Name: Amar Varma
Campaign slogan: Affordability
Volunteerism: Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain Safety Volunteer 2001-02
Other hobbies: Hiking, Canoeing, Sailing
Web site: www.listen.to/amar
Last book read: Time is An Illusion by Chris Griscom
Why are you running for council?
I want to live here hopefully for the rest of my life and I want the community to grow in a good way so its affordable. It should be a place where people who work here can live here because thats what I want to do.
A lot of people have left Whistler because of the lack of affordability. They have to move to Pemberton. If they cash out on their houses, they cant buy back here.
If we keep going on this cycle basically most of the people that built the community, that are the heart and soul of the community, are going to be gone. All youre going to have is that transient workforce that comes here for two or three years, if that, and leaves and the soul will be gone.
To me, the soul encompasses the people that made Whistler from the early 80s, late 70s and 60s, all of those people are the soul. In the 90s a lot of people came up and they too are the soul. People in the service industry and the transient population also make up the colour and the soul. They are all part of the whole process. But if we keep going, those people will have to leave and only the people with lots of money can live here.
Im running because I want to create an atmosphere and find strategies to keep the soul of this community here.
What are the major accomplishments of council since the last election?
I personally think the council did a good job in getting all the Olympic legacies that they did get and I support them for doing that. I applaud them. Itll put Whistler on the world stage even better than it is now.
This is also the same council that basically started the WHA (Whistler Housing Authority) and thats a good start. I support that concept. They have created additional living spaces, which should bring down or hold down some prices.
Still, there is more to be done. Were not done yet.
What are the major failures of council since the last election?
I have very little negative to say about anybody.
Affordability should have been on the minds of the old council. The main focus hasnt been on affordability. Its been on sustainability, whatever that means. I know what it means to me.
It should have been more focused because then we wouldnt be in this situation.
What are the key issues facing the next council?
There needs to be more affordable housing created. We need to work on a strategy of how were going to do that and I want it done within Whistler, within the current boundaries of Whistler.
I dont want it to grow like Aspen or places like that where you have satellite communities to service the resort. And I dont like the idea of having a 9-kilometres down the road community for workers. It basically turns into a ghetto. You know, bussed in, work, bussed out. I just dont think thats what I want this place to be like. Its important for me that they play in the village after they work in the village. I mean, why else would you be up here? Being shuffled off to the Callaghan after you finish work is not what I see for a future for here. The backbone of the community needs to live here instead of having to drive here. I think thats the major issue that the council should look at. It should be at the forefront.
Affordable housing will also address the amount of money that people in Whistler pay in property taxes.
You shouldnt have to pay the taxes just because the prices are going up.
The length of time that residents lived or owned here should somehow reduce your tax. Its a strategy to look into.
There are also little things that you can do that will make people happy, that will make them feel that the community is looking out for them.
It wouldnt hurt us to give them free parking permits so that when they park on Main Street they dont get ticketed or they dont have to put in $2 every time.
If the municipality initiated a program like a locals card program with deals on services, that would be nice.
Its something to look at. You have to give back to the community too just so that they dont feel alienated. I find a lot of people are alienated with the municipality.
We live in a tourist town. We need to get the money from the tourists but you dont have to charge the residents tourist prices.
Anther issue is the sustainability process. We havent finished yet. Its again a start but right now the definitions of sustainability are all over the place.
Sustainability is a good theory but it still remains to be seen whether it will accomplish anything.
This gist of sustainability is known. We can study it and study it. We need action. Most people like to talk about things but its when you do something that its an accomplishment.
Why should people vote for you?
Ill work hard for their best interests. Im part of the people. I want this place to be an affordable, nice place to live. That would be my focus if Im part of the council.
The most important thing is affordability. I rent. I have to share a place with somebody else for the first time since moving here a year and a half ago. I cant afford a place by myself.
We need to address the needs of the people of Whistler. My main thing is to provide services to the people who live here.
I think Whistler is a great place to live and I want to encourage people to stay here and live here. Its a great place for kids to grow.