With several big issues now cleared from its plate, council has a renewed focus on the work ahead for the last half of its term in office.
And, preparing for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games is the top council priority, as decided in last week’s mid-term council retreat.
“If anything it’s going to get busier from a municipal perspective and I think the community as well is anticipating this place is going to be a hive of activity in preparedness for the Games,” said Mayor Ken Melamed, who expects the regular day to day activities at municipal hall to be replaced more and more by Games’ preparation in the months to come.
It’s not as though things have been quiet in the first half of the term, with council making several difficult and contentious decisions such as not building the Paralympic arena, approving the Rainbow subdivision, resolving financial tools with the province and a myriad of things in between.
Council calls that first half of its term a success but tough decisions lie ahead and the seven members have committed to work together as a team to see them resolved.
“We’ve been working together now for 18 months and we’ve recognized that there are some tensions that develop as the newness wears off,” said the mayor.
“But essentially we agree that we continue to function as a team and there’s a tremendous amount of respect, I think, between the councillors. A lot of it comes from the satisfaction and the knowledge that we have gotten a lot done. Working with staff we’ve accomplished much of the things that we said we would do. They were not easy decisions to make. Maybe we didn’t make them as fast as some people would like but the fact was, the decisions got made and we cleared our plate to move into the second half of the term.”
One of its top priorities that falls under 2010 Games’ planning is to resolve issues around housing and accommodation.
In addition to helping the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the games (VANOC) secure its accommodation, the municipality is working to ensure Whistler employees have housing too.
A survey is now underway to determine whether Whistlerites will be staying in the resort during the Games in order to better understand the availability of accommodation at that time.
“There’s this whole accommodation piece which is a blend of employee needs, VANOC needs, of non-VANOC needs, sponsors, the national houses, the hosting of athlete families, the hosting of volunteers,” said the mayor.
“Where is everyone going to stay that a) needs to be here and b) wants to be here.
“We’re still in the information gathering stage and strategic plan building stage.”
Council has also committed to establishing two specific task force groups — one to tackle the issue of Whistler’s growing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the other to engage youth in the community.
The recent GHG trend, presented last week as part of the Community Monitoring Report, grabbed council’s attention.
“It’s not just a council concern,” said Melamed. “We’ve been hearing from the community there’s a real desire for Whistler to do more about addressing our greenhouse gas carbon footprint.”
The task force will be charged with gathering information, looking at options, and potentially suggesting new targets and approaches to curbing emissions.
The youth task force is designed to reach out to Whistlerites in the 40 and under range and find ways to get them more engaged and ensure their voices are heard by decision makers.
“We talk at every election about this but we’d like to do something prior to the election to build that capacity within the resort,” said the mayor.
Council’s term ends 16 months from now in November 2008.