News » Whistler

Four more candidates join council race

Dave Buzzard, Steve Anderson, Hi Brooks and Kevin Rae on the ticket

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Pique Sept.29,2011

The field of candidates for the November municipal election got a little thicker this week with the addition of four new candidates to the race.

Professional photographer David Buzzard said his running was the worst kept secret in town, especially after a Facebook page he was working on mistakenly went live several weeks ago. But he was too busy with work to make it official, and held his cards until this week.

This is also Buzzard's second kick at the can, and it's for different reasons than last time.

"It's a different situation," he said. "After the last time I wasn't planning on running again, but I'm deeply dissatisfied with the direction this council has gone and I think we need a change and some new blood in there."

His platform is online at www.votedavidbuzzard.com and the Facebook page is up. And while he's been critical of the actions taken by recent councils, he said it was important to explain what he would do/have done differently and to table real solutions rather than just criticism.

"Generally, if you're going to run for council you have to have a reason why you should be there and not the other guy," he said. "Just saying 'this is wrong' without some kind of alternative plan for what's going on is not enough. You have to have something. It has to be a different direction and you have to think about that."

While his website is detailed, he did give one example of a solution over the phone on Thursday.

"Take the pay parking issues," he said. "My solution would be to take the money that's lined up for the amenity hub - $7 million in three years in RMI funding, for what is a terrible idea - and put that money towards pay parking and driving the rates down. The reality is that this council and the last council incurred a huge debt in building the lots that we're on the hook for."

Another example was the recent "Whistler Presents" free concert series.

"Everybody loved the concert series, but that's $2.6 million there and we haven't really built anything with that. It was a great series, but that's not a sustainable number we can keep up indefinitely. We didn't support any local acts or anything to build up the art scene."

Steve Anderson, owner of The Adventure Ranch and a resident of Whistler since 1984, also made it official last week.

What made him decide once and for all to run for council was a public meeting in 2009 where a plan to raise property taxes 20.5 per cent over three years was unveiled.

"I really wasn't happy with the way it was presented and thought the people who I consider to be working for us were quite condescending to the crowd," he said. "I just thought that was backwards. Since that time I've read every single council package, I've gone through all of the minutes. I've volunteered to be part of the (Official Community Plan) group for over a year as one of five citizen representatives. After following all the goings on the last few years I said, 'okay, now is the time.'

"And if I don't do it then I'm not allowed to talk about it around the house any more."

Hi Brooks said he is coming into the race from two positions. One is as a businessman who has owned and operated several businesses in town over the years, both as an entrepreneur and on behalf of other companies. Recently his newest business, Street to Peak, was forced to close as a result of the tough economy and higher rents.

"I've seen this place at its highest point and at its lowest, and its lowest for me personally," he said. "This (economic environment) is about as tough as its ever been, and I don't know if the people that are currently running the resort really understand that."

He's also coming into the race as a member of the community; someone with children and bills to pay who has been through the same hardship as other members of the community.

"In the last election it was all about the Olympics and the issues around that, and now that it's over I think we need a few voices on council that are representative of the average family in the community. There's no glory in it. We have lots of people who have had consulting-type positions ... I just think there needs to be more representation from the community."

Brooks would also like to see more cooperation between the municipality, Tourism Whistler, the Chamber of Commerce and Whistler Blackcomb to reduce overlap and ensure everyone knows their roles. To that end, he said it's the municipality's role to serve the residents and not to increase tourism. "I think that it would be better if everyone's roles were a little better defined, and I think that we would save some money as well," he said.

Kevin Rae is another long-time Whistler resident who decided it was a good year to get involved, especially with his skill set. He's worked for Whistler Blackcomb for 27 years, including over 20 years in distribution management and over six years in security and loss prevention.

"It's probably at that stage that Whistler is at that's perfect for my skills to be utilized," he said. "I've focused a lot on cost control and purchasing initiatives, spending, ensuring budgets are being adhered to - and obviously financial sustainability for the resort is the key issue at hand."

He is also motivated by a number of issues, including the asphalt plant, pay parking and service cuts at the library, to name just a few. "It's really a list of items that council has touched on over time, and I think in some cases they have made decisions that obviously haven't been agreeable to residents.

"What we've seen lately, like the increased costs for transit and the reduction of service hours at the library, is that we're just not able to put money where residents are asking for services and money to be applied, while at the same time spending money in other areas that aren't a priority. I think there's an opportunity there to deliver better services than we're seeing today and at a lower cost."

On the asphalt plant file, Rae recently moved into a rental unit at Cheakamus Crossing and has seen - and smelled - the impact on the neighbourhood when asphalt is in production. "It's just unacceptable, the conditions down there from time to time," he said.

The nomination period for council gets underway on Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. on Oct. 14. The election is on Nov. 19. For more information visit www.civicinfo.bc.ca.

To date, 14 Whistler residents have announced their intention to run for council and two for mayor.