this format to communicate with residents.
I would also like to point out that, now that the City has hired a Communications Coordinator, communications between City Hall and the public should improve. This will impact the nature of communications between councillors and residents because councillors have spent a lot of time in the past filling in the information gaps left by City Hall. These gaps should now close, and councillors will have an opportunity to progress from merely notifying the public of important events to actually dissecting, debating and taking a firm position on the issues.
What do you have in your fridge?
It’s a bit low on stock right now. We’re sort of down to the staples. But generally we do a good job of keeping it healthy. My fiancée is a pescetarian, so there’s a lot of soy, fruits and vegetables in the fridge and the occasional whitefish and vegan pizza in the freezer. I have emergency rations of Northern Fancy Meats beef jerky tucked away here and there.
How do people know you around town?
I grew up here, so lots of people know me from grade school or through my parents. I owned a coffee shop (Javaroma) from 1996 to 2009. You get to know a lot of people that way. My brother was an MLA for eight years and is well known around town, so quite a few people know me though him as well. Finally, as a realtor with Century 21 I do a lot of advertising. The rest is the usual stuff – volunteer work like the Long John Jamboree, social interactions, etc.
Where can you be found most often during the endless days in the summer?
I enjoy camping, fishing, jogging and nature walks with my nieces. Next summer I’m looking forward to having more company while doing all these things – my fiancée is browsing online for potential SPCA adoptees as we speak.
Describe what the Harbour Plan is in plain english and why it is, or isn’t important.
I have mixed feelings about some of the City’s wide-ranging planning documents and strategies, so I’m going to go a bit off topic here. I apologize in advance if this ends up being a bit long-winded (some might say YKOnline asked for this by choosing not to set word limits).
I absolutely agree that our waterfront needs to be managed according to a well-thought out strategy. Old Town and Latham Island are the well-spring of our City’s identity, and their enhancement needs to be done with extreme caution and care if it is to be done at all. These areas also hold incredible potential for strengthening our appeal as a tourist destination and thereby reducing our city’s economic dependence on mines and the public sector. Finally, in a growing city, if we don’t manage the waterfront, it will become clogged with uses that are not necessarily complementary.
However, I don’t know that the Harbour Plan – an expensive, wide-ranging planning document – was necessary. I also fear that it could be used to justify unwise investments and planning decisions. The Smart Growth Plan was a similar document based on great planning principles, such as downtown revitalization, promoting the use of public transit, the preservation of green space and creating welcoming public spaces. It covered an extremely wide range of planning topics, and it received input from thousands of residents. In fact, because it received so much input (and carried such a hefty price tag), it soon became viewed as something like an official guide to the planning goals of all Yellowknife residents.
But it didn’t receive input exclusively from average residents. It also received input from City planners. I’ll give you one example of how this can be problematic. I was a member of the Smart Growth Development Committee. I attended all the workshops, the charettes, the board meetings – the whole deal. I don’t recall a single member of the public suggesting that Old Airport Road should be converted from a mix of industrial and commercial uses to residential and lighter commercial uses. I certainly didn’t hear any Old Airport Road landowners saying this. I do recall it being suggested, but by City planners, not by members of the public. But the Smart Growth document doesn’t differentiate between the sources of ideas – they all ended up in the Plan and now they all have the legitimacy that comes from spending over a million dollars and consulting 4,000 residents.
But regardless of the actual level of public support for the zoning changes, shortly after the ink was dry on the Smart Growth Plan, the City began moving forward with its strategy. The changes to Old Airport Road zoning were opposed by many of the affected landowners. Those I spoke to felt pressured to accept the changes because they were presented as the will of the people—Smart Growth. I found this troubling.
I’m not saying the Planning Department intentionally salted the Smart Growth Plan with its own goals. They just did their jobs as professional planners participating in and facilitating the workshops. But the result was the same. Some of these planning ideas—ideas that never would have even occurred to the 3,990 other participants in the process—are now driving our city planning decisions. And because of the perceived clout of the Smart Growth Plan, councillors are not challenging and debating these ideas as vigorously as they should.
I’m not suggesting the Smart Growth Plan should be discarded, nor the Harbour Plan. I’m raising this issue because I think City Councillors should refrain from viewing these plans as gospel – they do not necessarily represent the collective will of the people from cover to cover.
The Harbour Plan contains valuable guiding principles that should inform decisions about harbourfront development. If elected, I will adhere to these principles as well as to those of the Smart Growth Plan, but I will not necessarily support the full complement of recommendations contained within either plan.
Have you worked with any of the other councilor candidates before?
I work with Cory Vanthuyne on the Board of the Long John Jamboree Society. Cory is also a close personal friend. I look forward to doing volunteer work with Bob Brooks, Lydia Bardak and Amanda Mallon through Rotary. I have also worked closely with another Rotarian, mayoral candidate Paul Falvo, on several litter clean-up initiatives.
What is your favourite winter activity?
Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, attending the Long John Jamboree.
Are you a first generation Yellowknifer?
My family moved to Yellowknife from Iqaluit 29 years ago. I was born in Smithers, B.C.
Have you worked on councils or committee before?
I’ve worked on the Downtown Enhancement Committee, the Litter-Free Yellowknife Sub-Committee and the Smart Growth Development Committee.
For more information on how to follow each of the candidates visit our Election 2012 Page.