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inaugural speech

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This is the text of Mayor Hugh O’Reilly’s inaugural speech, delivered Dec. 6 after the new Whistler council was sworn in by Chief Justice B. Williams. Good evening everyone. Welcome to the start of the 1999-2002 term of the municipal council of Whistler. I want to extend my congratulations to fellow council members who were re-elected and welcome our newcomer to the team, Nick Davies. I would also like to acknowledge all the candidates who stood for election and participated in the democratic process. Local government remains the government closest to the people. Its decisions most affect the day-to-day lives of the residents it serves, and municipal government is the easiest in which to participate and become involved; by attending meetings, speaking at public hearings, volunteering for advisory groups, running for election, and most importantly, by voting. I thank the community for their support of the past council and administration and for returning us to office. In every election, a number of issues rise to the surface. This election was no exception and the ones that stand out in my mind are: o communication o community involvement o the 2010 Olympic bid o nightly rentals o Emerald sewer o the cap and its future o partners in the community o affordability, and o transportation I believe many of these issues can and will be addressed in the framework of the vision, the long-term financial plan and the business plan. I know the significance and impact of these long-range plans are still emerging, but I believe they are powerful tools that will enable us to find solutions to issues and meet our community goals. Despite the effort council has put into communicating, we need to do more. We have to find new ways to make sure the people know about issues and the decision-making process. We want to encourage your involvement and participation. A question that will test us almost immediately will be council's ability to involve and communicate to you, how the 2010 Olympic bid will unfold. The bid is one of the most exciting and challenging opportunities of the future, but it also poses one of the greatest risks. The message given to the Olympic board is this: Whistler can and will help build a successful bid, but our values and the vision that have made us so successful, can not, and I repeat, can not be jeopardized. We are willing partners — but with conditions — and our community must be involved. As to the issue of nightly rentals of residential property, I feel confident in saying that the current policy will be reviewed by this council over the next term to re-evaluate the assumptions and changes in the Municipal Act, and consider all the information shared by voters during the election. This issue has been around for a number of years and it will take time to resolve to the satisfaction and best interests of everyone in the resort community. An issue that we have made significant progress on during the election is the Emerald sewer. Like all the candidates, I had a number of meetings with Emerald residents to discuss the issue and their concerns. I feel confident we can find solutions that meet the needs of both sides. An immediate decision council can consider, is to wait until such time as we secure provincial funding for this project to proceed. Excellent opportunities exist to build stronger and more beneficial relationships with our community partners. In other resorts, the major players are so polarized, the opportunity for co-operation is almost lost. The last council witnessed this — and its disastrous effects — in their resort tour and took steps to avoid this outcome. We believe we have the ability to improve our position as a resort community by working efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively. This doesn't mean we are a pawn to others, this means we are an equal partner, looking out for the best interest of the resort community as a whole. Working together with our community partners provides one of our best opportunities to meet some of our affordability issues. This task is not without its challenges, but I believe we must persist to lever concessions from other levels of government. A last comment. For the first time in the 11 years I've been on council, an election issue attempted to pit full time residents against second homeowners. This has created a lingering wound that, if left unattended, could infect our potential success and quality of life. I want to address this quickly to dispel this unhealthy and potentially dangerous way of thinking. Our future success lies in all of us sharing a common vision and values. This council will, over the next three years, continue to work with all members of our community to keep Whistler the very special place it is. We take this responsibility very seriously, and I'll work hard, as will council, to retain the confidence you have shown us in this election. Thank you.

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