Your opinions matter and can help shape municipal policy in the future.
That’s the message that organizers of the inaugural “Aprés in Action” 2008 Community Collaboration Convention are hoping to get out for this weekend’s round table discussion at the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa on Saturday, April 5.
According to Kevin Damaskie, sustainability coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, eight topics were chosen, through an online survey, to be discussed at the convention. There is room for up to 250 people in the conference room. Topics will move from table to table to take suggestions and input.
Those suggestions and input will be included in the Whistler 2020 strategy, and added to the action list for 2009.
“This is traditionally when we hold our summer and spring action planning sessions and this (conference) is now the first meeting of that process,” said Damaskie. “For people on the (Whistler 2020) task forces that have been doing this for the past five years it was really important to give the broader community a chance to be as engaged and involved as possible. It’s a way to connect with people that don’t want to or can’t volunteer for a task force, but have good ideas to help the community.”
Meeting planners started out with a list of 15 topics of importance to the community, then let the community vote on their priorities. Originally the list was supposed to be narrowed to six topics but organizers decided to expand it to eight based on responses.
The topics being discussed are the cost of living; transportation and pay parking; Whistler’s natural experience; how the resort will operate when we reach buildout; making neighbourhoods and buildings green; how the resort can adapt to the potential impacts of climate change; ensuring the long-term viability of Whistler’s Olympic legacies; and looking at ways to improve Whistler’s waste system.
According to Damaskie, the discussions will be mediated with the intention of creating action items.
“The most important part of this is that it’s not talking for the sake of talking, although that can be valuable,” he said. “We’re really keen to show output, so we’ll be recording the discussion or dialogue and refining it down into action items. The goal is to get two or three action items from every table, and refine it down later to a solid 10 action items for 2009.”
Damaskie says the value of community input is substantial. “If we end up with 250 people action planning for two and a half hours on these eight topics, that adds up to a hundreds and hundreds of hours of concentrated planning,” he said. “When task forces meet (later in) April to begin action planning, they’ll come to the table with 10 actions already developed and refined by the community.”
Whistler 2020 task forces working on specific topics have implemented more than 500 actions over the past four years. With members of the community participating, much of that work has gone on behind closed doors.
There are 17 task force areas, with the addition of a food task force last fall, although two of the task forces — finance and partnerships — are not action oriented.
Mayor Ken Melamed will open the conference, which will run from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and participants will have the opportunity to sign up for Whistler 2020 task forces which are always open to new members.
“It will be nice to be able to show other people in the community how committed the task forces are, and the energy that comes from developing actions with friends and neighbours that move the resort towards our goal of success, and ultimately sustainability,” said Damaskie. “It’s an… opportunity for people to get together to share energy and ideas, knowing the energy they spend will result in a real output in the future of our community. That energy is extraordinarily valuable, which is why the people in Whistler are really engaged and involved, and passionate about the community.”