The following letter was addressed to mayor and council. A copy was forwarded to Pique for publication.
I can hardly believe the incredible stories in the newspapers last week that a hand-picked panel of experts advised the RMOW to increase taxes by 25.5 per cent (including the 5.5 per cent levied on us in 2009) so the RMOW can just keep spending and spending regardless of taxpayers' ability to pay. I know of no financial experts who would advise increased spending during the current "Great Recession" in the face of decreasing revenues. This is catastrophic business logic. We already pay a huge premium to live in Whistler, than you. My taxes are 50 per cent higher than a West Vancouver home of the same value.
I would like to thank Councillors Zeidler and Thomson for questioning such faulty and sophistic logic as "Oh well, you seem to be $5.7 million short over the net three years so just send out huge tax increases so you can continue sipping champagne at Muni Hall while the taxpayers lose their jobs and businesses."
Let me help mayor and council on how a private businessman would approach this. I can think of three easy ways to save $5.7 million over three years:
1. We need a review of the staffing levels of each department. For example, do we need so many in the planning and building inspection departments when we have effectively reached build out?
2. Total wages and employer contributions at the RMOW in 2007 were $19,351,674. The top 47 employees averaged $111,701 each in 2007.
3. The RMOW Sustainability Centre was set up as a taxpayer subsidized consulting business to compete with companies like Cascade Environmental Resource Group and my company, Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners. Close this green pulpit for our mayor and save two or three local companies and $1.5 million.
So, with points 1 and 3 taken into consideration we have a shortfall of $1.2 million per year. To resolve this "dilemma" the RMOW simply needs to reduce employee costs by 5 per cent through attrition or institute a wage freeze just like General Motors and Ecosign.
I am truly sorry that I cannot attend the open house Thursday, March 12 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre as I will be in Quebec trying to earn a living just to keep paying the highest taxes in British Columbia.
I ask all interested citizens to please attend and voice their opinion.
Somewhat 'off limits'
When we learned that local councillors were being asked to direct all media inquiries to the Communications Department at the Resort Municipality of Whistler, our group felt it necessary to respond.
Whistler Watch believes it's important that our elected officials remain as approachable as possible. At times, there may be an inquiry that a councillor does not feel comfortable in answering, and we understand that those queries could be better directed to the communications department.
The media's role is to be accountable to and act as the "eyes and ears" of the public at large. In our democratic system, it is imperative that public officials remain open and accountable, and are held to the highest standards when carrying out their duties and responsibilities.
Over the years, the RMOW has gained a reputation of being somewhat "off limits" to the general public. During the last municipal election, many candidates promised to bring openness and accountability to municipal hall, yet we continue to see more closed door, in-camera meetings.
Communicating with the media and the public can sometimes be a difficult task, and occasionally results in misquotes and misinformation. However, the more we shut the doors and let spokespeople do all the talking, the less credible that information becomes. The public is not interested in an over-edited, marketed version of the issue. Council should carefully consider whether they wish to convey an image of openness and honesty, or one of secrecy and suppression.
Next time council receives a call from the media, we hope they will take the time to answer those questions, instead of curbing the lines of communication.
On behalf of Whistler Watch
What could have been
I was very disappointed to read about lot 1/9 and the ongoing fiasco regarding that space. Especially considering the brilliant building proposal that Norbert Doeblin presented three years ago creating a green building with an ice skating rink, a medical teaching facility attached to it for the hospital, and the amphitheatre on the roof with lots of glass and walking areas. It would have been built, operating, making money by now, and would have been a great legacy to the village.
I just shake my head on how the ball has been dropped by the RMOW on this project and the sheer lack of imagination displayed in this latest proposal.
Reflections on Hugh
I want to thank you for the kind words in reference to Hugh Smythe (Pique March 5th). Hugh Smythe’s vision continues to shape Whistler.
Your editorial brought back many memories; one that popped right up was sitting with “little Leo” in the roundhouse after Blackcomb opened and telling him their (Blackcomb’s) soup was much better than his famous clam chowder. His reply was “do what I do, get a couple of the butter packets from the condiment area as well as some salt, pepper and the Tabasco sauce and make it taste better.” No thought as to making the overall experience better for the guest.
Meanwhile over on Blackcomb they were striving to change the perception/reality of ski area operations. Whistler wasn’t alone with their philosophy. I learnt to ski at Blue Mountain and the liftees back then were farmers, the schedule worked for them as the winter months were slower, but my memory is more of angry men resenting people with the free time and dollars to SKI!
Along comes Blackcomb liftees saying hello! A restaurant on top of the mountain, which offered fresh food with multiple choices as well as french fries. Even more outrageous, Christine’s, a restaurant with linen to satisfy a different ski crowd that we had yet to experience.
When I was president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1988, Dave Kirk and I went to Hugh Smythes office with the idea of a specially priced pass for employees, (this evolved into the “Spirit Pass” employees today benefit from). His response was, “We would be glad to participate but in order for it to be successful for the resort we will only do it if Whistler Mountain participates as well.” It was this type of gentle prodding which contributed to Whistler Blackcomb being recognized as the number one ski resort in North America.
A fitting tribute to Hugh is the renaming of the run on 7th Heaven to “Hugh’s Heaven” presented at his 60th birthday. A lasting legacy to our community besides all of the hard assets, including but not limited to the Peak 2 Peak, is his ability to be a mentor. In that role Hugh has contributed so much to our success and allowed so many of us to live a dream.
So thank you for reminding me of the pleasure of knowing and working with a true visionary.
P.S. Hugh, Thank you sir.
A stupid idea
We keep getting support in the papers for STV, a truly bad idea. The latest in a letter from Erin Iwaniuk (March 5) defending the indefensible. Who would want their vote for one party transferred to another party for whom they did not vote? Changing the map does not help parties with fewer votes. Only proportional representation will do that.
MLAs (all of them) do not represent their ridings. They always represent their party’s philosophy only. If anyone doubts that just look at how they act while in the legislature at voting time.
STV is such a stupid idea it is impossible to understand why anyone can support it. At the next election the government is giving us another chance to reject it. When do we get a chance to vote for Proportional Representation?
International Bullying Day
It took place two weeks ago but don’t think bullying and intimidation only happens in the Schoolyard.
I read last week that the RMOW has a communication policy for its councillors to go through the media dept at Muni Hall, although it is not binding, said Ken Melamed. The policy is nothing more than “intimidation” and I was glad to read that “all” the councillors were against such a policy to “muzzle” them up. Your councillors are great people who have worked hard to get elected and represent the community. They are not the problem and the policy should be scraped immediately.
I have been watching things unfold for a long time while taking abuse of my own from various sources over the years but I cannot sit by any longer.
I recently submitted an eight-page letter of complaint to the RMOW C.A.O. on various charges of "misconduct" by their staff. It’s been over a month and I am still waiting for their investigation to be completed. I am giving them a chance to come clean. It’s hard to argue the facts and a confession by one senior RMOW member months later and after repeated requests to do so!
The only watchdogs and policies needed should be for RMOW staff, to make them accountable for their actions. I had suggested an independent “ombudsman’s” group be set up in my resolutions, as it would provide an open-door committee that Whistler residents with any “beef” in regards to the RMOW could go to and get action.
I understand the mayor is worried about the RMOW’s reputation but I am disappointed his efforts are focused on the wrong people!
Fortunately there are still some really good people at Muni Hall, so I am taking a stand against those who are not, and maybe it will make Whistler a better place for all.
Director, The Whistler for the Disabled Society
Whistler embraces speaker series
I was once again humbled by Whistler’s helpfulness and generosity in the pursuit of last week’s Sustainability Speaker Series event. In honour of AWARE’s 20th anniversary of environmental activism, hosting someone of rock-star status such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was not easy. Regardless, we received tremendous support in multiple forms. A special thanks to Sue Eckersley, Arthur DeJong, the AWARE board, Barb Mares at the conference centre, and the various groups that helped AWARE to promote the event.
The positive feedback has been plentiful, and there’s no doubt RFK has people talking, thinking, and hopefully acting. Thanks again to the sponsors, volunteers, and the audience. Your support of events like this will allow for more inspirational speakers in future.
In the spirit of the need to act, Robert F. Kennedy’s Jr.’s father once said:
Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation...
What will the future look like? It’s up to you.
Uniting an inquiring public
Thank you AWARE and all the good people of Whistler who sponsored, supported and attended the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talk at the Telus Conference Centre on March 4th. Public forums, dialogue and debate are a powerful way to inform, educate and build consensus over the complex issues facing us today as we seek to preserve the near wilderness, and balance economic viability with sustainable development.
In listening to the first 50 minutes of Mr. Kennedy’s remarks, I was astounded by how much of the information being conveyed was already known to me — thanks to the January Whistler Reads book pick (and excellent, local expert panel discussion) of “Hot, Flat and Crowded” by Thomas Friedman. If you are one of the 50-60 people who attended the meeting, and still others who read the book, then you are nodding your heads in agreement.
Virtually all of the information Kennedy so charismatically presented was covered:
• The validity and urgency of climate change;
• The need to convert our “dirty petro-fuel system” to a clean-electron “smart energy grid” using a combination of solar, tidal, hydro, geothermal and wind-generated power — or “fuels from heaven over fuels from hell”;
• The deficiency of our present utility companies who predominantly use coal-generated electricity (resulting in environmental destruction from Appalachia to China) to meet surge demands that wastes power;
• The travesty of government and lobbyists who place corporate profit over public responsibility;
• The push to “zero energy” built homes on smart grids that power-down appliances in non-peak hours to save energy, and allow home-owners to be stakeholders in the system by enabling them to sell energy back to the grid from photovoltaic or wind energy off their property;
• The electric car story — all of it — would have been completely familiar to you.
For me, Mr. Kennedy’s most penetrating remark was his insistence that every individual take responsibility to be publicly engaged and informed on the issues of the day. As the founder of Whistler Reads, the village book group, we’ve got a pretty good track record of doing just that — and we have a heck of a time doing it. We read The Age of Turbulence before the economic meltdown. We read The Audacity of Hope before the election of Barack Obama. We read Three-Day Road before Joseph Boyden won this year’s Giller Prize, and now we’re reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist before $1 billion worth of VANOC security initiatives descend on us for the Olympics.
As a public literacy advocate, I challenge you to read, meet, and discuss the fiction and non-fiction titles together as a community. We strive to pick topics with relevance to our community, and that serve to enrich and inform our everyday lives. Whether it’s the economy, science and sustainability, our history or our culture — we’re into it. The next Whistler Reads meeting is on March 19th at the Nita Lake Lodge. Go to www.bookbuffet.com and click on Whistler Reads. Become a WR member today.
Founder & Director, Whistler Reads
Stoop and scoop
You made me feel so angry about your lack of respect; your lack of respect for the general public, your lack of respect for yourself, but mostly your lack of respect for your pet.
It was Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in the parking lot at Marketplace, right outside the TD Bank. While you chatted with your pals in the pickup truck, your large dog crapped right next to a parked vehicle — directly next to its passenger door. I may not be Cesar Milan (dog whisperer), but your dog looked embarrassed about its actions.
After I passed by and began to climb the steps to the second floor of the building, I realized you were not acting to clean up after your pet. I stopped, returned and asked if you needed a bag to clean up after your dog. When you shrugged (I took that for a yes) I went to my parked vehicle, collected a poop bag and returned to see you leaving, and your pals backing out in their truck. When I asked if they wanted to clean up after your dog, they replied that it wasn’t their dog, and pulled away.
Kudos to your pal that remained, and cheerfully said it wasn’t a big deal, and cleaned up the mess.
You have a dog. It’s not an accessory; it’s a wonderful loving animal. It deserves many things, including food, shelter, love and respect.
Whistler is a terrific place for pets, but obviously not for all owners. Shame on you. Next time you cross paths with a dog poop bag dispenser, please stock up.
It is 8:30 p.m., I was driving home from a meeting tonight (about 8:15 p.m.) when I almost hit you crossing Highway 99 — scared me dearly! I saw your friend because of his white plastic bag, but I did not see you till after the snowball you threw hit my windscreen and was cleared by my windshield wipers, which were going at the time. I really am sorry I didn’t see you before — it must have scared you too!
All I can say is: ‘Please, when it is dark, snowing or raining and you are on the highway or any other roadway, if you are dressed in dark clothing and not wearing reflective material, make sure you are not going to get hit by the vehicles — don’t assume we can see you, sometimes we can’t! Better yet, assume we are trying to run you down — that way you’ll probably never get hit by a vehicle.
I am only happy I was going the speed limit and your snowball didn’t cause me to swerve because the results might have ruined the day for both of us.
In addition, I would like to suggest the RMOW and Minister of Highways improve lighting for known pedestrian crossings, whether they are at intersections or otherwise. Do it before there is a fatality because of poor visibility.