Opinion » Maxed Out

What is the plan?



Thomas Edison tested thousands of combinations of filament material and glass vacuum globes before successfully discovering the combination that led to the first practical electric lightbulb in 1879.

Wilbur and Orville Wright painstakingly experimented with hundreds of glider flights before developing their three-axis control system that allowed them to be credited with inventing and flying the world's first successful airplane in 1903.

When describing his scientific breakthroughs Sir Isaac Newton is often quoted as saying, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Whether he said it or not remains a debated question. Nonetheless, the history of the invention of refrigeration, a breakthrough that changed the settlement patterns of the world, aptly illustrates the concept.

All this is prelude to saying life is, at best, an experiment. Few of us can remember the breakthrough we made transitioning from toddler to unstable walker, though many of us remember the falls along the way. It is a rare instance when we successfully accomplish a complex task on the first try and, almost by definition, if we do it probably wasn't that complex to begin with. Practice rarely make perfect but repetition generally increases the odds of success.

Having said that, I'm still left to wonder who the heck is running the RMOW and what, if anything, have they been smoking, er, thinking. I don't expect success every time but lately I'll settle for quiet failure.

Twice now, in rapid succession, we've witnessed the mayor walking back from sweeping changes presumably proposed, studied and recommended by staff but, nonetheless, approved by council. And in both cases, the moonwalk has only just begun because in both cases, the decisions made were, let's be generous, difficult to understand at best and strikingly impolitic.

The first catapulted off the unpopular decision to once again try pay parking in lots 4 and 5. Much has been said and written about the pros and cons of pay parking and I'm not delving into that briar patch this time around except to say there are betting opportunities for those so inclined as to the ultimate outcome of the decision. But as part of it, the muni gave notice to motorcoaches that they'd have to find a new place to park.

One of those places was along the west side of Blackcomb Way in front of the sparsely-occupied townhomes of Montebello. New signs were put up — twice — allowing busses to park there. The predictable uproar from owners of Montebello was immediate. One major concern, as reported, was, "... all of a sudden a commercial bus park has effectively appeared right outside our window," notwithstanding there is only one unit in Montebello that can actually see any busses parked there since the rest of the units sit behind a thick buffer of trees and bushes. This objection was supplemented by concern over noise and pollution from idling engines, dangerous U-turns and the risk of fire from passengers discarding cigarettes. Valid concerns all.

The muni is encouraging busses to park in Lot 6. Bus drivers are less encouraged by that, Lot 6 being something of a wasteland compared to Lot 4. Regardless, this was an experiment with a predictable outcome and one worthy of backpedalling from since it seems no one contemplating the decision gave much thought as to exactly where the busses would go and what the reaction would be among those afflicted with their presence. Watch this space for further developments.

Planning 0; Uproar 1.

And then there's the fountain of life: water. Water, water everywhere but not a drop....

Currently, if you live in a house with an even street number you may water your lawn on Thursdays and Sundays between the hours of 4 and 9 a.m. and 7 and 10 p.m. Odd numbered houses get to water Wednesdays and Saturdays during those hours. You can water non-monoculture grass whenever it seems to need it if you really, really have to have grass.

Municipal property and golf courses can pretty much do as they please which, in the case of the municipality, includes watering the sidewalks around the inuksuk at the corner of Village Gate and Northland Boulevards. I'm not sure, but it seems the inuksuk is still growing... or maybe the sidewalks are shrinking, hard to tell.

These are the current Level 1 watering restrictions. Should we go to Level 2, you can spit on your plants any time you want and pee on them after dark.

The plan for next year is more spit, less water. Trees, shrubs and flowering perennials may wish they were xeriscaping instead. At any rate, several homeowners and one irrigation company have raised alarms since the proposed restrictions are likely to result in widespread death for our landscaping.

The RMOW website says about this plan, "Proposed changes to how Whistler uses water are in development and will require further consultation and discussion with businesses, property managers and municipal staff."

Read that sentence again. Today's skill testing question is this: Who is missing from that list? If you answered, "I am!" award yourself one point.

But you are not alone. Our mayor is also missing from that list. She isn't, after all, a municipal staff. And she's not sure the plan is such a good idea. She's a gardener. She has a new irrigation system. She loves her plants. She said, "I've got the same concerns, so we will address all of the concerns and do something that's not going to jeopardize people's landscaping or gardens."

The irony of this is that Whistler has an embarrassment of water. We've got water to burn. Hmm... you know what I mean. What we don't have is sufficient water storage capacity. And possibly treatment capacity. We don't have the latter because the federal government — Motto: Remember Walkerton!!! — makes municipalities treat their water as though everyone draws water from sources downstream from a pig farm or feedlot.

Whistler is at the top of its watershed, more or less. For years we survived, thrived even, with just a smidgen of chlorine gas shot through the water rushing down 21-Mile Creek. Except when it was too turbid to use. Then we pumped it from beneath the ground and that water was even more pure.

Water though, is more like a highway than a sewer, apparently. When we were bumping up against the capacity of our sewage treatment plant we expanded it. If, and that's a big if, we're running up against our treatment and storage capacity for fresh water perhaps we should expand that. After all, water, sewer, roads, these are the raison d'être of local government. We're treating our water needs like we treat the necessity to expand the highway... except that's a provincial responsibility.

So save the plants; grow the capacity. Keep the mayor happy and start thinking through these decisions. We don't expect perfection. We are not disappointed.

Planning 0: Uproar 2.


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