After a tough, emotional and at times ugly election campaign, in which some voters threw as much dirt as the politicians did, Whistler has a new mayor and council poised to lead us into a critical three-year period. Congratulations are in order for all who put their names forward as candidates, and especially for those who were elected: Ken Melamed, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, Bob Lorriman, Gordon McKeever, Ralph Forsyth, Tim Wake and Eckhard Zeidler.
Now comes the hard part. With McKeever and Melamed the only members of the current council returning, and with mayor-elect Melamed setting a 60-day action plan, it would appear the new council faces a steep learning curve. But Wilhelm-Morden is hardly a rookie, having served three previous terms on council, and Wake knows one of Whistler’s most pressing issues – affordable housing – better than anyone. And the others have been enmeshed in local politics and municipal hall for years.
As was noted many times during the campaign, the new council will be in office for an important three-year period when almost all the remaining decisions on the Olympics, and plans for Whistler post-Olympics, will have to be made. They will be the beneficiaries of some good work that was done in the last three years, particularly in regard to municipal procedures and the CSP, but there is plenty more to do.
One of the areas where improvement is needed is in communications. While there was lots of talk about specific issues during the campaign, there’s still a need for a general discussion and common understanding of where Whistler is and where it’s going. More than striving to be "the premier mountain resort community" we need to come to a common understanding of what our problems are, what needs to be done to fix them and recognize the issues that lie ahead. And those aren’t just questions for council to consider; the public has to be invited to participate and stay involved.
There are also some specific issues that need to be resolved. One of the longest such sagas is financial tools.
There seems to be an assumption that this is a four-year-old problem that began when Premier Gordon Campbell apparently made a commitment to Whistler. At an open house on Olympic legacies in February of 2002 municipal staff were saying that financial tools, boundary expansion and the 300-acre land bank could all be realities by the end of that year. The fact that we don’t have them, and that we’ve coincidentally had four straight winters of declining visitor numbers, is taken as proof that the Liberals are messing with us. As the Olympics get closer we will need those financial tools even more.