Opinion » Maxed Out

Where politicians come from

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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.