City Hall presented its draft of a new strategy for municipal enforcement at a meeting on Tuesday. The first priority on the list? Being professional in their jobs.
A memo issued to city councillors states City of Yellowknife managers think a top priority for bylaw should be “professionalism in enforcement through responsive service delivery and public engagement.”
In response, councillors said professionalism should be a basic part of the job and not a “strategic priority.”
“That’s just doing your job and doing your job properly,” said Councillor Niels Konge.
“I’m wondering why that would be literally the top of the list. From my perspective, if they can’t do that, they shouldn’t be working for the City.”
Yellowknife’s municipal enforcement division has in recent years come under close scrutiny over allegations of bullying, with an inquiry following suggestions of an inappropriate workplace culture.
Senior administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett said she could “appreciate where Councillor Konge is coming from” but added making professionalism a priority was “supporting the refresh of municipal enforcement after some staff transitions, some changes internally, and some gaps in service.”
She told councillors: “This is an opportunity for us, under new management, to be able to support municipal enforcement … this is the refresh that we’re really very much looking forward to undertaking.”
Eric Bussey, the City’s director of public safety, said the renewed commitment to professionalism came from new municipal enforcement manager Jennifer Hunt-Poitras and her staff.
“Councillor Konge is right,” said Bussey. “This is the job. I guess we’re making a statement of principle that we want to put it first.
“It’s a statement of how the division wishes to move forward. We did talk to the team and some of this comes from the team. We thought it was a good reaffirmation of how we want to work as part of the community.”
Unsightly land, tour buses, parked cars
Councillors Shauna Morgan and Julian Morse said they broadly agreed with Konge that the priority should be considered a part of the job and could be deleted, as did Mayor Rebecca Alty.
“I can appreciate that we’ve had challenges around this in the past, so there may be some value in explicitly pointing that out,” said Morgan. “But I do agree that is also just a basic expectation of people in the job.”
“That’s what all City staff should be doing,” said Alty.
Other proposed priorities for municipal enforcement in 2020-21 include, in the City’s words:
- regular outreach, planning and coordination with partner agencies to facilitate effective collaboration on enforcement areas of common interest;
- continued presence in the downtown area, on multi-use trails, and at City recreation facilities and public events as appropriate; and
- emphasis on road safety.
Konge said he wanted an emphasis on road safety to include all users of roads, such as pedestrians and cyclists, and not just drivers.
Alty said the strategic priority about “professionalism in enforcement” could be deleted and replaced with a focus on three issues she says residents more frequently raise.
“The top three complaints I get are [about] unsightly land, tourist buses idling in residential neighbourhoods, and cars parked for over 72 hours,” the mayor said.
“I’d like us to pull back and focus our energy on unsightly lands, tourist buses in residential areas, and cars parked for more than 72 hours. If we did that for a year, we could really make a dent in that.”
Complaints related to tour buses could drop significantly this year given no international tourists, nor even tourists from elsewhere in Canada, can currently reach the NWT. Operators are reliant on NWT residents and many tour companies remain closed.
The City’s municipal enforcement priorities are expected to receive further discussion and approval or rejection at a city council meeting later in the month.