Friday, September 5, 1997
Selective listening

The Twin Pine Hill controversy offers another demonstration, as if it was needed, of city hall's ability to hear without listening.

Two months ago council heard concerns residents had about blasting the hill to make way for the $10.5-million twin-pad arena and community centre.

The most compelling evidence against the site was taken from the city's five main planning documents, all of which recommended the space remain undeveloped.

Another resident recommended a plebiscite to determine how much the public supports the expense and siting of the facility.

Both concerns deserve reasoned replies. None have been made. And if not for the Yellowknives Dene's reluctance to give away their rights to the hill, the blasting would have begun last month.

But more distressing is the contempt with which council seems to hold public input.

Public concerns seem to be valued only to the degree they comply with what's already been decided by the Corporation of the City of Yellowknife. How is it that council and city hall staff know better than residents what's best for the city? Whose money is it anyway?

Yellowknife citizens have seen plenty of evidence of this lip service city hall gives to public input.

The exorbitant expense of the public library, the Tuaro Dairy write off, the disappearance of the Woodyard, the mean-spirited approach to the houseboat issue, secret meetings ... the list goes on and on.

The city may be able to avoid a plebiscite on the arena and community centre, but there's another one coming. It's called an election.

New liquor store won't wreak havoc
From the Inuvik Drum

Expanded hours and greater selection at the new liquor store shouldn't mean expanded alcohol problems and greater misery for Inuvik.

The new store opens Oct. 1, and will feature 54 hours and six days of service a week, 140 more liquor products than presently offered and 72 more square metres of floor space.

The Inuvik Alcohol Committee and Inuvik MLA Floyd Roland see this expansion as an attempt by government to jack up liquor sales and increase tax revenues. But statistics show that Northerners are drinking less, not more liquor, and it's doubtful whether having 25 beer selections to choose from instead of 18 will change those figures.

According to the Brewers Association of Canada, beer consumption in the NWT dropped 17 per cent last year, while hard liquor consumption fell 5.4 per cent. NWT Liquor Commission statistics appear to back up this statement. While sales to consumers have increased slightly, from 2,965,000 litres in 1995 to 3,054,000 litres in 1996, sales to bars in Inuvik fell about the same amount, from 1,408,000 litres to 1,320,000 litres over the same period. Sales to licensees at the Inuvik Liquor Store, meanwhile, fell from 290,000 to 249,000 litres between 1995-96.

The Inuvik Alcohol Committee and Roland believe that more hours and better selection will increase alcohol problems. This isn't likely. Those with alcohol problems are willing to drink almost anything to feed their self-destructive habit. More selection won't change the fact that those clients the committee works with aren't fussy about what they drink, so long as they get high.

As for increased hours, it's likely that those with alcohol problems were not held back by fewer hours offered by the present store. They either stock up, or turn to Lysol and other products to get through until the store reopens.

If anything, expanded hours will only hurt the bootlegging business, which relies on those people caught during store closures, who will pay almost any price on the black market for a bottle.

Perhaps the government does believe this expansion will improve sinking sales. Heaven knows they need the money. But if that's their plan, they may be disappointed. Better hours and selection means only one thing: for responsible drinkers in town, it's time to celebrate. For those with alcohol problems, it's business as usual. For bootleggers, there may be some tough times ahead.

More help needed

Judging by the number of comments we heard over the summer from callers and passers-by about the RCMP in Yellowknife, LEAP -- the Law Enforcement Advocacy Program -- needs to bolster its ranks and put in some overtime.

The program, initiated in 1996 by one-time disgruntled citizen Pam Meuwissen, is based on a similar program out of California that acts as an advocacy group for people having communication difficulties with law enforcement agencies.

Currently lacking in volunteers, the group could use more help in getting public suggestions and complaints about how the city is being policed forwarded to where those suggestions and complaints will do the most good -- on file at the detachment.