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Candid conversations with council

Whistler Forum hosts community discussions with mayor and council

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All seven members of council will take part in a series of dialogue cafés aimed at bringing the community and its elected officials together for informal conversations.

These cafés, which are open to all members of the public, come at the halfway mark in council’s term.

After a year and a half in office, members of council can look back at their term to date and share their ideas for the future with the community.

"Mostly people ... listen to them and talk to them when there’s conflict and when there’s debate and when there’s problems at the eleventh hour," said William Roberts, executive director of the Whistler Forum, the organization spearheading the Dialogue Cafés.

"So we felt if would be good for people in the community and good for (council) to be able to be in this more informal yet purposeful context of listening to one another and learning from each other."

Each café will have one or two members of council. It will begin with a short talk from each councillor followed by roughly one hour of debate and discussion.

"I really want to steer it in the direction of how we can find common ground, common future and common understandings of where we’re at in Whistler and where we’re going to be going," said Roberts.

He admits there will be diversity and dispute in that discussion but that’s all part of the dialogue cafés.

"It’s an attempt to get at least somewhat on the same page in a more collaborative way."

Over the past year there have been 15 different dialogue cafés in Whistler.

They have ranged in topic from sustainability to compulsory helmets in skateboarding and skiing.

"(They) have all been conversations in the community for people to talk together in dialogue and collaboration, to listen to each other’s viewpoints ... and learn together," said Roberts.

One of the most successful cafés marked a discussion about poetry and storytelling in native and non-native cultures with novelist Robert Bringhurst.

People travelled from Lillooet and Squamish for that community conversation.

"It’s just building those levels of communication and hopefully trust and at least understanding viewpoints from different perspectives," said Roberts.

The cafés are part of the Whistler Forum, an organization dedicated to promoting dialogue for lifelong learning and enhancing democratic and civil society.

The first café with council will take place on Wed. May 26 at the Spruce Grove Field House with Councillors Ken Melamed and Kristi Wells. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly will talk on May 27 at Legends.

The following week Councillors Caroline Lamont and Gordon McKeever will talk on Tues June 1 at Whistler Java Café. The final café will pair Councillors Marianne Wade and Nick Davies at the same coffee shop.

"It was really quite serendipitous that we had the pairings like that," said Roberts, noting that some of the pairs have had different opinions on controversial topics like the new public library.

All sessions will run from 7:30-9 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend. For more information about the dialogue cafés contact Williams Roberts at whistlerforum@whooshnet.com . Or visit the updated Whistler Forum Web site in early June at www.whistlerforum.com .

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