Rising municipal costs, and rising property taxes. Shortages of
employee rental housing. Economic diversification and post-secondary education.
The bed cap. Daycare. Municipal communications and community engagement.
Olympic decisions and Olympic legacies. These are a few of the issues that were
on the minds of voters in the second all-candidates meeting, hosted by the
Whistler Chamber of Commerce.
Upwards of 300 people turned out to Whistler Secondary School
on Saturday afternoon to hear from four of Whistler’s five mayoral candidates
(Jag Bhandari was a no-show), and 14 of the 17 council candidates (minus Shane
Bennett, Will Pullinger and former candidate Chris Reading, who withdrew from
the race this week but was too late to remove his name from the ballot).
The event was mediated by Dave Davenport, who was strict when
it came to limiting time for questions and answers. Given the number of
candidates it was the only way to ensure that everyone got at least one
opportunity to speak.
The mayors took the stage after the school trustee candidates.
Outsider Brian Walker got the loudest applause for his opening remarks, which
touched on every hot button issue including daycare, the failure of the Phoenix
housing project, and people facing evictions for the 2010 Games.
Incumbent Ken Melamed said his goals were to deliver the
opportunities promised by the Games, and address budgetary challenges. He also
pledged to make himself more available to the public, and acknowledged that the
past council was not perfect.
Kristi Wells talked about the community values on display in
Tapley’s Farm on Halloween night and said she was concerned about the viability
of the Whistler experience for residents. She pledged to reign in spending,
getting the municipality back to its core responsibilities.
Miro Kolvek also focused on the budget, telling people that he
was a moral man, family man, and strict when it comes to budgeting.
Most questions were directed to Melamed and Wells. Topics
included plans to audit municipal spending and having an organizational review,
how Whistler was prepared to weather the economic crisis without a contingency
fund or plan, whether the candidates supported the bed cap, the state of
community engagement, whether the money for the 2010 Celebration Plaza should
have been spent elsewhere, how candidates would support daycare, Melamed’s
response to the WITAC ads, and what the mayors would be prepared to do if an
organizational review found that the RMOW was operating beyond Whistler’s means
Wells earned points for her call to return the municipality to
delivering core services, and getting out of the “T-shirt, website and events”
business, but didn’t get a great response to calling the development bed cap