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Next week’s town hall meeting (Nov. 7 in the conference centre) will mark a number of firsts, not the least of which will be the first time the meeting has been held in a timely manner. Holding the meeting the first week in November, before the winter season and winter jobs have started, should allow many more people — particularly younger people — to take part. This year’s meeting also appears to be structured so as to be more people oriented and follow less of a municipal agenda. There is specific time set aside for a presentation of this year’s monitoring report and a long overdue public presentation on the Olympic bid, but it also looks as though there will be more time for public input and discussion of whatever topic concerns participants. This will be a welcome change from workshops of recent years which limited discussion. More importantly, this open format works well with the stage Whistler has reached in its evolution. There are fewer urgent issues demanding immediate attention at this year’s town hall meeting, but there are numerous major issues on the horizon. As Whistler moves from growing adolescent to early adulthood there are new issues to deal with and new approaches needed to familiar issues. Some of this is seen in recent developments such as the 2002 Vision document, released prior to last year’s town hall meeting. Municipal hall is also working on a new environmental strategy which will establish values and principles to guide all decisions that affect the environment. Other issues that are coming to the fore include the affordability of Whistler. This isn’t just the price of getting into the housing market, but also property taxes and user fees — the cost of living in Whistler. The municipality is taking steps to try and convince the province of the need for tax reform, as one way of dealing with affordability, but public input might help the effort. The state of the economy — internationally, across the province and locally — may not be something Whistler can change on its own, but it is worthy of discussion. Included under this heading might be consideration of whether Whistler should be taking bolder steps to diversify its own economy. And speaking of the local economy, nearly two years after announcing the merger of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, Whistler/Blackcomb is believed to be working on initiatives which better define the new corporate entity’s relationship to the community. It’s probably not something that will ever be part of an official announcement, but there is an understanding of Whistler/Blackcomb’s dominant role in the local economy, while at the same time it’s recognized that part of Whistler/Blackcomb’s strength and appeal comes from the community. There are other issues facing Whistler that should be discussed at the town hall meeting, including transportation. Unfortunately the Transportation Advisory Group report likely won’t be finished in time for a full presentation at the meeting. Still, the next municipal election is a full year away. For those who may have grown tired of the town hall format this is an opportunity.

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