In her inaugural address after being sworn in as mayor Tuesday, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden quoted a French author and former member of the Resistance, Stéphane Hessel, who wrote: “If you spend a little time searching, you will find reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference.”
The new mayor went on to say that “Whistler and engagement are synonymous.” And certainly Whistlerites were engaged in this year’s municipal election.
One of the biggest issues in the election, one that contributed to an unprecedented level of voter turnout, was municipal spending. In other words, the budget.
The 2012 municipal budget must be adopted by the end of April. Wilhelm-Morden has asked municipal staff to present briefing notes on the budget to the new council before Christmas, and to present a budget timetable at the first council meeting of the New Year, which could be Jan. 3. She has also promised a “meaningful public consultation process” on the budget.
On the surface it would appear that four months is plenty of time to review and approve a budget, and no doubt it will get done. But consider:
• the mayor has called for a zero-based budget process, which means reviewing absolutely everything;
• the municipality is operating with an interim director of finance;
• by mid-December 2010 the municipality had already held its second public open house on the 2011 budget.
On top of this there are six newly-elected councillors, all of whom have dealt with budgets in their respective pasts but all are new to municipal government.
Given these parameters, when the opportunity comes for public engagement in the 2012 municipal budget, Whistlerites had better be ready. It’s going to be a tight timeline.