As I read the coverage leading up to the elections I find myself more and more concerned with how our multiple electoral candidates are often singing to the same tune.
Yes, I think we can all agree that we have to reduce the municipal deficit and bring spending in line with comparable commercial entities and what the community can afford. But it seems that many candidates are focusing their campaigns almost entirely on reducing muni wages, cutting spending, freezing taxes and pay parking.
Are we not at a point where these things have already received enough attention in the community that they will be addressed? Based on candidates campaign messages, it doesn't matter who gets in, as they will all be focused on these issues.
So now I want to know more. Where are the discussions about candidates' visions for the future of Whistler? Who wants us to increase the bed cap, build a university, open a strip joint (high end of course). Who wants to talk about how we balance growth with protecting our environment. Yes, I said the 'E' word. I would also love to talk about how candidates see us getting closer to the 'S' word (sustainability).
If we forget the importance of our environment then we forfeit our greatest unique selling point and have nothing on which to base a healthy society and economy. It seems to me that cutting spending at the municipality will become irrelevant if our future council does not also invest itself in protecting Whistler's natural assets. After all, aren't these natural assets the reason tourists, workers and locals alike choose to be here?
Although the environment and sustainability don't seem to be on the current agenda, I truly hope this is because they have been temporarily overshadowed rather than "dropped." We all have a responsibility to get informed and the best way to do this is to attend as many of the upcoming All Candidate Meetings as you can, raise questions and talk to the contenders.
So dig deep, and let's see what we can find out about our electoral candidates, hopefully it matters in 50 years!
Claire Ruddy (speaking as an individual, not as AWARE president)
Municipal employees deserve better
Many candidates for Council in Whistler seem to think that all the poor decisions of the past few years should be paid for by municipal employees. From some there is the mild suggestion that we won't get any raises for a while. Others want to impose pay cuts. Still others want to get rid of many of us.
Already a few jobs have been marked for disposal as a result of the recent review process. Likely these jobs will disappear through attrition, to be replaced by casual workers who don't qualify for benefits. This is a business model that has worked well for Wal-Mart.
Nobody wants to talk about raising taxes on the electorate who allowed this situation to develop by ignoring their civic responsibility between elections. Perhaps taxes should be raised, with the introduction of a tax credit for involvement during council's term. Every time someone attends a council meeting, they would get a receipt for a tax credit.
On the other hand, if municipal employees were just left to run things on our own initiative, probably things would turn out better. Let me give you an example.
In 2003 Whistler opened its new transit facility in Function Junction. It was considered to be state-of-the-art and designed with expansion in mind. It was going to see Whistler through the Olympics and had vision beyond 2020. In 2007, two things happened.
Municipal employees worked tirelessly to create a Five-Year Business Plan for Public Transit in Whistler (2007-2012). It included such things as the already planned expansion of the facility, gradual replacement of the diesel buses with natural gas, stability or reduction of fares and increased service levels.
The same year council started the process to build yet another transit facility, bigger and better than the four-year-old one. They introduced hydrogen buses. Fares have gone up 67 per cent and service levels will drop by 19 per cent this winter
It seems to me that municipal employees created the better plan. The tax paying electorate ignored the whole process. They didn't read the report. They didn't attend the meetings. They didn't write letters and they didn't ask questions.
The taxpayers got shafted because they didn't have enough concern to pay attention. Municipal employees paid attention and had a better plan. Why then, should the municipal employees be the ones to pay for the problems?
Likewise, municipal employees didn't pave the parking lots. Municipal employees didn't build a subdivision in an industrial area and hope the industry would go away. The list goes on.
It seems to me that municipal employees should be given more credit for what we do and should be listened to more. A raise wouldn't hurt either.
Concerned with "Concerned Citizens"
Last week's Pique ( Oct.20, 2011) saw a full-page ad from Whistler's Coalition of Concerned Citizens endorsing a list of council candidates. While all listed are worthy of consideration and include some fine choices, notable and concerning is the absence of even one of the incumbents.
The Melamed Administration saw the promotion and commitment of Whistler to some very large capital projects without proper consideration of the full capital costs, operating costs and impacts to business and the community. These projects included the composter, District Energy System, Garage Mahal and the catchment structure/day skier parking lot paving. The annual cost of municipal wages and salaries since 2005 increased from $16 million to $24 million yet basic municipal services are cut, transit fares raised, transit service reduced, pay parking must be imposed and we have seen a continued rise in property taxes well beyond inflation.
The bottom line, in my opinion, was that Mayor Melamed's zeal for all things green and the former CAO's lust for getting into and growing municipal business outside of traditional core services was not tempered by much in the way of common business sense.
Their activities were, however, tempered and resisted by a number of the local councillors. Had they not been there, conditions could be far worse with such things as a brand new Muni Mahal, greater parking fees, more expensive district energy systems, RMOW commercial buildings around Whistler Olympic Plaza and on and on.
Some level of consistency, continuity and experience within local politics is a good thing. In my opinion, Whistler voters should look carefully at, not just each candidate's campaign platform but also the actions and voting records of individual councillors.
Beware the bears
To borrow a line from Mark Twain, "The reports of my attack have been greatly exaggerated."
I feel an obligation to the efforts of bear awareness advocates to recount this tale as it happened for all to read so you'll know.
In truth, the bear (that) "attacked" Tyson and I on our nightly walk around the Cheakamus Poop Loop was being "attacked" himself and rightfully fought back. I'm just glad that my irresponsible behaviour didn't result in my dog-friend's death or my own!
As it happened, I did exactly what you are NEVER supposed to do when encountering a bear. I approached it. In my own defense it was very dark - a point worth mentioning as the lighting in some areas around Cheakamus is very poor. The bear was sitting on the edge of the driveway at athletes village next to a bear sized shrub which I did not notice as I approached.
Tyson, as is his tendency, was lollygagging around off leash 20 metres behind me, reluctant to end his walk when he saw me walking towards a bear not three feet from me. Naturally he took that as a green light to attack the bear.
The bear - we'll call him Barry - outweighed Tyson by 200 pounds and easily grappled Dogface into a nasty neck hold with his mouth. I would have grabbed Tyson's collar but it was in the bear's mouth. I screamed at the bear and kicked at it and hit it. The scream alerted the neighbours - some of whom came out to help. The kick at the bear did nothing. The hit made the bear spit my dog out like a tough chunk of meat and stand up to get me. We had effectively picked a fight with a bear for no reason other than carelessness and lack of awareness.
Barry knocked me down and proceeded towards me when Tyson came back and stood the bear down, giving me the second I needed to get on my feet and wave and bluff the bear off - with Tyson's help of course. I'm sure that if Tyson hadn't intervened, the bear would have been on me in a second and this story would have a different ending.
We booked out of there but not before the bear came back. By then there were neighbours all around who heard me screaming like a guy getting attacked by a bear and had come out to help, so the bear peeled off the other way.
After that, I don't know what happened to Barry but Tyson and I got home and had a look over - to make sure we had all our parts.
In my case, a slightly bruised elbow was the worst of it but poor Dogface had a few nasty puncture wounds on his neck and a cut on his ear. He was very lucky and he knew it. His eyes were as big as saucers and he was visibly shaken.
The morning came and Dr. (Stein) Hoff took a look - antibiotics and a biscuit and Tyson was okay. No stitches. All in all, we both got off lucky.
These are the things I would have done differently: 1) keep the dog on a leash - I would have had the benefit of Tyson's keen senses much earlier (the encounter would never had happened). Which brings me to point: 2) be aware - simple awareness of my environment which includes black bears would have had me notice the bear much earlier.
Things I wouldn't do differently: 1) make myself bigger and wave my arms at the bear to finally scare it away or: 2) scream for help and to scare away the bear but mostly for help - it's comforting to know that people rushed to help when they heard trouble brewing outside.
The conservation officer I spoke with later confirmed that this was normal defensive behavior for a bear under the circumstances. Tyson is happy to concede that he was out of his weight class. I've learned my lesson and urge everyone to become Bear Aware - literally.
Barry, if you're reading this - no hard feelings.
Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club says thanks
Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club would like to send a sincere thank you to the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation for their generous donation of $1900 to our club during the 2010/2011-ski season. These funds were used to purchase safety netting and a PA system required to host events such as the B.C. Freestyle Championships. Also purchased was an all-weather video camera to aid the club in training and competition. Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle is a ski club for local skiers offering recreational and competitive freeride and freestyle programs. www.whistlerblackcombfreestyle.com
Thanks to soccer sponsors and participants
The best of West Coast soccer! A huge thanks to Cros Doak and his intrepid band of rain-soaked volunteers, who hosted the Whistler Under-12 Invitational Tournament (WUT-IT) last Friday. It was a huge success, despite the weather, with teams from Squamish, Sunshine Coast, Bowen Island, North Vancouver and two teams from Whistler playing the "Beautiful Game."
The camaraderie and sportsmanship shown by these young players was exemplary. They were guided superbly by our senior referees. Andree (Janyk) and Bob (Calladine) - we extend a hot-toddie your way for the care and attention you continue to extend to our youth.
Thanks to our sponsors: Ziptrek Ecotours; Club Intrawest; Whistler Blackcomb; Summit Sports; Momentum Ski Camps; Whistler Samurai Sushi; Teppan Village; Pasta Lupino; Whistler Roasting Company; Whistler Dairy Queen.
We are looking forward to hosting more tournaments next year when the snow melts.
Students partake in democracy
On Wednesday, October 19, Whistler Secondary School held its first mayoral all-candidates assembly. Due to the short notice, we could unfortunately not reach all the candidates.
Apologies go out to Miro Kolvek, Shane Bennett and Brent McIvor, but a big thank you goes out to Ken Melamed, Ralph Forsyth and Nancy Wilhelm-Morden for giving us their time and thoughts.
The event began with the candidates each receiving two minutes to answer the pre-designed questions that were created by the Law 12 and Social Studies 11 class. Questions included: "If you were elected mayor, what would you do to ensure that the opinions of Whistler youth are heard and taken more into consideration?" "What would you suggest to students to do after graduating to make sure they can continue living in Whistler independently?" and questions regarding real estate development and transportation in Whistler.
Afterwards, all students were given a chance to ask some of their questions. Both Grade 11 and 12 students stepped up to the plate and asked a wide range of insightful questions.
As the mayoral all-candidates assembly wrapped up, students were given the chance to vote. A table was set up with slips of paper where students could check off who they think should be Whistler's next leader.
Congratulations to Ralph Forsyth on winning the Grade 11 and 12 poll! Ralph won with 45 votes; Nancy received 25 and Ken with 23 (please note that the three other candidates were not present at the time). The entire event was a great success. It was a great opportunity for students to become more involved with the politics of Whistler and for them to have an idea of some of the changes that they can expect in the future.
Anita Facundo and Rebecca Flynn
Grade 12 Students from WSS
Whistler music does it again!
Thank you and congratulations once again to all Whistler and Pemberton entertainers who performed over the past four weeks in the third annual Whistler's Music Search held at the Crystal Lounge. Your talents each and every year emphasize what great performers we have in the area.
Congratulations to our winner "Mike Fromontreal," runner-up "Tractor" and our other finalists "Willie Cottie" and "Jenna Mae."
Thanks to all the fans for coming out each and every week in support the local talent.
Thanks also to the judges who had a very difficult job each week.
Thanks to our host, Dave Morris aka Dr. Dave, for running such a smooth event.
And finally, to the sponsors: Kokanee, Bunker7 Productions, the Old Spaghetti Factory Crystal Lounge.
Thanks Whistler Music, we can't wait to do it all again next year for the fourth annual event. And we hope to see you all during the winter for some local live music.
Jono Young , bar manager, Crystal Lounge
Community support shines bright
I would like to thank all of the people who came out to support and participate in the Whistler Food Bank 5km Fun Run/Walk on Sunday.
Without the support of our local community, businesses and volunteers the event would not be possible. I would like to thank all the Whistler Triathlon Club Volunteers, Run with It, Nesters Market, Great Glass Elevator, Munro and Salomon, North Shore Athletics and Dave Clark of Whistler Half Marathon.