By G.D. Maxwell
Well, its crunch time in the campaign for Whistlers next mayor.
Before plunging into the murky depths, Id like to thank all seven candidates for running. Being mayor the next three years isnt going to be a cakewalk. The only certainties that come with the job this time around are bad pay, a sizable proportion of the local population thatll be pissed off at you no matter which side of a tough decision you come down on and the very real possibility of getting flattened repeatedly by the Olympic™ steamroller.
But someones going to win and six people are going to lose. Im pretty certain three of them are the guys with no previous political experience. While it doesnt outwardly resemble the military, it seems most of the voters around here view local politics as a coming-up-through-the-ranks kind of experience. Maybe some day theyll realize the best ideas often come from outside the tightly wound confines of council. Regardless, you guys are the future. Do good deeds and volunteer for everything you have time for during the next three years and then take another kick at the can.
Popular wisdom seems to have the remaining four clustered in two distinct groupings: the two dukin it out for gold and the two goin for bronze. Who am I to counter popular wisdom? There are those who have asked me who I am to offer up an opinion at all. The answer is one guy; Im one guy in a town of many. I get paid to fill a page of Pique every week, to entertain, to provoke, to enlighten, to mystify. I cant imagine a columnist with a heartbeat and even a passing interest in politics not offering up an opinion and still being able to say he or she is doing the job.
So yeah, I believe Nick and Kristi are running back in the pack. Their chances seem slim but dark horses have charged up the middle ground before and theres lots of middle ground in this race. If they dont have the wind to make that final push, Im sure theyll both be around and neither will shrink from weighing in, as civilians, on the tough choices ahead.
But in the insular world of people I bump into, speak with and the couple of hundred folks whove taken the time to come out to one of the all-candidates events, this race is between Ted and Ken.
In an ideal world, Id support Ked. Not the runs faster, jumps higher Ked; those are US Keds. Id support the Ked who had Teds single-mindedness to get things done and Kens understanding of how they should be done correctly.
In this world though, Im supporting Ken. Its not a hard choice.
I know these are tough times in Whistler and I know times were less tough when Ted was last mayor. I know everyone, especially those who lay awake nights wondering whether their business is circling the bowl, desperately want times to be good again. But theres a very real difference between the next two sentences.
Things were good in Whistler when Ted was mayor.
Things were good in Whistler because Ted was mayor.
Without taking anything away from what was accomplished when Ted was mayor, he was the beneficiary of two very strong, very important forces. The first was the planning, rezonings and approvals for projects that were put in place when Drew Meredith was mayor and Ted was an alderman. In that regard, whomever we elect mayor on the 19 th is going to greatly benefit from the often tortuous planning thats taken place the past three years.
The other powerful force Ted rode during his terms as mayor was the steep, uphill lifecycle curve Whistler was climbing. Its always easier to accomplish great things when times are momentous and growth looks like its unlimited.
But thats not where we are now. We need different skills to marshal us along the mature, top of the curve. We need careful growth.
Does Ken have those skills? Dont know for certain but then I dont know if Ted does either. Frankly, if Ted was as connected in Victoria and had as much pull there as his ads suggest, Whistler would already have the financial tools were still waiting for. Wed have the tax relief we need to deal with our neither-fish-nor-fowl strata hotels.
And despite what those ads say, Ted was, at best, a reluctant proponent of affordable housing when he was mayor. As alderman, according to those who were there, Ted didnt support the works and services charge, that eventually funded so much of the affordable housing that has been built, the first time it came up for a vote. As mayor, he actively worked against resale restrictions, believing theyd drive potential buyers away. "To say that you can only make two or three per cent profit will be a discouraging factor for people who want to get involved," is how he put it during the debate on first imposing resale caps at Millars Pond. Tell that to the 500+ people waiting patiently to buy in, caps notwithstanding.
And when the housing fund reached $3.75 million, he reckoned its highest and best use was to buy trailers as affordable housing.
Mostly though, Id vote for Ken because Teds never explained his role in the shameful saga of Helmut Banka.
Helmut raised huskies in kennels at the base of Wedge. He was probably squatting on Crown land though he claims he wasnt. Hed been there since 1986 and had a municipal business license to run dogsleds for tourists. He was not a pleasant man.
In March, 1995, as Ted was gearing up for a run to become our MLA, a pathetic blind, deaf puppy was found wandering along Highway 99 near Alpine. It was one of Helmuts. When the story broke in the local media, the town was outraged.
Eleven days after the puppy was found, Max Gotz, who was a muni utilities worker, was asked by his boss, Nelson Bastien, to volunteer for a job. With five gallons of diesel, a representative of the Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks, a muni bylaw officer and some gasoline for a wick, they snowmobiled into Helmuts kennels, released the dogs, doused the enclosure with diesel, lit the wick and burned him out. Conveniently, Bonnie Makarewicz was there to snap pictures for the Question, so were camera crews from UTV.
Max was uneasy about what he was doing and where outside of municipal boundaries he was doing it. He asked who authorized it. The answer he got was " straight from the mayors office." Draw your own conclusions.
I believe Ken can become the leader we need. I know hes smart and I hope hell have a lot of help from a strong council. Ken can learn leadership. I dont know if Ted can learn humanity.
So Ill go with Ken.