Councillors endorse car-sharing co-op

by Sidney Cohen - February 15, 2018

A city councillor says he was not in a conflict when he told representatives of the Yellowknife Car Share Co-op at City Hall that their proposal could help his business.

Coun. Adrian Bell, a Century 21 realtor, said during Monday’s Municipal Services Committee meeting that he would be “happy to participate as a business” in a proposed car-sharing program “if the car-share is in a position to get a delivery van-type of vehicle.”

Sam Gamble, John Carr and Scott Craig of the Yellowknife Car Sharing Co-op pitch their idea for a car sharing collective to city council on Monday. They propose parking six electric vehicles in spots downtown for use by co-op members.
Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo

“We can talk about that afterwards,” he said. “I need one, but only for about three hours a week, so we should talk.”

Bell said Tuesday that his comments were made on behalf of a “community of interest,” and were not meant to benefit his own business.

“I’m one of about 500 businesses that might want to make use of a car share,” he told Yellowknifer.

“It’s uncertain what the city’s role would be in supporting it, but in no way do I feel that puts me in a conflict.”

Bell noted that when he votes for a property tax increase, that effects him as well.

“We are all part-time councillors,” he said. “If Coun. Konge advocates for … a change to a building code, it benefits him, among the other 300 people it benefits.”

Bell was one of a number of councillors who expressed enthusiasm over the possibility of car-sharing cooperative open to residents, businesses and the municipal government.

“I’m super excited about this,” said Coun. Julian Morse.

He said car sharing could save the city money if it were to make use of the service.

Under the co-op’s current plan, members would pay a fee based on the number of kilometres driven, plus about $10 per hour that the vehicle is in their position. The organization would also charge a membership fee of around $500 that would be returned when the member leaves the co-op.

The co-op’s founders believe their financing model can sustain a fleet of six electric vehicles without financial support from government.
“We’re not asking for money,” Craig Scott, a co-op board member, said Monday.

Instead, he asked for support in the form of designated parking spaces with power hook-ups downtown.

Councillors questioned the viability of electric in Yellowknife’s cold climate

Co-op board member John Carr said the electric Chevrolet Volt could get 60 kilometres out of a fully-charged battery in summer, and about half that distance in winter.

“The idea is that as long as it’s brought back to its spot and plugged in, it will be charged up and ready to go for the next person,” he said.

Carr noted that other electric car models have the capacity to travel about 200 kilometres in summer and around 100 kilometres in winter.


City to create MED inquiry webpage

The city will dedicate a page on its website to the inquiry into the Municipal Enforcement Division.

Council voted in favour Monday of Coun. Adrian Bell’s proposal to create a webpage on the city’s website that would contain inquiry information, such as the terms of reference, a timeline, public meeting minutes and any developments.

“The public has made it pretty clear that there’s trust issues between the public and the city,” Coun. Steve Payne said before the vote.

“It would go along way in building up that trust to have everything out in the open.”

Council decided on Jan. 22 to launch an inquiry into misconduct in the bylaw department following allegations that MED manager Doug Gillard made sexual and homophobic comments about city staff, hit MED officers in the groin and used security cameras to look at women in city facilities.

Coun. Niels Konge supported the webpage, but said people hungry for new details about alleged misconduct at MED may be disappointed.

“They’re hoping for the grocery store, National Inquirer-type headlines and we’re not allowed, nor should we, give those out,” he said.

In Coun. Shauna Morgan’s view, administration should be in charge of communications relating to the inquiry. She expressed “some disappointment” over council wading into this area.

“I feel like we’re micromanaging administration here,” she said before voting against the webpage.

Coun. Linda Bussey also opposed Bell’s proposal, saying she would prefer a communications strategy that updates the public as new information arises.

The senior administrative officer was not convinced a special webpage is the way to go.

“My recommendation would be a communication plan that can make sure that the public is aware of milestones through the process and that can see actual evidence of change taking place,” said Sheila Bassi-Kellett.

Bell said the webpage would be one piece of administration’s overall communications plan for the MED inquiry.

The city has retained Alberta-based law firm Brownlee LLP to develop the inquiry’s terms of reference.


Council backs camera policy

The city now has a security camera policy, meaning administration can begin reactivating its closed-circuit camera system.

Security cameras at city facilities were switched off on Jan. 18, following allegations that Doug Gillard, the manager of the Municipal Enforcement Division, used them to look at women.

City administration said the cameras would stay off until a policy guiding their use is in place.

On Monday, city council voted unanimously in favour of a policy that limits camera access to “authorized employees,” the city’s senior administrative officer (SAO), the city’s lawyer, designated IT staff, and people whose access is “deemed necessary by the SAO.”

The policy states that cameras only be used in locations where the loss of privacy is “proportional” to the potential security risk, and where there are no other, less invasive, ways of addressing that risk.

Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the SAO, said last week that administration will evaluate each camera to determine if it is necessary for public safety and the protection of city staff and property before switching it back on.

Cameras at the library are likely to be the first up for assessment.