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Letters to the editor

This Week's Letters

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Page 6 of 8

I did not bring "the issue of the local economy and the business community’s concerns about losing the arena to council after attending the June Dialogue Café on London Drugs and the retail sector" as you said in your editorial October 20.

The truth is, after attending the July 7 Dialogue Café on "Retail, Values and Whistler. What’s for Sale?" I left the meeting with two strong impressions, as I shared with your reporter Alison Taylor at the time. One was a reinforcement of my thoughts about London Drugs. The other, even more powerful, was a clear understanding that council and senior staff had completely underestimated the passion that many people in the community held for the arena.

I left this forum determined to interject an opportunity for community engagement, so that council and staff could experience and understand this. I decided to try to ensure there was a gap between the long (and impatiently) awaited arena report scheduled for Aug. 15 and the final decision. I saw clearly that we needed an opportunity for community input before we made our decision and I wanted a public open house in that gap. I felt strongly that witnessing the passion would profoundly affect the process and the outcome. I felt at the time it may have to go to a referendum.

At the very next council meeting, July 17, I proposed the idea of this gap in the morning session, without sufficient support. That evening I saw a better opportunity after Chris Quinlan and Bob Lorriman spoke about the arena at the opening Q & A period. Mayor O’Reilly confirmed that community engagement was not planned ("Trust us"). After the topic came around again in correspondence, I made the motion to commit to the above strategy, seconded by Councillor Lamont. The motion passed 5 to 2 (note: at the same meeting Councillor Wade succeeded in her motion to open the afternoon workshop sessions to the public. It was a good night for openness and community engagement).

The arena motion led to the very well attended open house, the deadline extension, the second open house and the subsequent unanimous decision on Oct. 17. This is the way it played out. The lessons learned on July 7 bore out.

Is this a model of good community engagement or public planning? No. However, this process clearly demonstrated the ongoing will of some in council for change in this regard. For better or for worse, change is guaranteed now. With the upcoming election, the nature of this change is in the hands of the community.

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