Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Crisis, what crisis?

There's an old adage that says a lawyer who represents her/himself has a fool for a client. It's not because the lawyer in question isn't qualified. She/he may be eminently qualified in the field in question.
<a href=""></a>

There's an old adage that says a lawyer who represents her/himself has a fool for a client. It's not because the lawyer in question isn't qualified. She/he may be eminently qualified in the field in question. It suggests, instead, that objective expertise is probably a better way to go than enlightened self-interest.

So imagine a lawyer deciding to represent her/himself on a legal matter wholly outside her/his expertise. If you can imagine someone so silly, so totally unqualified, you have a pretty good grasp of the RMOW's actions in taking over the job previously done by the board of Whistler Development Corporation (WDC, or, as we now refer to it, WDC1).

The WDC board stood up to their eyeballs in real-estate development knowledge, experience and expertise. By contrast, the representatives from the RMOW listed in the administrative report "considered" at the June 19 council meeting have zero experience, zero expertise and, at best, an academic grasp of real estate development. Nonetheless, they are now driving the ship. Why does the Queen of the North come to mind?

But have no fear. They're going to hire the expertise they so sorely lack. From a dedicated project manager to, " ... additional external expertise anticipated to be added as appropriate ... " This is the point at which Toto pulls back the curtain on the Wizard and Dorothy shouts something to the effect, "Are you kidding! You just pissed off all the expertise you needed and they were working for free!!"

Unlike the spin being put on this around muni hall, WDC1's board didn't step down because they'd finished the job they started 14 years ago. They stepped down because they weren't allowed, or weren't supported in their efforts, to finish the job they started 14 years ago. They had a plan to develop the next phases of Cheakamus. They had a plan—Plan B since Plan A was sideswiped by the same forces now in charge—to retire the remaining debt, a job they were both sincere and passionate about fulfilling. They were prepared to get on with it long before the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing threw up a smoke screen and set the stage for this coup. They were stonewalled by the very same unqualified people who now want to grab the wheel and steer the development ship.

So let's get out our scale and weigh the relative merits of what's happening.

On the one side we have Eric Martin. Long career in development. Successful creation of Whistler's athlete village and subsequent re-purposing into Cheakamus Crossing. Awarded the Freedom of the Municipality, the highest honour Whistler can bestow, according to the mayor. Worked for a buck a year.

Jim Moodie, as few know, was one of the original planners of, well, Whistler. He also convinced Michael Audain to build a museum here and brokered the deal between Michael and the RMOW. Oh, he also was honoured with the Freedom of the Municipality.

Jim Godfrey, former CAO, former point man between the RMOW and VANOC, was largely responsible for the legacy lands we're hoping will alleviate our affordable housing woes. I know this is getting boring but Jim also enjoys the Freedom of the Municipality.

Steve Bayly isn't a Freeman. But he is Citizen of the Year. Despite what can generously be described as a contentious relationship with both elected officials and staff at muni hall, Steve midwifed the Whistler Housing Authority and developed an affordable housing model that's the envy of struggling municipalities across the country and south of the border. He has spent his life successfully developing a range of commercial and residential real estate.

All four worked for one dollar per year ... which wasn't paid.

On the other side of the scale, you have ... air, a mighty weight of hubris, and a total salary in excess of $1.2 million, all of which most definitely gets paid. Plus all the expertise your money can afford to hire to make up for their lack of same. You have the braintrust behind Gateway Loop, perhaps the only bus terminal in the world with no washroom facilities and the most expensive ($2.2 million), overbuilt roof your money could buy. You have the muni's track record with grandiose, over-budget projects ranging from our very lovely and very expensive public library, complete with end-of-journey facilities that have never been used, to the FireMahal/pumpkin dropping facility at Spring Creek. Then there's the million-dollar WHA home in Spruce Grove, the District Energy System and a depressing list of under achievements.

So, in the words of a former CAO, WTF? Which seems to be the sentiment everywhere other than muni hall and council chambers. When the Plan-to-Plan—which is pretty much what this amounts to since the junta has ignored the plan presented by WDC1—was presented at last Tuesday's meeting it was vigourously debated. Well, it may have been vigourously debated in the minds of some of the councillors but it slid past with virtually no comment from any of them. It was as though the Jedi-CAO waived his hand dismissively and said, "These aren't the drones you're looking for."

And it worked like a charm.

What happens next will be a prolonged period of planning, consultation, consultants, hired guns, and when all the planning's done, maybe, just maybe something will start to rise from the dirt of Cheakamus ... in 2020! Crisis? What crisis. For a council who so feared an overly-long planning process for considering the private-development scams, er, schemes that have been filed they couldn't see their way clear to fit in one more public session before short-listing them, whatever may happen in Cheakamus in our lifetime will be thoroughly planned.

Except for the how-to-finance-it part. Development 101 suggests financing drives, or at least informs your development plan. WDC2/Muni is going to undertake 18 months plus of planning before considering the question of financing. With the way recent developments have been "managed," ill-advised comes skippingly to mind as a descriptor.

At this point, there's not really much that can be done to scuttle this plan. A housecleaning election might help. A change of leadership and direction may help. A culture where local government sticks to the business of local government might help. A squadron of flying pigs might help ... but I'm not holding my breath for any of those things.

I am holding my breath for how the next several years roll out. How local businesses staff their functions. How muni hall stops issuing business licenses since there aren't enough employees. File that under Dream On. How more and more power gets vested in fewer and fewer hands. But what the heck; at least we'll be able to play soccer for an extra month a year.