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Term in review: mayor and council bid adieu to last three years

Council members thank the community for pleasure of serving in office



The last three years on council has provided a level of challenge that Mayor Ken Melamed has never seen in his 15 years at the council table.

It was a term of juxtapositions: the tremendous highs of the 2010 Olympics against the fallout from some of those Olympic decisions.

The mayor admitted that tensions have run high at times. On Tuesday night, at the last council meeting of the term, he invited his fellow colleagues to say a few words of reflection.

"This may well be a last council meeting for some of us," said the mayor.

He began his own remarks with an acknowledgement of the difficulty of being the leader of Whistler.

"Leadership and governing in Whistler is a big challenge," he said during his Mayor's Report.

"It's a leading resort and community in North America. It's hard enough to do in a boom economy. In one of the toughest economic times that anyone has seen in many, many decades it adds a degree of complexity and challenge and I think in my view speaks volumes about the ability of this council to deliver in these kinds of challenging times."

When he looks back over the three years he admits that there were a lot of difficult decisions on council's plate - decisions that don't compare to debates and decisions of past terms.

Just compare the controversy surrounding the proposed World Economic Forum coming to town almost a decade ago tohosting the 2010 Olympics Games.

"Not really on the same scale," said the mayor.

Or the contentious and divisive debate over the private/public partnership on the P3 several years ago against the asphalt plant issue next to Cheakamus Crossing.

"Not even on the same playing field," said the mayor.

Compare the London Drugs issue in past years to pay parking: "Really rather simple."

"I really want to acknowledge the work and challenge that this council has faced," he said, looking at his fellow council members.

"This term and in this economic downturn a lot of hard work and solid accomplishment did occur."

He went on to list the accomplishments: delivering one of the best Olympic Games in history under budget, finishing the multi-million dollar upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, adding a composter, building a debris barrier to protect the village in the event of a flood, resolving the housing crisis with Rainbow and the athletes' village, finishing Whistler Olympic Plaza with no tax dollars, doing a comprehensive review of the transit system, to name just a few.

"I'm not going to go through the exhaustive list," he said.

Melamed also talked about the very difficult decision at the beginning of the term to approve three years of tax increases totaling 19 per cent as per the Long Term Financial Plan.

In part those increases were called for in order to get Whistler's reserves back up to healthy levels.

"I have a difficult time imagining how we would be sitting here today with the same confidence looking into the future had we not made those difficult decisions in 2008 as a result of the Long Term Financial Plan," said the mayor.

"There is a legacy left by this council of belt-tightening and fiscal prudence."

He invited his fellow councillors to speak and all, save Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, talked about the pleasure it was to serve the community.

"I'm just beginning to get the hang of the game," said Councillor Tom Thomson.

Councillor Grant Lamont acknowledged his friends "who have stuck by me and kept me from jumping in front of a bus sometimes!"

He also thanked his family.

Melamed said he was remiss in not mentioning the support of his family too, acknowledging that it's not easy for them. His son, for example, had a difficult time in Grade 12 during the pay parking debate.

"If we're talking about families and pay parking affecting your children," said Councillor Ted Milner, "my daughter got voted off of Cover Me Canada!"

His joke drew loud applause and also acknowledgment from the mayor for Ali Milner's success on the show.

The meeting also saw first reading of a bylaw for Whistler's new Official Community Plan. The mayor was elated to see that make it through before the end of term, calling it a Herculean effort on the part of staff.




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