Meet John Himmelman: Mayor Mark Heyck’s challenger

John Himmelman.
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The man running against Mark Heyck in the upcoming Yellowknife mayoral race says he wants to restore fiscal responsibility at City Hall. 

Until September 18, it appeared as though Heyck would go unchallenged in his quest for re-election as Mayor of Yellowknife.

But that all changed when John Himmelman, a local chartered accountant, filed his papers ahead of the September 21 cutoff date.

The 52-year-old opposes Heyck on several issues facing the city, including the ongoing court case for more representation in the legislature and what to do with the vacant lot at Franklin Avenue and 50 Street.

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Read: Mayor Mark Heyck Announces He’s Standing For Re-election

“I’ve always been a bit of an armchair mayor, prime minister, business person and even quarterback,” Himmelman told Moose FM.

“I saw that [Heyck] was being acclaimed and I saw some issues that I felt pretty strong about with regards to value for money and spending.”

One issue that sticks out for Himmelman is the deciding vote Heyck cast to purchase the 50-50 lot for $1.45-million last fall.

“Really, to me, it comes down to a decision of buying the lot with a plan or buying the lot without a plan,” he said.

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“Being the deciding vote, the mayor decided to buy it without a plan. I don’t think that’s the best philosophy to approach spending especially when it’s to the tune of $1.45-million.”

“If they have money for lot development, they could use that as an incentive for someone else to buy it.

“When it comes to spending, you should ask yourself what the best value is for all your options.”

Read: Yellowknife’s Future Downtown? Plans Get First Public Airing

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So what would Himmelman have done with the lot? He made it clear to Moose FM that he wouldn’t have approved its purchase in the first place without a plan in place.

But in terms of what can be done now, he feels the City should explore the idea of selling it off, or potentially using it to better serve the community’s homeless population.

“How we do our treatment might be one part of the solutions for our homeless. Maybe we should be the treatment capital because we export a lot of people down south for it.

“If we approached this in a way where we tackled it head-on, we could actually turn that into a business.

“If we’ve got that homegrown expertise, then maybe we could put a great big treatment centre on that lot we don’t know what to do with.”

When it comes to tightening spending, Himmelman believes the City could also do itself a favour by dropping its lawsuit against the territory for more representation in the legislature.

“Based on what I’ve read, yes, mathematically Yellowknife is entitled to more representation,” he said.

“But another issue outside the territory, my understanding is if there’s a remote community where the majority is Aboriginal, they will override that representation and allow them to be overrepresented.

“So, we’re in court trying to get more when I can’t think of a lot that we should really envy the communities for.

“From a value-of-money standpoint, it just seems like the [communities] could keep appealing it and we’d be in court forever.

“Even if we win, I think we should have a better relationship with the community government anyways.”

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Himmelman says cases like this only add to the notion that it’s Yellowknife versus everyone else in the territory. He told us he’d like to see the City drop the matter altogether.

Finally, on the matter of Yellowknife potentially bidding for the 2023 Canada Winter Games, Himmelman says he needs more convincing.

Regardless of where the Games are held, he’s convinced youth from Yellowknife will enjoy the experience equally. But what’s in it for Yellowknife if competition takes place here?

“My stance is it’s not about the kids,” he said. “They’re going to go to the Games no matter what so the decision is ‘do you want to host and wants the benefit for a city that hosts?’

“I want to see what they say to make the case for the Games being here. The kids are going to get that great experience no matter what.”

Himmelman says he’s only seen a handful of economic impact reports made public despite numerous committee meetings this year.

The mayoral hopeful also told Moose FM more must be done to address escalating property costs in Yellowknife, and that the City has to be more diligent when setting budgets.

The municipal election will take place on October 19.

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