One week after Whistler Interested Taxpayers Association Coalition (WITAC) placed a large advertisement in Pique Newsmagazine outlining 14 controversial municipal issues, the founder of VoteWhistler.com has stressed that her website is not affiliated with the group.
While the two groups were created in light of November’s municipal election, VoteWhistler.com aims to stimulate dialogue. Alternatively, WITAC hopes to speak out about specific election issues.
“Vote Whistler does not have anything to do with WITAC,” said Caroline Smalley, the Internet forum’s founder.
“What we have everything to do with is with citizen advocacy… What I am really passionate about is engaging the community in passionate dialogue. We have got to unite the community.”
WITAC’s ad called on the community to vote in the upcoming election based on a slew of issues, including paving the day skier parking lots and increasing property taxes, and ran the slogan: “We can stop our town from being ruined. We can change the way municipal business is conducted.”
The advertisement was the first public appearance of WITAC’s name, which is an informal political organization of approximately 10 Whistler residents.
“We are a group of people who are not happy with the present council and the way they are carrying on with business,” spokesperson Jorge Alvarez said on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
“Basically the mission statement of the group is we are questioning council’s decisions, and we are waiting to see who the candidates are and who we are going to back up.”
WITAC has not appointed an official leader yet, but Alvarez said the association plans to become more organized and start a more active campaign next week.
The advocacy group was formed last week when a group of Whistler residents got together under the name “Citizen Council” on Tuesday, Sept. 23 to discuss Whistler’s political future.
The meeting was organized by business owner Tom Horler to stimulate dialogue for positive change. At the meeting, Smalley also gave a presentation on her VoteWhistler.com software.
Horler is not associated with WITAC, and he organized the meeting because “everyone in Whistler was talking, and we all wanted to make Whistler a better place, but there was no place for us to talk together.”
Smalley added that the reason several WITAC comments are published on her website is because VoteWhistler.com is an avenue of communication for everyone in the community. She has also invited the municipality to express opinions on VoteWhistler,com.
“This is a platform for unfiltered dialogue,” said Smalley.
“They (WITAC) have every right to say whatever they want to on the site, but so does anyone else.”
The names of candidates Kristi Wells and Councillor Ralph Forsyth appear amongst VoteWhistler.com’s 33 members, as does Councillor Gord McKeever’s name. McKeever is not seeking re-election.
Michele Comeau Thompson, spokesperson from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said prospective councillors will likely use VoteWhistler.com discussions as a political forum.
“We would expect all people who are running for council to participate in the various forums for dialogue, whether that be advertising or websites and the candidates meetings, and those types of opportunities,” she said.
Meanwhile, Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, who is seeking re-election, has contacted WITAC and asked to debate the group’s 14 points published in the advertisement publicly.
“Of the 14 issues, I think they have got a point on some of them that really emphasizes some of our challenges, but some of them, the facts are simply wrong and should not be left to stand, hence why I would like to debate them,” said Zeidler.
“And some of the points, like the ’60s style strip mall, just leave me scratching my head thinking what on Earth could they be talking about.”