Opinion » Maxed Out

Where politicians come from

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By G.D. Maxwell

Earlier this week, the National Academy of Sciences announced Italian researchers at the University of Milan had successfully introduced human DNA into swine sperm. Many of the resulting piglets have produce a human gene called the decay accelerating factor, referred to as DAFfy.

Dr. Marialuisa Lavitrano – no relation to Dr. Frankenstein – was hoping to produce a strain of pigs capable of providing organs for transplanting into humans. Nearby prosciutto producers were, quite naturally, incensed at this development, claiming "Just because many people are already pigs there’s no good reason to insult pigs by turning them into people."

In what can only be seen as a cruel, if ironic, twist of fate, it turns out the introduced human gene has only a 40 per cent chance of producing viable, transplantable organs but close to a 78 per cent chance of producing pigs expressing a strong desire to run for Italy’s parliament. Pressed on the matter, Dr. Lavitrano could only say, "It all makes such clear sense; why didn’t we see it coming?"

Why not indeed?

The metaphorical link between politicians and swine has a rich and glorious history. A short-term politico may be referred to as a lame duck, but you can bet the farm he’s still engaged in pork barrel politics, probably more feverishly than at any other time in his checkered career. Politicians larding themselves at the expense of the public are said to have their snouts buried deeply in the public trough.

But local politics – mini-politics? – attract a much leaner breed of swine. The trough’s just not that deep. In fact, it’s downright anorexic. That anyone is willing to do a councillor’s job in Whistler for the going rate of pay may well be the best evidence yet of a strong spirit of public service. The workload is crushing, thick binders of eyeglazing proposals, letters, first and subsequent readings, all written in stilted, bureaucratic language designed not so much to enlighten as to induce serial yawning and fantasies of escape, meetings and more meetings with staff, other councillors, community groups.

Really, it’s surprising 18 people actually want the job. It’s almost reaffirming. I wonder why they want it? I’ll try to ask most of them before the election. I wonder why, of all the many people who ran and lost three years ago, only Tyler Mosher is giving it another try. Was the experience that bad? Did they all get better gigs? Have they left town? Where is DJ Tone when we need him?

I wonder why some of the existing councillors are running again? Some of them don’t really seem to like the job that much. Some seem pretty tired. Tired of meetings, of debate, of differences of opinion, of public input, of criticism, of being in the spotlight. Frankly, some of them seem to have just run out of good ideas. Guess that explains why there hasn’t been much headway on many of the issues identified three years ago as important.

It was kind of Mr. Barnett to remind us of what those issues were in his feature last week. Many of us suffer from short-term memory syndrome – StMS – in Whistler and can’t really remember what the hot issues were three days ago, let alone three years. Let’s see, communication was one of them. Oh yeah, I remember now, all the council candidates were just full of ideas on how to engage the public and tap into the mythical fount of knowledge lurking beneath the sleepy surface. The result of all their commitment and energy, their clear identification of the problem, has been... nothing. Well, nothing and a million-here-million-there Web site proposal.

Communication is still an issue. Lack of communication – or is it fear of communication – is one reason we drop a load for consultants every time something needs to be decided. It’s why, when they were finally outed on the WEF fiasco, several councillors were crying crocodile tears at their lack of ability to collect input on important issues.

Which brings us to community involvement, issue number two. The results here are mixed, some good, some bad. The town hall meeting is dead, that’s bad. Varied and creative workshops garnering input for Whistler! It’s your Future have been good but have also been tarnished by one of the real all-time debacles of community involvement, the selection of consultants.

This was such a sorry page in Whistler’s history. Without doing sufficient pre-screening of the proposed consultants, council engaged the public in a marathon presentation by all consultants vying for the gig. Da people voted. Only then did Messrs. Milner and Davies – supported by some other councillors and the mayor – discover, or reveal, deficiencies in the ones selected. Regardless of whether their act of stopping the process at that point was courage – and I give them the benefit of the doubt on that account – or folly, the result has been widespread cynicism with council and the political process that has tainted people’s willingness to get further involved.

But even that episode pales in comparison to the backroom shenanigans of the World Economic Forum. Had it not been for the three councillors – Kirk, Melamed and Sloan – who consistently opposed doing an end run around community input, and a fortuitous encounter with Deep Powder who slipped word of this travesty to Pique, we’d be getting ready to string barbed wire and billet security forces because this deal would have been done, done without a single word of community input except for those selectively invited to voice their concerns or support in private. The issue here wasn’t so much the WEF, it was the process, or lack thereof. It was putting the secrecy concerns of the WEF above the legitimate concerns of the community and it can rightly be seen as a throw the bums out issue as far as I’m concerned.

Where are we? Oh yeah, the Olympics. It’s a shame no one had the courage to put it to a public vote. It would have won and the supporters would have had a much better understanding of the strength of the opposition. The head in the sand thing won’t fly with the IOC.

Nightly rentals? Won’t even go there. Might get sued by one side or the other.

Emerald sewer? Ask the people who live there.

Development cap? The road on this is clear and clearly tied to Olympic legacies. We’re going to annex the Callaghan, blow the cap through the roof, build an employee reservation south of town, and call it all sustainable growth.

The only "partner" we seem to have found for the community is different levels of government and developers with no end of offers of cash for density.

Affordability and transportation? We can still afford transportation. Housing is another matter.

These issues are important in judging whether or not to re-elect the status quo. What about all those newbies? Keep reading.

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