Council candidate: John Richardson
A John Richardson in his early 20s arrived in Canada from England in 1967. He moved to Vancouver in 1969 and never left. A UBC mechanical engineering graduate, Richardson worked for a number of engineering firms before branching out to run his own business. He has owned property in Whistler for the last five years and enjoys spending time in the resort community, skiing and visiting with friends. He intends to spend a lot more time in Whistler once he retires.
Pique: Why are you running for council?
John: Initially what prompted my interest was having watched what was going on with this whole TA rezoning issue. I was appalled by the way council handled it. They could have saved themselves and the community a lot of grief if they had of gone about it by having a public meeting on the concept of rezoning first and got feedback from the public before they actually committed themselves to a path. Instead they decided not to listen or go to the people and we got the fiasco that ensued.
I didn’t think they were handling things very well and other issues started to attract my interest. You always hear of these other issues but you never get into them too deeply but this particular TA issue really got me wanting to find out more information. Whistler is really a fun place but you start looking underneath the surface and you find not much fun at all and I think that is a great shame.
Pique: How would council have been different with you on board?
John: The TA rezoning issue and the knee-jerk reaction council pulled after that (public meeting) caused a hell of a lot more grief. Often when governments try to fix some problem they bring out a policy and what it actually does is forces things in the other direction. They are trying to maintain these ‘family neighbourhoods’ and there really weren’t ever any in Whistler and what they are doing now is forcing people out of town because they have basically been told they can’t rent out at all. A lot of these people, over the years, have come to depend on a little bit of income to keep the bills paid.
I believe we need people on council who bring a seasoned business approach, people who have strong legal, financial, engineering, personnel management and negotiation backgrounds and a lot of salesmanship. Most of all they need a genuine caring about individual people because that is who the community is. I would have kept a greater contact with all the people.
Pique: How do you balance the needs of one subdivision against the needs of the whole community?
John: It’s not an easy thing to do. For instance, in Alpine Meadows, apparently there was a huge petition going around against the 19 Mile Creek housing development. Just talking to people, some of them wouldn’t have minded a smaller development. It seems to me there was no room for middle ground and conciliation. Just looking at it I would be a little bit fearful of living there but I can’t comment too much because I don’t know too much about the technical aspects of the creek and flooding and so on. I certainly plan to find out a hell of a lot more should I be elected.
But I think if you give people an opportunity to come back with some suggestions, even if their opinions aren’t, in your mind the way you should go, you could basically steer conversation around so that they are almost suggesting what is on your mind. I would have ensured we had a lot stronger public relations component.
I also think the municipality should establish a position of municipal ombudsman. This works very well in England.
Pique: What are the most important issues the next council will have to deal with?
John: I’d like to help younger people get a foothold in this community and at the same time help older people keep their foothold. There are no headline solutions but I believe if you get enough heads together, go to the community, have community meetings in the various subdivisions and just get some ideas from people you will find answers. I can’t see a way around higher density. Function Junction could be a good area for that sort of accommodation — resident housing for people who work on the mountain. It could be rental or ownership. I’d be concerned about the bed cap but before we think about that, council will have plenty on its plate dealing with the new development at Whistler South so I think we should get that done and then we could take a bit of a breather and see how that all shakes out before we start looking at increasing the bed cap again — but that would have to be a community decision.
Pique: Why should someone vote for you?
John: There are a lot of fine people running for council. I believe it is a very healthy thing we have 17 people running. We have been going to these little group meetings in the various subdivisions and I find that extremely helpful. It’s very encouraging. You can sit around informally and discuss the issues and determine what the main issues are for a lot of people. What scares a lot of people off politics is it’s uncharted territory for them and they are almost afraid of it.
What I found with these group meetings is they have helped candidates get more comfortable with speaking out and not rambling on and being clear and concise and getting support from each other. I think it is a concept that can be expanded to other municipalities and you could almost start a new politicians group just to help more people get into politics. We don’t have enough new people coming in and unfortunately the incumbents have the benefit of name recognition. A lot of people vote just because they see a name they recognize without really knowing what the issues are.
I really like people and enjoy people and I want to see people happy. I want to see people happily working together on difficult problems and my satisfaction comes from knowing that I have helped facilitate that. I am willing to make the time to pursue what I feel is a very important issue for me and I feel that I can be instrumental in making things better.