Iqaluit councillors warn about city “disconnect” from residents
"The amount of complaints I receive from people just blows my mind”
Two city councillors in Iqaluit say their concerns about city administration were confirmed Sept. 12, when an urgent complaint about a playground drew a group of city officials and the local territorial MLA to the site.
Homeowner and long-time resident John Manning’s recurring complaints and recommendations to the city about a playground next to his property in Lower Base boiled over when he found the city had placed a tall slide and tower structure just six metres from his house, overlooking his fence.
The unit, he said, is the main attraction at the playground, which typically attracts “anywhere from 20 and sometimes 60 kids with their parents.”
Years of requests to build a fence between his property and the grounds for privacy – and fencing around the entire lot for safety from the busy road – went unanswered, he said, leaving him to come to his own solutions.
“They’re always slow to react,” said Manning.
An urgent call out to city councillors Sept. 12, telling them he was blocking the contractor’s work with his own heavy equipment until the city agreed to meet with him, roused city administrators to take notice and come to the site.
The city agreed with Manning to move the slide tower to another end of the lot. Manning, who owns a building maintenance and construction business, negotiated to move the structure immediately, with his own heavy equipment.
“Do drastic measures need to be taken like that to get the city’s attention?” city councillor Terry Dobbin told Nunatsiaq News later that day.
“There seems to be a disconnect between city hall and the citizens. People of Iqaluit deserve better than that.”
A “disconnect” also exists between city councillors and administration, according to Coun. Kenny Bell, who said his questions to city administration usually go unanswered.
“If I as a councillor can’t get information from the city, I can only imagine that citizens that have concerns can’t get information either,” Bell said. “So it doesn’t surprise me that [Manning’s complaint] had to come to this.”
Although the city released a document for the public, stating that the playground would be closed “to install new playground equipment,” no details were given.
The city’s purpose was simply to replace old playground structures with new ones, according to the department of recreation.
Unfortunately the new structure Manning complained about was “two times the height” of the old one, he said.
Dobbin, who was elected to council last October, said he hears complaints from residents about city matters on a weekly basis.
“The amount of complaints I receive from people just blows my mind, it’s overwhelming,” he said.
“At first I thought, what is this, like chronic complaining? Is this the norm everywhere? There’s something drastically wrong with administration at the City of Iqaluit, in my opinion.”
The councillor noted that the city is without permanent directors in the planning and lands, and human resources departments.
“It would be interesting to determine why there’s so many directors leaving the City of Iqaluit,” said Dobbin. “It’s certainly not their pay.”
The councillor said he, like Bell, also had repeated difficulty getting information from administration needed to respond to citizen’s concerns.
Bell promised in a recent council meeting to call on a municipal inspector to the territorial government to review how the city is administered.
All the same, Bell said he was happy with city administration’s solution to Manning’s problem.
“And I’m glad the playground is still there,” he said. “You have to be for the kids too.”