A ranch in Lillooet isn’t about to stop Eckhard Zeidler from taking another stab at a council seat in November’s election.
Zeidler, a first-term councillor, confirmed on Sept. 2 that he will be seeking re-election as a councillor for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. The announcement comes after weeks of speculation and uncertainty about his political future.
“Being a wet behind the ears part-time farmer this summer was a bit of a shock for my time management but things have settled in nicely so now I’m raring to go with sufficient time and energy,” he wrote in an e-mail announcement.
“I’d be honoured to get kicked around for another three years if the people of Whistler want me representing them at the council table.”
Zeidler told Pique in an interview that the delay in announcing his candidacy was because he was trying to get settled at a Lillooet ranch after buying a share in it in June. Now he says he’ll have enough time to be a councillor and has decided to throw his hat in the ring.
“I was always intending, or hoping to run again,” he said. “I was concerned that I wouldn’t have time to do the work.
“At the council table, I like to do my homework, and that takes a fair bit of research and time and I wanted to make sure that I would have that time available for the people of Whistler.”
Since being elected in 2005, Zeidler has made it a personal priority to ensure that Whistler is a sustainable and democratic community. And with sustainability well-entrenched as a community priority, his next focus is the resort municipality’s finances.
“The last five-year financial plan was fairly contentious and a difficult process for council,” he said. “Although it may not be a feel-good kind of a campaign, we have much, much more work to do to fully stabilize this community and get it on a good fiscal footing.”
Money has been an issue under the current council. Community members have not hidden their opposition to this year’s 5.5 per cent rise in property tax.
The increase meant that residential owners were charged an additional $11 for every $100,000 of assessed value in their homes, while Whistler businesses paid an additional $35 for every $100,000 of assessed value.
“I don’t think Whistler taxpayers are going to be particularly keen on ever escalating taxes,” Zeidler said. “I think there’s a lot of hard decisions to be made, and there’s going to be some sacred cows that go, but we have to get on a strong footing for the future.”
Though finances will figure as a heavy concern for Zeidler if he’s elected, he also expects to give a lot of attention to environmental issues within the RMOW’s boundaries. The development of a transit hub over a wetland near Nesters is something he has already raised concerns about with council, but he won’t give it up if elected again.
“There’s not much I can do about the land, the land’s been pretty much cleared,” he said. “But I am concerned for transit, that they may not have all the permits and requirements in place that they say they needed.”
Though proud of the work that council has completed during its tenure, Zeidler’s stance on some issues has been controversial. He raised the ire of some Whistler residents when he attached a “Free Tibet” poster to the back of his laptop and said he wants to see a public debate about China’s human rights record.
One community member said he “despised” his actions, but Zeidler said he only did it after hearing from Whistlerites, who said they were concerned their community was ignoring human rights issues.
“I was being asked questions like, are you guys going to China for the opening ceremonies? How does that make us look in Whistler,” he said.
“They didn’t want to be seen as turning a blind eye to ongoing human rights violations and I know it got a lot of people upset that I would do that.”
Zeidler’s announcement means he’s the fourth member of the current council who has agreed to stand in the next municipal election. Mayor Ken Melamed has already confirmed he will run, as have councillors Ralph Forsyth and Bob Lorriman.