Park Citys Myles Rademan, a consultant to Whistler and other mountain resorts, once produced a series of principles describing people and life in resort towns. One of the most poignant was that with the disparate mix of full- and part-time residents and expensive real estate common to most mountain resorts, every issue that comes before the local government is immediate and life threatening, to someone.
Many people in Whistler feel that is the case and voice their concerns whenever theres a rezoning or bylaw proposal that may affect them. But far fewer make their voices heard when they have the opportunity to make a real difference, every three years at the polls.
Some argue that the bigger issues, such as the Olympic bid or the cost of living, arent things that local government can really do anything about. There wont be a referendum on the Olympics, for instance, and real estate prices are driven by the sacred cap on development and the global demand for property in Whistler.
But giving up and not participating in the debate, not even to register dissatisfaction with the scope of the debate, is an abdication of responsibility. You forfeit the right to complain. You may also miss out on opportunities. For example, there was virtually no youth participation in the Whistler. Its Our Future process earlier this summer, so special sessions were organized specifically for people under 25. Enticed by free beer and the promise that they would be listened to, a handful of people showed up. Among the concerns raised was the cost of housing in Whistler, and it was suggested the municipality should have some sort of housing authority to oversee low-cost housing for residents and seasonal workers.
In fact, the Whistler Housing Authority has been doing that for the five years of its existence, but some people apparently dont know the WHA even exists.
It doesnt require much effort to understand the important issues in Whistler; the important ones are the ones affecting you friends leaving town, tourist accommodation in residential neighbourhoods, traffic on the Valley Trail, trophy homes
What does require a little more effort is deciding who to vote for. There are a whopping 18 candidates for six seats on Whistler council this fall, and two candidates for mayor. While the numbers are intimidating, you dont have to figure out where every candidate stands on every issue and you dont have to vote for six councillors. If theres only one candidate from the whole bunch you like you can vote for that one alone.
That being said, a little homework to find out where the candidates stand on issues that are important to you wouldnt hurt. Most of the candidates have Web sites that outline their platforms. Most will also welcome phone calls from people with specific questions or wanting more information.
The important thing is to vote.
And it doesnt take much to vote. If youre a Canadian citizen and have lived in Whistler for six months you can register on election day, Nov. 16, and cast your vote.
Voter turnout in Whistler for municipal elections is usually pathetic. There were about 2,000 people who voted in the 1999 election. There are approximately 10,000 full-time residents in Whistler and several thousand non-resident property owners who also have the right to vote. Its often been speculated that if a candidate could attract the under 25 vote, for example, that candidate could win in a landslide.
But it hasnt happened, yet.
If you dont vote, dont complain.