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Full house for all candidates meeting

Mayors, councillors meet the public

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"That's why I'm an unabashed supporter of (mayoral candidate) Nancy (Wilhelm-Morden), because I think that she is capable of rebuilding that relationship with the community and showing the community the respect it deserves."

For her part, mayoral candidate Nancy Wilhelm-Morden was asked questions about pay parking, the asphalt plant and the culture at municipal hall. Wilhelm-Morden said she was a supporter of pay parking when it was a way to boost transit, but said she stopped supporting it when the money started to go into general revenues. "That was then, this is now. We've got a downturn in the economy, destination visitors are not coming," she said. "Most visitors are now rubber tire visitors and the first thing we do when they come to Whistler is ding them with a parking charge."

Council candidate Duane Jackson said the RMI funds need to be spread around to ensure Whistler's success. "We've got a lot of money coming in from the province and that money, because of the priorities of the Olympics, has been hi-jacked a bit. There were some things that were critical like the Olympic Plaza, but it hasn't been used in its primary role of leveraging assets and selling ourselves."

Mayoral candidate Brent McIvor said the community is at a watershed with its budget. "The budget went form $47 million in 2006 to $77 million this year and I believe it's unsustainable," he said. "When I see a 57 per cent increase in the budget and taxes in the last six years, that's the reason I feel I would do a better job as mayor leading the community than in running for council."

Mayoral candidate Shane Bennett had an idea for cutting department budgets in the municipality. "I would go to every department and ask them to report on a one per cent reduction in costs per month. If we tell them to cut 10 or 20 per cent they would have to hire a consultant, but they can do small one per cent cuts. Over a year that's 14 per cent savings compounded. When we got to the point where services would be denigrated... then we were start looking at one per cent efficiencies after that."

Council candidate Richard Diamond said that Whistler has to start thinking like a city, and realize that pay parking is probably here to stay. "The money has to come from somewhere and I think they've come up with a reasonable rate. I think the issues around it and the resistance to it is a symptom of the tough economy in town... that's why we need to diversify the economy into something other than tourism to replace the jobs we're losing."

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