No shortage of issues for upcoming election
by Richard Gleeson
NNSL (Sep 10/97) - There's no shortage of issues facing candidates for the municipal election Oct. 20.
Following are just some of the issues that have confronted the current city council over the past two years.
Yellowknifer encourages readers to add to the list through letters, e-mail and our web site's electronic discussion board at www.nnsl.com.
One that has cropped up time and again this term is who is in charge?
City council has repeatedly been accused of simply rubber stamping recommendations made by city staff.
The issue of leadership is highlighted by the ongoing houseboat issue. Council has never formally authorized suing the houseboaters for jurisdiction of the area they occupy, yet the city has spent tens of thousands of dollars on the case. How accountable should administration be to mayor and council?
Safety and policing
Street crime, most of it in the downtown core, has become a concern of many residents and business owners this summer.
The number of assaults committed in the city is way up and many residents say they are afraid to walk the streets at night.
What role should city hall have in maintaining law and order?
The city's municipal enforcement division is composed of six officers. They have the authority to enforce city bylaws, the Motor Vehicles Act and the Highway Traffic Act, but not the Criminal Code.
The RCMP is funded by federal tax dollars and says its resources are too strained for the kind of solutions some have suggested, such as a curfew and more foot patrols.
What solutions do councillors and candidates have to this pressing problem?
As former alderman Dick Peplow noted in a recent letter to the editor, residents may never know how any one councillor truly stands on a particular issue.
Peplow was referring to the secret meetings ("aldermen's briefings," according to city hall) which occur each Monday.
The argument councillors make for secret meetings is they provide council with an informal forum in which they can candidly hash out the issues.
Critics ask why issues can not be debated candidly in public and say all the real debating is done by the time issues come before the public.
A group of ratepayers have gone to court to have the secret meetings stop. The city is fighting back as hard as it can.
Conflict of interest
This council inherited a conflict of interest in connection with Tuaro Dairy.
Former finance director Joe Kronstal was hired by the previous council with the understanding that he would be permitted the freedom to operate a local dairy.
The dairy went into debt to the government, banks and the city. The city purchased the dairy facility from the bank then leased it back to Kronstal. Concerns of a conflict of interest arose when the dairy failed to pay taxes and lease payments for five years.
Kronstal and the dairy agreed to a repayment plan through increasing lease payments. The conflict became critically apparent when it was discovered the city did not increase the dairy's lease payments as agreed upon nor did the dairy pay off the debt.
In the end, the city wrote off more than $200,000 in the dairy's lease arrears. Kronstal left city hall.
Is it proper that
a top city bureaucrat be allowed to run a business that is in debt to the city?
Preparing for the future
The effect of government cutbacks, jobs lost to division and falling gold prices have combined to test the strength of the city's economy.
Should the city be saving its money for rainy days that may lie ahead or looking to expand?
Millions are being spent on an ambitious infrastructure replacement program. Two years ago, the city entered into partnership with private developers to build the Niven Lake subdivision, which could total 350 lots (fewer than 10 have been sold). Council was considering the purchase of Northland Utilities (for $15 million to 20 million) and has earmarked $10.5 million for a new arena and community centre complex.
What should money be spent on and how much?