On Oct. 20, those who have not voted in advance polls or opted for mail-in ballots will trundle off to cast their vote for the members of Whistler's municipal council. The task before those six people over the next four years is formidable.
Aside from the obvious issue of affordable housing, the next council will grapple, one hopes, with issues of governance in an operating atmosphere that has grown less and less transparent and more and more secretive over the past seven years.
They'll have to tackle issues of this community's strongly-held perception that senior staff call the shots and run the show and too much power has settled in the Chief Administrative Officer's hands, evidenced perhaps startlingly by the incredible power grab outlined in the Notice of New Council Procedure Bylaw that would give the CAO carte blanche to determine which citizens' delegations would be allowed to make presentations to council and which wouldn't, notwithstanding the office's unelected nature.
It will have to delve into the briar patch of overtourism, illegal squatting, and the business community's insatiable appetite for more and more and more growth, notwithstanding insufficient numbers of employees to staff current business levels.
The list goes on and on.
To have the best opportunity to make headway on these issues, we will need a council comprised of the strongest candidates with broad skills and noteworthy achievements. We'll need a council who can respectfully work together to accomplish things and individuals who understand good ideas aren't worth a damn if they can't convince a majority of their fellow councillors of their merit. We'll need consensus builders, not grandstanders.
And it would be nice to shift the average age closer to Whistler's median. People in their 30s and 40s represent the future. Old farts like me represent the past. Time to let the future prevail.
What we don't need is hotheads, desk thumpers, ideologues, people driven by self-interest and those who don't understand that reasonable people can disagree with each other without enmity.
So with the caveat that what follows is only my opinion and this page is exclusively my opinion and has been for the past 20-plus years, this is who I'm supporting and endorsing. Make up your own minds.
The Incumbents: I enthusiastically endorse Cathy Jewett and Jen Ford for another term. Cathy's record of community involvement and accomplishments is virtually without equal. Her performance over the past year aptly demonstrates that and she will be invaluable over the next term.
I did not support Ms. Ford in either of the last two elections. But I have watched her learn, grow and mature into an independent-thinking, community-minded councillor whose positions I agree with far more frequently than I disagree. She is one of those candidates who represent the future.
I support returning John Grills to council, less enthusiastically than the others but I support him nonetheless. John and I disagree more frequently than we agree. But I'm old-school enough to respect people I disagree with when I believe they are making decisions based on their own analysis of what's best for the community. And I'm not arrogant enough to believe I'm always right. I know there are any number of community members I respect who line up wholeheartedly behind John. He's a hard worker and has earned my support.
In their own ways, all three incumbents have served this community well and when I look at the choices I believe the next council will be much stronger and more effective if they continue to hold their seats.
The Retread: I support Duane Jackson's return to council. I have never agreed with Duane's support and championing of the illegal space bylaw that has resulted in rewarding cheaters and further encouraging those who gin the system to build larger homes than zoning permits. But in his term on council—2011 to 2014—Duane was a bulldog. A hard worker who drilled down into issues, who famously created complex spreadsheets to analyze budgets and proposals, who brought a keen, logical mind to decision making. His experience in and knowledge of real-estate development will be invaluable if we want to avoid expensive mistakes as we proceed with the next phases of Cheakamus Crossing.
The Newbies: I'm sorry Arthur De Jong was thwarted in his desire to run in the last election. Perhaps more than anything else, that underlines the difference between Vail Resorts' ownership and Whistler Blackcomb's previous modus operandi. I believe Arthur brings the single most-valuable skill to the table a councillor can have: the ability to convince reluctant decision makers to do things they don't necessarily want to do. It would be naive to think Whistler Blackcomb would have adopted forward-thinking environmental policies had Arthur not relentlessly worked to convince them doing so was in their long-term best interests.
His involvement in the broader community has been tireless and his interests in making this a better world have led him to get involved on a regional, national and international level. The work ethic and broader view he will bring to council will prove invaluable.
I can't endorse either Arthur or Cathy without commenting on the efforts of some to cast their employment as glaring conflicts of interest that will neuter them and leave council weakened when and if issues benefiting WB appear before council. For starters, those issues have been few and far between over the past two council terms. Given Vail Resorts' sharp focus on building their ski business—as opposed to being real estate developers—I have no reason to believe we'll suddenly be inundated with more instances where this will be an issue. Their independence is unquestionable.
Finally, I have to admit struggling mightily for a sixth candidate I feel comfortable supporting. Too many seem to have visions of grandeur or be too angry or simply incapable of listening to why their ideas are impossibly unrealistic.
But in playing them out, one-by-one, I've decided to take a chance on Melanie Tardif. She's young, she has been deeply involved in this community since she arrived a decade ago, she's a hard-worker, and she offers gender balance on council and she too is the future. I believe she will learn what she needs to learn about the limitations of local government's powers and, with the right mentorship, has the capacity to grow into a good councillor. I could be wrong; I have been before. But considering the alternatives, she is where I'll take my chances.
There ya go. I'm never sure browbeating Bob Barnett about endorsing candidates being a critical function of a local paper was a good idea. It seems to get harder with every election and I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't my last. But like I said, it's just one person's opinion. Go vote for who you believe will do the best job.