With any luck, the paper has been inundated with letters to the editor from upset parents regarding the day care crisis in this town. With any luck, all parents, and soon-to-be parents, and one-day-might-think-of-being a parents, and the employers’ neighbours of those parents are resolving to become a united front to solve our day care crisis.
Rather than reiterate all the issues contained in those letters, I'd like to offer a plea. This is a plea to anyone in town that has their ECE-IT degree. You have a chance to be a hero. Chances are, you are a mom. Chances are, you are understandably burnt out from the demands of the classroom environment and moved on. But chances also are that you are a loving, caring person who recognizes that they have the opportunity to help save day care in this town for everyone under 3 years of age. Even if it is only part time, even if it is only for a couple of months to buy us some time to continue to work on the problem. Please contact the Whistler Children's Centre, be our hero.
We are in desperate need of ECE-IT Teachers. If you know anyone, or know anyone who knows anyone, please pass along this plea. Thank you.
Waiting on Wall Street
Holy crap, Fortress hits the skids and threatens to take us down with them. Why on earth they felt they could finance the mercurial business of ski-resorts with 95 per cent debt and without even staggering their loan maturities is beyond comprehension?
Did I hear that our mayor was offering up our hotel tax to support Fortress until he was reminded it had already been pledged twice over on capital projects? Is it really true that Intrawest employees have been told to use both sides of toilet paper under the cover of saving the environment but really to conserve cash?
So we wait to see if the bottom feeders of Wall Street can extract themselves from this merry mess. What could happen? The lenders might seek to drive a much better bargain and get a piece of the ownership of Intrawest for rolling their loans.
Or the lenders might just as likely decide they would be better off letting the company go under and run it under bankruptcy protection. OMG accountants in charge of a ski-resort — grey suits in the village.
Either way everything is changing for us. Costs will be cut again, good employees with options may move on, but the mountain will stay open as we're still a cash cow.
But how about corporate business, what middle manager will put his balls on the line to book up here for corporate playtime? What really slays me is the price increases put on everything this year with 8 per cent increases in tickets, lessons and day care. And the frosting on the cake — parking charges. A decision to impose such price increases could only come from so-called Masters of the Universe on Wall Street, whose hubris, amorality, and arrogance has never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity (thank you W. Buckley).
Maybe good things will be the end result: A new owner with a passion for the mountain, a new city council attuned to the economic crisis we're in and adjusting their spending accordingly, and finally freshies till noon.
Are you confused by hedge funds? I would recommend the movie Wall Street, available at Rogers, where Gordon Gekko coined the phrase "Greed is Good" — just add three 000s to every reference to money to update it.
Hey, and how about our Olympic Village. Did we finance off the village's balance sheet or are we looking at a possible problem such as Vancouver's? Me thinks it's time for an up-date: how are the sales and what is the taxpayer's exposure?
Dreaming of the best
Weeks go by, where I avoid walking through the village to skip the busyness, but yesterday I thought I should take a brief walk through the village to see how it looks right now.
I left work at the Marketplace, and walked up the stroll, noticing the eyesore that has just sat there for months. It is funny to think that the municipal council was in such a hurry to clearcut all the trees and flatten (not quite though) Lot 1/9. Now this was done back in August and the site has sat dormant since then. Now it is in a state of disrepair; the tacky yellow fence is knocked over in places and detached in others. So anyone and their free roaming child can wander in and out of the site to their heart’s content.
What made me realize why this is so sad and why it puts a black, or rather a white, mark on Whistler for what will be the whole winter of 2009, is that all we asked for was a compromise. If Lot 1/9 had to be logged then at least there could be an outdoor skating rink for locals and visitors alike to use, as well as a “celebration plaza.” The highway upgrades north of Function Junction will be finished before the celebration plaza will be. Heck, we don't even need it for another 16 months anyways.
Then our new council will move in and set up a beautiful outdoor ice rink on one side and either reforest or build employee-based housing on the other.
I was flipping through the pages of the new Ski Magazine, and I saw a photo from Heavenly Village of this beautiful outdoor skating rink in the midst of winter and thought, that’s where I would like to be with my wife and baby on any given evening during the 2010 Olympics. Wait a second, Heavenly Village is in Lake Tahoe, not in Whistler. I was dreaming again of the best resort in the world, I guess I was mistaken to assume it was ours.
The guest experience
I am not the usual send-a-letter-to-the-paper the minute something pisses me off kind of person. However, this small situation caught me thinking!
Recently, on a very wet and quiet day in the village (shoulder season) I was with my gracefully aging parents who happened to be visiting Whistler. We were researching hotels for a future family reunion I have been trying to get off the ground for sometime. We pulled into the turnaround in front of the Crystal lodge and the Adara Hotels. We stopped in one of the empty five-minute hotel check in spots. The plan was to look in the lobbies and gather brochures from both these properties.
In the time (less than one minute) it took to cross the road and enter one lobby we were followed inside and accosted by an employee of the other hotel. She stopped my father's wife and told her in no uncertain terms "you have to move your car immediately” out of our five-minute spot. (Two minutes had now passed since we got out of the car.)
This may not seem to be too much to ask, except.... I see three problems with the way this employee of the " service industry" treated these guests of our resort.
1) We must put ourselves in the place of the guest and ask ourselves if we were in an unfamiliar place would we want to be harassed by some employee of the service industry when we had not even been out of our car for 2 minutes?
2) Does this situation warrant possibly upsetting a guest to the resort and creating an unpleasant memory? (They will go home and tell a few people.)
3) Was this actually the job she was getting paid for? (These spots are owned and patrolled by the municipal parking enforcement.)
In these tough economic times can we afford to lose even one future guest to the resort?
As we go into the ski season maybe it's a good time to discuss with our resort employees the value of treating our guests the way we would like to be treated if we were in their shoes! With the world markets in turmoil guest visits will suffer due to circumstances beyond our control (fuel prices, aging ski and snowboard populations, weak US dollar, climate change, etc.). Harassing guests for no real gain is something we can control!
Let’s be tolerant and show the world our best side!
Minding our backyard
I would like to know why someone living in Surrey is in the running to be mayor of Whistler. All the other candidates vying for school trustee, councillor, and mayor have a Whistler address, however Jag Bhandari has a Surrey address. I don’t believe anyone who doesn’t live in the community they would be leading could have the community’s best interest at heart. If you don’t live here why would you care about local environmental, economic and social issues, such as housing?
Please make sure you vote for someone who cares about their own backyard! Whistler is more than just dollar signs to many people who live here.
What were you thinking?
For the record, I didn’t want the Olympics within 1,000 km of
my town, my home of 30+ years. I saw little or no value, I saw nothing but
increased costs for us as residents and hyper-pressure for more development on
an already severely strained infrastructure, compromised environment, and a
place with already some of the highest taxes in Canada… net negative benefit,
absolutely. I saw it as a very expensive party that we as a small community,
despite the rubbish assurances of our dear friends at VANOC and in Victoria,
simply could not afford.
Yet, during the lead up to the awarding of this event, many
others like me were drowned out by the boosters and supporters who saw 2010 as
a chance to have more, be bigger, ensure more growth, etc. Whenever we asked,
Who is going to pay for this? Why do we need this? What assurances do we have
from VANOC, the province on how this will affect our community? Where are the
financial tools? These boosters and sycophants told us not to worry, we need this,
this will tell the world about Whistler and they will beat an even more well
worn path to our door. “We will all be secure in the warm financial glow of
prosperity ad infinitum,” they said. They told us that the legacies will be
forever and that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our community
that will pay dividends for the next several generations of Whistlerites. AND
“the games will not cost you a penny, we got it all figured out.”
So here we are, a short 15 months before the Games, and the hue
and cry, the whining from these same people is deafening, and it’s getting
really annoying. They are finally waking up to the reality of hosting the
Olympics, the dark side of the rhetoric. The cost of hosting this event in a
small community like ours, already under such intense pressure to manage its
aging and outdated infrastructure (sewage anyone?), its increasing costs, its
environment, its sustainable future, is only now sinking in. Ken Melamed as
councillor was the
one who said no
to this nonsense many years ago when we had a choice. Exactly because of these
concerns, and he was practically drawn and quartered by the same shrill group
of developers, starry eyed Olympic boosters and part-time Whistler residents
who love a good party as long as they don’t have to clean up the mess.
They shouted us down as having no vision, no business savvy, no
civic pride, national pride…you name it. Ken was widely criticized and slammed
for his lack of foresight.
The number of letters published in this paper lampooning the
current council and mayor about their spendthrift ways is constant. Crikey, we
even have our own version of the Republican party, a shadowy lobby group with a
suspect agenda listing half truths, out and out lies and misleading statements
accusing the council and mayor of high treason and the drowning of kittens! And
the thing is, the loudest rabble and complaining is coming from the very same
people who so badly wanted the Games to begin with.
What the hell did you think was going to happen? Look around,
does it seem that your community has been hijacked
by the dark forces of endless growth? There are so
many big holes in the ground in this valley you could be forgiven if you
thought the resort was just being built now.
Did you really think our rich uncle in Victoria and his buddies
at VANOC were going to make sure Whistler would have all the resources it needs
to protect the poor Whistler taxpayer? These same people I think also believe
the Godfathers at the IOC are just sweet old philanthropists working towards
Did you really think that we were going to have any control
over how this big party was going to go down? Did you think we were going to be
able to say “no” to the likes of the provincial government and its institutions
on things like what they can or cannot do with their land (B.C. Hydro buses),
or get the tax revenues we need, we deserve (VANOC sliding centre)?
While these now angry and surprised taxpayers are crying in
their martinis about the waste and injustice of it all, they are also leveling
charges of gross incompetence at virtually every soul at the RMOW and council.
I have never trusted governments to be great money managers with my hard earned
taxes (I am very good at wasting money on my own, thank you very much), and I
would never claim that the RMOW is a bastion of total efficiency and value.
However, blaming our council and staff at the RMOW for the record construction
costs for the last four or five years, record commodity prices, record land
costs, record pressure from developers… and on and on and on, is really a gross
distortion of reality and a selective interpretation of the facts.
You want to complain about the cost of the library or the
sewage treatment plant? Just ask anyone who tried to do a reno on their house
in Whistler in the last several years about how expensive it was. Why? Every
able-bodied trade and/or labourer was hijacked by exorbitant pay rates on must
do “Olympic” sites throughout the corridor. We had to pay $25-30/hr for labour
last fall because the Nordic centre, the athletes’ village, etc. were like a
deep black holes of cash for trades and a great sucking sound was heard
throughout the valley as my bank account was drained, along with our
Ask the builders in Vancouver about how expensive it was to
build anything over the last five years vs. the previous 100 years!
Construction costs were going up by an estimated 2-3 per cent per month! Just
ask the Millennium developers building the Olympic village in Vancouver about record
building costs and $60 million deficits. Wow, even the sophisticated, supremely
politically connected developer guys got it wrong.
This is what happens when you have to build very large projects
against an absolute deadline in a climate of record supply costs across the
board. I can’t wait until we get the bill from the provincial government,
although this bill will be hidden in the fine print, off the back page.
This council and mayor worked incredibly hard through what by
any standard has been the most difficult period in the history of this resort
for managing costs and development pressures, most of which were completely
beyond our control and fait accompli. Despite this they got more done in one
term than perhaps any council in our history. They had to. They did not have
the luxury of time to reflect carefully for months and months on many of these
decisions. They had to play the hand that they were given and it was a hand
full of very weak cards in the face of straight flushes and four of kind that
VANOC and the province had.
Me… I have given in, after all, what else can you do but go
with the flow now that the train is coming. I am going to strap on my 2010 pin,
VANOC T-shirt and show every visitor that comes to Whistler the best damn
experience they could possibly have. Because at the end of the day, the value
we get as a community out of this entire brutal exercise is really up to us.
Expensive, you bet. Could we afford it?… never thought so. But now that we are
committed and wholly invested, despite our better judgment, we better make the
most of it because we are going to be paying for it for a long time to come.
And all you pro-Olympics types with perfect hindsight… have
another drink, after all you are getting exactly what you wanted and deserve,
you should be the ones celebrating. The rest of us will try to refrain from
saying “I told you so”.
Leading in signs
I invite my fellow Whistler residents to join me in an
entertaining new game. I call it “Count the Jag Bhandari signs!” Driving from
Creekside to Nesters today, I counted a mind-boggling 86 plastic (I checked)
election signs posted by Surrey resident and Whistler mayoral candidate Jag
Residents north of Nesters and south of Creekside can have fun
counting in their neighbourhoods too!
Perhaps, not being a resident of Whistler, Mr Bhandari is
unaware that “sustainability” is a bit of a buzz-word here, and that all those
plastic signs are, well... not sustainable. Or maybe things are different in
Surrey? Perhaps, when the mayoral race is over, we can trust that Mr Bhandari
will recycle all those signs. If he does not know where the recycling depot is
located here in Whistler, I will be happy to provide him with a map.