Twenty-five candidates for council, six votes to spend. Six candidates for mayor, one vote. It's like lining up at the deli counter for 20 minutes and when you finally get up to the cash register you have no idea what to buy. And the menu is huge.
Everyone has his or her pet issues in this campaign season, and I'm no different.
I will vote for candidates that are opposed to pay parking. It has to go. We've never had it before, none of our regional competitors in the ski industry have it, businesses and locals don't like it, and anything that could keep tourists away has to be nipped in the bud. Any agreements with Whistler Blackcomb and the province can and should be renegotiated. I'd even be agreeable to a one per cent property tax increase to underwrite the lots.
If Las Vegas hotels and casinos can subsidize airfares to keep them cheap, Whistler can certainly provide its guests with a little subsidized parking.
I will also vote for candidates who promise to address the budget aggressively. The way we determine municipal salaries and wages has to change to reflect the economic reality of the day as well as the prevailing wages for the resort - people will never be happy while public employees continue get the highest salaries and best benefit packages in town.
Our budgets have to start reflecting municipal revenues as they are, not as they once were during the construction boom, or we would wish them to be. Our funding priorities also need to be realigned with community needs as well as the guest experience. For example, spending millions of dollars on a concert venue - one where it could prove impossible to charge guests to see shows because you can hear the music just fine through a fence -seems wrong when we're cutting library hours back over a matter of $50,000.
I will vote for any candidate with solid ideas to boost the economy. For example, I think we should give the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) what they want - volumetric measurements do make sense, as would bringing all the non-conforming space in town in line with building codes. That would create jobs and lure more wealthy people to town to build, buy and renovate homes - something that would in turn create construction jobs and give our economy a boost. I'd even be open to the idea of scrapping the limit on house size if it created jobs and lured money to the resort, providing the builders embrace environmental design principles - more tax revenues for us, right?
I will vote for candidates that are committed to resolving the asphalt plant to the satisfaction of Cheakamus Crossing. The issue will likely be decided by the courts but if it isn't then the reality is that it still has to go. Someone, and it doesn't really matter whom at this point, dropped the ball by picking the location or by failing to work out an agreement with owner Frank Silveri in all the years before Cheakamus Crossing was turned over to residents. That's history. What we need is a way forward that doesn't cost us too much.
On that topic, I will vote for candidates who support getting more, or better, legal advice. The failure to file an appeal in the Saxton case, the back and forth policy on the asphalt plant, the dismissal of our former CAO and others miscues could cost our town a lot of money it doesn't have right now.
I will vote for candidates who take seriously the need to engage the province in changing liquor laws to let event organizers sell alcohol (instead of donating all of that money to charities), to let kids attend licensed events in the company of adults and to allow event organizers the freedom to choose what to serve patrons. You can't have world-class events with liquor laws the rest of the world would laugh at.
I will vote for candidates that are as confused as I am over how the resort industry is operated. The lines between different groups in town needs to be better defined to ensure there's no overlap of services being paid for by businesses and homeowners. As well, there should be a public meeting every year to discuss the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) grants (or hotel tax if that system returns with the death of the HST), as well as an advisory committee of stakeholders representing sectors like the arts, recreation, hotels, village retailers, and so on.
Whistler should also strive to become friendlier to small business, encouraging start-ups and entrepreneurs. Work with business leaders in the community to reduce red tape and bylaws to get some vibrancy back in our retail sector.
Most of all, candidates should be team players who have ideas how to fix our problems. Anybody can criticize (I do it all the time), but not everybody has the intestinal fortitude to do something about it.