Best year yet
Mayor reflects back

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 05/00) - This time last year, Yellowknife Mayor Dave Lovell was bemoaning the worst year he'd ever seen as a member of city council. This year, he's singing a much different tune.

Lovell on the issues

Proposed Giant land/tax agreement:

"That was really the coup of the year. Even if we can only park cars and launch boats (at the Yellowknife Bay site), in 30 or 40 years people will look back and say it's the gem of the city."

Property tax increase:

"Of course I wish we didn't need to do it. Without that tax increase, it would have been six years without one."

Electoral ridings court challenge:

"It was absolutely bad politics. If they (the territorial government) didn't want to give Yellowknife proportional representation, they should have given us oneextra seat. Now we have three more."

Building a new arena:

"We really have to do something about that or we're going to get an order to close down the Gerry Murphy Arena and we won't have a new facility."

Franklin Ave. paving:

"It should have been done years ago. Here I am saying Yellowknife is a good place to live, and our downtown looked like Detroit after the riots."

New youth centre:

"It's going to be a centre in a good building under good management. They've found no asbestos. I think it will be perfect, kitty-corner to the RCMP."

"I think this is probably the best year I've seen in politics as mayor or a member of council," said Lovell in an interview on New Year's Eve. "And last year was the worst year."

However, Lovell said it's been a busy year at City Hall. Unlike last year, when many of the city's controversies and problems were internal, such as high staff turnover and council discord, this year's blowouts seemed to touch the public where it mattered.

Lovell said one of the worst things to happen this year was the six per cent tax increase. He said spending cuts in certain areas couldn't make up for losing 3.7 per cent of the city's tax base along with falling property assessment values.

"We made cuts from within, but our additional expenditures went up $800,000, too," Lovell said. "Debt services expenses went up, among other things. So when Royal Oak went bankrupt, we were stuck."

He said the timing of a council trip to Halifax just before the tax increase was "a public relations nightmare," adding, "It was not the time to send six people to Halifax."

"It was not what was done, but how it was done. I think council made appropriate decisions, but we needed more public consultation."

The mayor said he would have liked to settle the matter of the proposed new arena in 1999. He was also disappointed the ratepayers rejected a proposal to borrow $1.5-million to finish Yellowknife's paving program.

"I think with the tax increase, people didn't want to see the city spend any more money," said Lovell. "However, (the debenture) wouldn't have affected taxes anyway."

He said he doubts people voted against the paving loan because of the negative reaction of businesses to this summer's Franklin Ave. paving project.

"I think it had to be done and there was no painless way to do it," Lovell said. "And now it's over."

Even with all the controversies, Lovell said Yellowknife's well-being is more secure than any time in the past five years.

"If you're way up top looking down, Yellowknife is in good shape," he said.

"For the first time in Yellowknife, there have been loser sections in our economy. But the worst has happened to us, and we're restabilizing. The old industries of government and gold are stabilizing, and the new industries, such as the secondary diamond industries, are replacing the old ones."

Lovell said city council is also coming together.

"We have a functioning council this year," he said. "Last year, we had such a high turnover in administration and council that it was dysfunctional for a while."

And will the mayor run for a second term?

"I don't know," Lovell said. "Last year I would have said no, but it hasn't taken as much out of me this year as last year."