Wednesday, April 5, 2006
It sounds good to talk about re-investing surplus funds in schools, but the public board is gambling with its financial future if it spends more than it receives next year.
The draft Yellowknife Education District No. 1 budget was tabled to the public last week and on the surface, everything looks good.
Go deeper, however, and you see the public board plans to overspend its revenue by $672,255 next year -- $400,255 on general operations and $272,000 in capital projects. To balance the books, the board plans to take money from its surplus reserve. It's able to do that because of about $700,000 in extra funds it will receive this year from the territorial government and other sources.
This is a dangerous situation and the school board should think carefully before dipping its toes in the deficit fountain.
In 2000, the board ran a $1.125 million deficit that took a couple of years to pay off and caused a lot of heartache in the district.
The wild card is student enrolment - something that has cost Yk 1 plenty over the past few years. This year alone, enrolment dropped 94 students, draining about $1 million in funding.
The board predicts enrolment will increase by 50-75 students next year, but that's far from certain.
What happens if enrolment drops again? Funding for 2007-2008 could fall and big cuts will result. Next year alone there will be 5.25 fewer classroom teacher positions due to fewer students. That workforce reduction is only partly balanced by an increase in special needs staff.
It's this kind of financial uncertainty that has undermined the good work that goes on in the classrooms.
There's still time to make changes to the budget, and we hope Yk No. 1 board finds ways to reduce spending because this level can't be maintained without a turnaround in enrolment.
If there's a grey area in rules, find a way to clarify them. But that doesn't seem to be the politicians' way.
MLAs who sit on the Board of Management had a chance to back up their bureaucrats and reinforce spending rules when Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins asked to be reimbursed for about $1,000 in unauthorized spending.
The board rightly rejected his plea to pay the $800 he bid to buy a television at a charity auction. But the members deferred a decision on several gift purchases.
Gifts are usually only authorized for significant milestones, like 100th birthdays or 50th wedding anniversaries. MLAs failed to uphold that rule. This will only cause confusion and open the door to questionable spending. MLAs need to be kept on a tight leash when it comes to using public money to buy gifts for constituents. The board of management needs to fix this problem quickly.
Many recommendations have come forth lately aimed at reducing violence against women in Nunavut, including increased effort by the Status of Women to address the issue.
While there are varying levels of merit attached to each recommendation, they all share one common fault.
They're just words.
And, unfortunately, many of these words -- proper counselling, breaking the circle, etc. -- have been heard a thousand times before.
Yes, there is a place for large gatherings to exchange ideas and share information like we've seen in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet during the past few months.
And there is no doubting the sincerity of organizations wanting to stem the tide of violence once and for all.
Yet, despite all the words, a cloud of doubt hangs in the air concerning the effectiveness of all this brainstorming in dealing with the violence.
And another cloud is forming over the Kivalliq - a cloud of fear.
It's a cloud pushed by injustice and inaction that can't be dispersed by words spoken in any language.
In fact, this cloud is being formed by the very entity the women of our territory look to for help - Nunavut's justice system.
While the pen may be mightier than the sword in some situations, action speaks louder than words when it comes to handing out justice.
We now have women afraid to go outside alone in Repulse Bay.
They are afraid because the perpetrator of the last violent crime against a woman in their community received nothing more than an all-too-familiar slap on the wrist from the courts.
And this particular villain entered the courts with previous baggage.
Until the courts back them up, well-meaning groups can toss out all the ideas, lobby all the departments, make all the resolutions and pass all the motions they want, and nothing will change.
There is no shortage of supposedly liberal thinkers who take every opportunity to state harsh punishment has never been proven as an effective deterrent.
It's time for the Nunavut justice system to put that theory to a test.
Since division, the courts have done nothing but the old soft shoe when it comes to dealing with men - and we use the term lightly -- who repeatedly batter women.
Maybe it's time for those handing down light sentences to take a little stroll across Repulse Bay, barefoot, in the middle of the winter, to appreciate the full impact of this violence.
While you hold your collective breath waiting for that to happen, speak up and demand harsher sentences for those who shatter the lives of so many of our friends, family and neighbors.
We're seeing the results of almost a decade of soft-shoe justice, and it isn't a pretty sight.
Maybe it's time for eight years of steel-toed justice to deal with the problem.
The violence just may slow down with the shoe on the other foot.
It has been an interesting two-and-a-half years being the editor of your community paper.
In that time, I have come to know Inuvik in ways that have delighted me, and unfortunately, in ways that have been not so delightful.
Because for every story that celebrated somebody's achievement, there were those that focused on things not so flattering in the community.
A couple of weeks back a young boy asked me what people had to do to get in the paper. I replied that you either had to do something wonderful or something not-so-wonderful.
"Like what?" he asked in reference to the not-so-wonderful.
"Like commit a crime," I said, adding that I would much prefer he did something great, and not just because he thought it would get him in the Drum.
"Geeze, I know that," he said with a laugh before walking away.
Now there's one kid who won't be jetting through the streets in the wee hours on a stolen snowmobile. Thank goodness for small mercies.
But in all honesty, while writing about people misbehaving can be juicier, positive feel-good stories are much better for all involved and Inuvik can always use more "something greats."
Being the 'Drum guy'
I remember sitting around with friends back when I was younger and talking about how great being famous would be and how each of us were going to try and achieve this. Granted it wasn't much of an original ambition, or much of an ambition at all.
Turn on your television any given evening and you'll find loads of people attempting to do just that - either for their singing ability or for some other, how shall I put it, not so savory behaviour they want to share with the world. It's kind of like that question the boy asked me about getting in the paper, but I'm straying off topic here.
Anyways, the point is that after living in the public eye and being known as, "the Drum guy," "the photo man," and "that writer guy" (among other things), I long to return to a somewhat more anonymous lifestyle.
That said, there were a lot of perks to being the town reporter and foremost was meeting and getting to know many interesting people. And what I will take away from Inuvik are a lot of fond memories and friendships I've made while living here. For that, I extend a heartfelt thank you.
So as I prepare to break trail and head south, I will always appreciate my time spent here at the End of the Road. Whether it was jamming with the band on Saturdays at the Mad Trapper, or hanging out with the kids at SAMS school, one thing is for certain: there were a lot of laughs.
New editor ready to work
Next week, I'll be passing the torch to Dez Loreen, an enthusiastic and capable fellow, born and raised in Inuvik. Just back from Yellowknife, where he was honing his reporting craft at Northern News Services headquarters, Dez says he's ready for the challenge of taking on the role as Drum editor and I'm I'm confident in his ability to do a great job.
One item should be added to the list of the only things certain in this world.
The revised list would read, "death, taxes and loose dogs."
Once again dogs have made it back into the headlines with the Village of Fort Simpson enacting an emergency dog control program to combat free roaming canines.
Everyone can have their own viewpoint on whether or not the emergency program is the best way to go, but one thing is certain - something had to be done.
On almost any trip up or down main street you are bound to run into at least one loose dog.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes wander along the sidewalks and sometimes onto the road, where they often take their time moving out of the paths of vehicles.
Some of the dogs are regulars who can be recognized from previous sightings. In their desire to run free, some dogs have become regular escape artists. In January, a dog dragged its whole house down the street before being foiled by its chain and a stop sign. Another dog has been recently sighted pulling a length of chain along behind itself.
In those cases, the dogs must belong to someone because they had the trappings of civility. But there are clearly some canines that have no set home. Putting a dog down is hardly ever an easy decision. There is a strong argument that says by putting an animal down, you are simply punishing them for something a human has done by not taking proper care of the creature. This, however, still leaves the problem of what to do with the already loose, ownerless dogs.
It can be hoped that during the run of this emergency program some consideration will be given to dogs that might actually be good family pets that have simply had a momentary lapse in behaviour.
But where will the problem of loose dogs end? Is there a permanent solution?
At village council some interesting suggestions were thrown onto the table. Often it was hard to decide which ones were said in earnest and which in jest. One councillor suggested that no pet - dog, cat or otherwise - should be allowed within the village limits. Only living things with two legs should be allowed. Another idea involved having every dog spayed or neutered.
One idea that wasn't mentioned is that maybe dog licences should really become human licenses.
If you need a licence to drive a vehicle, perhaps a licence is also necessary to own a dog. After all, poorly trained dogs can be just as dangerous as a poorly driven vehicle.
To start the program, all dogs would have to be confiscated and hopeful owners would have to take a series of tests to prove their suitability for the position.
By making ownership of a dog an honour, perhaps the animals would be treated with more care and not be allowed to roam. Of course, this may not be the easiest plan to implement, but in the end something has to be done. The answer has to start at the grassroots level with people who care about the animals.
Flyin' Bob will be appearing at NACC on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8. Incorrect information was printed in Yellowknifer March 31. Yellowknifer apologizes for any confusion caused by the error.
The student of the week in the April 29 edition of Kivalliq News (Christine Tootoo) is in Grade 6, not Grade 5 as stated. Kivalliq News apologizes for the error.