Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

Milking sacred cow No. 300

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Well, as milestones go, this one isn’t nearly as worthy of celebration as, say, toilet training or getting your driver’s license or reaching the age at which you can saunter into a bar – assuming you’ve mastered sauntering at such a young age – and order a beer with no fear of being tossed out on your ear, but in the spirit of these troubled times, it’s the nearest thing on my immediate horizon to celebrate.

This is the 300th time I’ve sat down at a computer, stared at a blank screen and muttered to myself those sage words of motivation: "Sure wish I knew what was about to happen." I mutter those words even if I have a really good idea what I’m going to write about because it’s been my experience that my fingers have minds of their own and once they get started, no idea, half-baked or better, is safe.

If all the words I’ve written on the back page of the Pique were laid end to end they still wouldn’t make any more sense than they ever have, though I imagine they’d put a pretty good dent in the market for over the counter sleeping remedies. This week isn’t likely to deviate too far from that proud spirit.

I was thinking of interviewing myself but after I got past the easy questions I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to know about myself.

Besides, it’s getting harder and harder to write about the fluff of life in Whistler when, for example, our Justice Minister is busy dismantling the fundamental rights we enjoy as Canadians and lying to us when someone has the effrontery to ask her why she’s doing so. It’s even harder, realizing that by and large the populace is rushing headlong to support her efforts as long as she holds out the hint of a promise of making us all feel safe from the boogie men again.

What’s a columnist to do?

Let’s see. The Column Writing for Dummies book says, "When in doubt as to what to write about, the astute columnist latches onto the most contentious local issue of the moment and milks that sucker for all it’s worth."

Okay, here goes. What’s the Big Kahughna and council got against putting the simple question regarding the 2010 Olympic bid to da people?

Twenty-four citizens, proud and true, signed a letter asking Whistler council to pose a straightforward fer-or-agin’ kind of question and let democracy run rampant across our happy mountain home.

Fat chance, said Hizzonor who believes a more relevant question to ask might be "What’s in it for me?" which is to say, what is the bid going to deliver to the community.

Well, in a democracy, everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, everyone’s free to ask his own question and if that’s the question Hugh wants to ask, let him get 24 people to sign his letter. But that’s not the question almost as many people as regularly show up for the now irrelevant town hall meeting want asked and answered.

What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

And that’s ironic because almost all the current council recognized the "communication thing" as a problem long before the Olympics reared its five-ringed head. In an effort to demonstrate what I mean – and make this particular column a whole lot easier to write – I’ll let them speak for themselves. In all fairness, let me state up front the excerpts quoted have been edited to make it sound as though everyone speaks in full sentences.

The eminently quotable councillor Wells had this to say on the subject. "I believe we have an incredibly educated and informed and concerned community. It’s council’s responsibility to put information out there and I don’t believe we’ve done that very well. There’s been a real lack of communication and information flow. It’s a challenge to get the right information out there; it’s a challenge just getting it outside of council chambers."

Newbie Nick Davies spoke directly to the issue of the Olympics when he said, "A lot of people are upset that the community has not been adequately consulted about whether we should have the Olympics or not. I’m one of them. If you believe the community should be consulted, then you have to accept that whoever did the consulting, didn’t do a very good job."

Dave Kirk also had some sage thoughts on the subject when he said, "I certainly think public communication is extremely important. And I think we (council) recognize that. We hope that by being more open in everything we do, we can get people up to speed and help them understand what we’re doing. We have a responsibility to do that."

I don’t know what Hugh has to say on the subject because Bob never lets me interview him. But clearly we have a walk the walk, talk the talk conundrum at work here.

Communication is a two-way street though. Dave also had this to say, "I think they (da people) have a responsibility to educate themselves before they become super critical."

Having had to educate myself to write an Olympic story for another publication, I have to say I don’t think Hugh’s response is necessarily wrong. I think it’s stupid and scores low on the politically astute-o-meter, but it’s not necessarily wrong. Being technically right while totally mismanaging the public education and communication process makes you wrong in politics. Ignore this pearl of wisdom at your peril.

The public probably shouldn’t vote on whether they’re in favour of the Olympics in a vacuum and that’s all there is until some of the details of the bid get fleshed out. Having said that, the process of communication and involvement is abysmal. The sense of being ignored is palpable. Putting the question to the public might move the process along with more dispatch.

When the letter writers say something to the effect of, "Hey, if you want to play in my back yard, you come knock on my door and ask first," they’re not being negative. What they’re saying is more in line with the old axiom about not minding getting screwed, just liking to get kissed a bit in the process. It’s time to pucker up.

Council’s response is dangerous to its own well-being and to the ultimate community support for the Olympic bid. Asking people to wait for the 2002 election turns that race into a de facto, one-issue election and good councillors run the risk of being voted out for the wrong reason.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to get around the bunker mentality that’s taken root with mayor and council but I’d humbly suggest y’all figure out how to walk the walk before it’s too late.