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City Manager Leaves Council with Strong Message for Revised City Plan

John Collins, the departing City Manager of Yellowknife, marked his final day on the job by unveiling the revised 2024-2026 work plan, which he hoped would leave a lasting impression on the council.

Emphasizing the need for a pragmatic approach, Collins underscored the challenges faced by modern cities, where municipal governments are expected to tackle a wide array of issues ranging from economic development to climate change, despite limited resources.

Collin remarked “Gone are the days when municipal government could burry their heads in the sand and say ‘social issue? Not my problem. Go speak to the feds, go speak to the territory.’”

In his presentation to the council, Collins highlighted the necessity for municipalities to define their role in addressing social issues and community needs. He stressed that while expectations have risen, resources—both in terms of manpower and finances—have remained relatively stagnant. This disparity between demand and capacity poses a significant challenge not just to Yellowknife but to cities across the board.

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Acknowledging the unique challenges faced by Yellowknife, Collins pointed out the inherent difficulty in meeting all community wants and needs with limited resources. He wanted the council to understand that a deliberate planning process, while it may seem to slow down progress, can help to avoid unexpected interruptions that would only take additional time to work around.

Additionally, the revised plan outlined various work projects categorized based on priority, time, budget, and staff availability, addressing community needs while aligning with council priorities. It touched on advocacy items like the establishment of a major post-secondary institution in Yellowknife, transfer payments to municipalities and Transfer of Commissioner land to enhance possibilities and attractiveness of Yellowknife for major building development.

He emphasized the importance of pragmatism, affordability, and adherence to provided timelines. Collins stated, “Items can be brought forward and changed to better meet the needs of the city or address more pressing matters.” However, he cautioned that such adjustments would necessitate trade-offs, underscoring the complexity of city planning and resource allocation, whether in terms of personnel or funding.

The council raised concerns about specific items and their priority levels outlined in the work plan. Collins affirmed that, according to the directors, the current plan is ambitious yet achievable based on existing knowledge and forecasts.

In the final decision, the council determined that the proposed plan was suitable to proceed with, alongside a proposed adjustment to enhance efficiency in council meetings and keeping the current model of processing administrative questions. This consensus signifies a crucial step forward in Yellowknife’s strategic planning process, reflecting a commitment to address community needs while ensuring effective governance.

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