Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

A fearful hope is born

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by G.D. Maxwell

In the boldest move of his mayoral career – a career never having witnessed any move sufficiently profound to warrant the word bold – Aloha O’Reilly bucked the trend and stuck to his guns when push finally came to cave-in on the divisive but resort-saving sludge hockey arena vote. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. He would have bucked the trend to turn tail and run had he bothered to perform the very serious duties for which he’s still drawing a paycheque by either showing up for last week’s council meeting or telecommuting his vote. Who knows, maybe there was an important PK meeting in condoville. Or maybe he thought it was the following Monday.

Doesn’t really matter. There was enough backpedaling in the room to reach Maui by bicycle without Hizzonor’s adding to the undertow.

So Whistler is going to have an arena of some form or other on Lots 1/9. Or maybe it isn’t. No, definitely it is. I guess.

The only remarkable thing about this vote – other than the fact my description of it reads distressingly like Red Green’s Men’s prayer – is its lack of clarity and use of the word referendum. Okay, that’s two things. But the first thing is so muddled it reminds me of the writer’s exercise to describe the colour green to a blind man. When asked to do that, I cheated, described the colour green using the other four senses and then threw in the caveat that it really didn’t matter whether you described green or banana because the blind man would never know if you were lying or not. Which, come to think of it, is another distressingly remarkable thing about this vote.

But that word, referendum, was hung out there like a slider that doesn’t break. I apologize for that. It’s a baseball metaphor and I’m mourning what could become, later today, a four-game World Series sweep. I apologize for that too. It’s actually a baseball simile. Forgive me; I’m all caught up in the black-is-white, white-is-black vortex of political truth where truth is, well, relative. Relative to votes, that is. Or in my case relative to my general belief nobody’s really paying much attention to what I write and I can slip one past you every now and then.

Referendum? We might have a referendum on the sludge hockey arena? Is this some kind of sick joke? I mean, I realize qualities like leadership and risk-taking are the last thing one expects to see during a political campaign where candidates, if only briefly, posture as though they give a damn about what the people they’re trying to trick into voting for them think, but referendum? What kind of bread and circus is this?

I guess now would be a good time to ask the obvious question. No, not what have we done to deserve this quality of government, assuming you believe the adage about people getting the government they deserve. The question that ought to be asked now is this one: Upon what information are we expected to make our decision if, in fact, we are ever referendumbed?

Hopefully, whatever info we have will be more enlightening than the original staff report that contained just slightly less meat than a tofu burger.

Posing that question may be jumping the gun though, since it’s not entirely clear under what circumstances we might hold a referendum, but then very little about this fantastic voyage has been clear so don’t even think of laying that burden on me. It may be an exercise in gun-jumping because the redesign might not cost more than 20 million bucks. I don’t hear anybody laughing; that was humour. Or it may be gun-jumping because someone associated with the muni may ferret out corporate sponsorship money or maybe even scare up a public-private partner attracted to the Whistler and Olympic™ brands. Or it may be gun-jumping because it’s going to take six more months to work up the details of the new, improved sludge hockey arena and by then VANOC may be so discouraged at the prospect of Whistler ever making a firm decision they just yank the whole thing away.

But let’s be optimistic. Let’s be hopeful. After all, political campaigns – and make no mistake, this ain’t about sludge hockey; it’s about political campaigns – are an endless battle between hope and fear. Viewed that way, council’s vote on the arena was very clearly an exercise in hope. Hope that having done the bidding of what they perceive as a majority of voters we’ll all suddenly come down with a bad case of avian amnesia and forget what a fiasco of mismanagement their collective efforts have been. Sort of a fearful hope, if you will.

But fear and hope, thought of as anchoring ends of a continuum, are a handy, if two-dimensional, way to size up candidates. It’s not the only criterion upon which one might base a vote, but it’s at least as meaningful as any deep analytical thought that went into the unanimous arena vote.

So looking at the mayoral candidates, in no particular order except the sequence they announced their desire for the job, I’d have to rate Nick pretty far along the fear side of the hope-fear teeter-totter. As I recall Nick’s first take on the arena, it was a definite no. In fact, Nick led a most interesting, if one-sided, cheer at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that sounded almost Bushian in it’s No New Taxes spirit. But Nick’s a flexible guy, in a sort of inflexible way, so he’s been shocked and awed – or is that shucked and jived – into supporting it.

Ted’s most definitely a fear kind of guy. But don’t take my word for it. Ask anyone who worked at muni hall when he was mayor before. Or Helmut Banka if he’s still in town. In fact, I’ve been giving serious thought about dressing as Ted for Halloween. I would if I didn’t have a beard.

I don’t know enough about Stacy to place him, fear-hopewise, but I look forward to finding out.

Mike Brew is all hope all the time. I think Mike’s only fear about his chances of becoming mayor is it may disqualify him from being a barbeque judge.

Kristi’s as full of hope as a cheerleader at Homecoming. But get her in the clinches and that hope turns savage enough to strike fear into even the most fearless. That and her execution amnesia nudge her toward the fear side of middle ground.

Ken’s a hopeful guy. He hopes he can convince people he’s capable of wearing a larger suit than the one he’s worn as councillor Ken and we’re all hopeful there’s an unused stockpile of ‘yeses’ in his vocabulary.

Buster has informed us he’s dropping out of the race. He’s hopeful things don’t get worse than they already are.

Me, I just hope Houston shows up for game four and the White Sox didn’t sweep the Series by the time Pique comes out this week.