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Melamed makes bid for mayor

Councillor endorsed by two key community members Tuesday



Councillor Ken Melamed has long been the dissenting voice on council, the firm holdout on development deals and the staunch environmental advocate.

As mayor of Whistler, however, Melamed said his role would be different.

Though his personal values will not change, his positions will be more representative of the whole community, rather than a sector of it.

"I’ll be more focused on balancing the various and diverse needs of the community as a whole rather than that constituency I felt I was elected to represent," he said this week.

"(I’m) asking the voters to understand that I accept there’s a different role as mayor and so rather than being elected to council to represent a certain voice or sector or constituency in the community, as mayor now I have to consider the entire community’s needs. So it’ll be a repositioning certainly."

Melamed filed his nomination papers for mayor on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation that he would seek the top job at municipal hall. Like all the other candidates he needed two community members to sign his nomination papers. The chair of Tourism Whistler’s board Rick Clare was one of his signatures. Olympian Steve Podborski was set to be the other but because his signature was faxed, the municipal clerk would not accept it and Melamed had to find a replacement.

His announcement means there are now nine people running for mayor in November’s municipal elections.

His challenge now is to prove to people that he will bring the same values and integrity to the job as mayor, always putting Whistler’s needs first, as he did to the job of councillor.

"We have to convince people that I’m going to be as good a mayor as I was a councillor, or better," said Melamed, who garnered the most votes in the last election.

And he stands by his record of withholding his support for certain projects – even the Olympics.

His concern three years ago when council was asked to endorse the Games was that Whistler did not have enough protection against the forces that were about to descend on the resort community. For example, although they had a personal promise from the Premier of British Columbia to provide financial tools, Whistler had not secured that promise in writing from the government.

"(We have lost) three years of those tools which I would argue we had a very strong chance of getting had we withheld our endorsement of the Games," he said.

It’s still not clear if or when Whistler will be getting those financial tools. Melamed recently met with provincial ministers at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ annual meeting to lobby for them.

"I’ve been committed to trying to get them as a councillor and I’ll be able to give greater time and energy to that and other missing initiatives that haven’t been completed when I get to the mayor’s chair," said Melamed.

Likewise, he has seen his share of development deals come through the doors of municipal hall during his nine years on council. He has balked at many.

"In those particular cases, I thought the community could have done better out of the deal and that’s why I withheld support for them," he explained. "I’m very passionate and committed to ensuring that the community gets the best deal."

Melamed, who is married and has two teenage sons, has lived here since 1975. He has experienced first hand the ups and downs of living in a resort community, through the boom times and the bust.

The number one issue facing Whistler now, he said, is the economy.

As mayor he is committed to ensuring Whistler’s economy is a top priority in the coming years. The way to do that is through the Whistler 2020 visioning document, developed over the last three years at municipal hall. Melamed wants to champion that plan for the community.

"We really only have to go as far as the Whistler 2020 plan to find a roadmap for the future and a business model and business plan will fall out of that because it suggests that we have to have a viable product," he said. "Each of the three components (of the CSP), the economic, social and environmental, are self-supportive and without the others they don’t do well… So the economy is (an) absolutely key and critical piece and it’s reflected in the document."

As mayor he said he would nurture the community partnerships which have been established through the Whistler 2020 process.

Over the next three years he envisions a town that will embrace the rise of arts and culture through the new $8.1 million library and the First Nations Cultural Centre.

He sees a community that will be engaged and committed to the future of the resort.

And as for those Games that he withheld support from three years ago, Melamed said: "Today… I’m committed to putting on the best Games the world has ever seen."