Fear of the no-shows
Voter apathy biggest fear on both sides of arena issue

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 10/98) - Supporters and opponents of the proposed new twin arena are both wary of a wild card that will be at play Wednesday when ratepayers determine whether the city can borrow $2.79 million for the project.

Historically, re-runs of Welcome Back Kotter generate more interest among Yellowknifers than borrowing plebiscites. Ratepayer participation in votes not held in conjunction with elections has been 10 per cent or lower.

"If the voters do come out, we can win this by a two-to-one margin," said Ald. Bob Brooks, speaking Tuesday evening at a meeting designed to marshall Yes voters.

"But if we take for granted it's going to happen, there's a chance we could lose the vote," he added.

Heading up the other side of the debate, Matthew Grogono, president of the Yellowknife Property Owners Association, pointed to the last election as an example of the lethargy that afflicts city voters.

"Last election only thirty-some-odd per cent of eligible voters turned out," said Grogono. "It seems that unless people have a cattle prod pushed to them they won't bother."

Leading support for the Yes side, Ter Hamer, said the small turnout at Tuesday's meeting -- about 18 people -- was not an indication of apathy among arena supporters. Hamer said a recreation hockey league championship, rec league and minor hockey meetings the same night prevented more from attending.

Hamer said there was no way of foreseeing the conflicts when the meeting was planned, about a month ago.

"I'm pretty sure it will be a much higher turnout this time around," he said of the actual vote.

The Yes side enjoys a marked advantage going into the vote. The vast majority are part of one or more ice-user associations. With lines of communication already established, they are better able to marshal forces going into Wednesday's vote.

And they plan to take advantage of that edge.

"We're going to encourage the 200 people who belong to our club to get out and vote yes because (a twin arena) will be a direct benefit to them," said Rosemary Cairns, president of the Great Slave Figure Skating Centre.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor Dave Lovell and Brooks provided information about voting.

The vote is open to property owners only. Those wishing to cast their ballots can do so at City Hall Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those owning more than one property get a vote for each property they own.

Those who can not make it out Wednesday can cast a vote by proxy. Proxy forms are available at City Hall, and must be submitted by another property owner.

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