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The feeling is mutual

By G.D. Maxwell I feel your pain. No, really; I feel your pain. Your concerns are my concerns. When you succeed, I succeed.

By G.D. Maxwell

I feel your pain. No, really; I feel your pain. Your concerns are my concerns. When you succeed, I succeed. When you fail… well, we have to draw the line somewhere, don’t we?

I feel the pain of Mike Roger and the other Eva Lake Village people whose homes are disappearing into a sinkhole of indifference, blame shifting and insurance stonewalling. They’re the victims, the buyers in good faith without notice. They didn’t have any reason to suspect their little slice of heaven was built on a solid foundation of pudding or that split-level would be taking on a whole new meaning as the second floor of their condos became ground floor.

But let’s be generous for a moment. Let’s suppose everyone, the developer, engineers, geotechnical guys – if there were geotechnical guys way back then – planners and inspectors were doing their jobs when the place was built. Let’s pause for a moment, look wistfully into space and suppose we’ll all win the lottery while we’re at it. Okay, back to the problem. Let’s suppose the fires of Hell weakened the bedrock upon which Eva Lake Village was built and turned it into pudding. Force majeure, act of God, unforeseeable circumstance, bad luck.

What’s a caring community do? What’s a community dedicating oodles of talk, time and, well talk and time anyway, to affordable housing do when its affordable housing threatens to disappear into a hole in the ground? It could: (a) shrug its collective shoulders and say, "Tough noogies, dude. Looks like you have a problem." (b) Hide behind its dogslime insurance company who, like all insurance companies, lives to stonewall claims as long as possible. (c) Feel the pain and help find a solution for people who have contributed personal capital to providing Whistler’s social infrastructure.

As a possible future Whistler Housing Authority homeowner, the Muni’s callous (in)actions give me pause for concern. Suppose I wind up with a post-Olympic legacy home down in Cheakamus. Mike Vance said geotechnical studies, hazard assessments, environmental screening and a contamination site study are being done there. Presumably, Muni inspectors will sign off on the final product. If my p-Ol home starts sinking into a subterranean pit of old Huggies, will I be getting the big silence from the people who maybe didn’t do their job as well as they should have? I feel the pain.

If the cost to fix this problem is around $1.2 million, heck, that’s only five Jim Units, assuming our former administrator’s retirement package is really only a quarter mil a year. Given the perfect screwin’ this town seems to be getting from VANOC, I’m wondering whether all five Jim Units might not have been better spent in Eva Lake Village.

I feel Cathy Goddard’s pain too. Cathy finds jobs for people. Her company, Whistler Personnel Solutions pretty much doesn’t do anything else. But the Muni felt the job of finding someone to fill the job of Municipal Administrator was, well, too important to be left to a small town operation like Cathy’s. Hey baby, we’re talking prestige here.

So they hired Caldwell Partners to do the job. Caldwell is an executive search consultant; read what you will into that. They will leave no stone unturned to find Jim’s replacement. And, for once, given the nosebleed levels the salary was bid up to, we might be able to hire someone from the outside – someone who doesn’t have a clue about this community – who will be able to afford to live here… as long as the house they buy doesn’t start to sink.

The job description reads, in part – I’m not making this up – "…oversee the Director of the 2010 Winter Games and ensure the games generate lasting benefit for Whistler’s resident community." Just curious but isn’t that what we’re already paying Jim to do? Be Whistler’s man on VANOC? Will the new administrator be overseeing the old administrator? Is this the setup for joke that begins, How many municipal administrators does it take to…?

I feel Cathy’s pain but what the heck, she’s just small, local peanuts.

I still feel CUPE’s pain. Let’s personalize this. I feel our hard-workin’ water workers’ pain. Still no contract. Still no negotiations. Still no sign of hope.

Naturally, no one in a position of authority at the Muni can talk about this, this… ongoing negotiation? So maybe they can talk about this question: When did we decide, as a community, we were going to adopt a strategy of union busting? When did we decide Whistler was going to keep one foot firmly in the 18 th century when it comes to labour relations? Who’s driving this strategy?

The issue here can’t be money, not even the ill-named Whistler Premium. Heck, we’re talking about way less than a single Jim Unit to settle the difference. The divide has to be one of philosophy. On the one hand, we have a seemingly insatiable appetite to overpay senior managers and administrators , reward yes men and open the vaults to questionably valuable consultants. On the other, we terrorize employees who have the temerity to pursue lawful collective action, punish whistler blowers and pay councillors a pittance. I know there’s a name for this pathology… if only I could remember what it is. But I feel the pain of the water workers and I feel the pain of the other boys and girls who work at the Muni and have approached me with their own "You won’t believe what an asshole my department head is," stories. Keep ’em coming.

Finally, before I OD on pain killers, I feel the rinkrats’ pain. Almost since before there was the first skating rink in Whistler, there’s been a second rink on the planning agenda. We’ve got a zoned site – as well as a backup site – we’ve arguably got the demand. What we haven’t had is the dough or political will to build one.

Now, with the elephant in the parlour Olympics, we’ve got $20 million bucks to build one… or whatever fraction of one $20 million bucks builds these days.

But that’s not enough. Not enough to build a rink, not enough to maintain a rink, not enough. Council and the mayor are concerned about the overhang. Either that or they’re playing cribbage behind closed doors. Who knows?

Now, I’m as concerned as the next guy about how we pay for the operating costs of a capital project and I’m even more concerned about why we have to build white elephants for the Olympics. But something doesn’t compute here. If we were planning – someday – to build a second rink, we were going to have to plan for both the capital and operating shortfall. Someone’s offered to pony up $20 mil of the capital. This seems like (a) a good deal, (b) a bad deal, (c) a half-assed deal.

Not being a skater, I don’t know the answer. Neither does Hugh and the Hughettes. But I’m willing to talk to you about it. They’re not.

So much pain; so little time.




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