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The glory of a local brouhaha

Oh, it must have been glorious. Messy, confrontational, sensationally democratic, Tuesday evening’s council meeting had all the promise of a classic small town dust up.

Oh, it must have been glorious. Messy, confrontational, sensationally democratic, Tuesday evening’s council meeting had all the promise of a classic small town dust up. Developmental forces, supported by much of the bidniz sector, countered by environmentalists aghast at the looming prospect of yet another incursion into the altar of wetlands, a divided council and an administration seething, confused and more than a little hurt to discover the honeymoon’s over and somebody’s got a headache tonight. Oh mama.

I wanted to be there. It had all the lurid promise of happening upon an unexpected car accident on the Sea-to-Sky "Killer" Highway. Like crusaders awakened from an intervening slumber between bouts of siege and pillage, delegations from the Chamber of Commerce’s intermingled houses were to march into battle under their proud banners: The Knights of Food and Beverage; The Liege of Lodging; The Court of Commercial; The Commoners of Creekside. Variations on the same strategic message were to be delivered in a pincer manoeuvre designed to baffle the enemy and drive it between a rock and a hard place. "Whatda we want? Employee housing! When do we want it? Now!"

Local environmentalists, enjoying a rare moment of ascendancy in a local history of setbacks and lost causes, were hopefully there to deliver an equally strong message of support for the recent council decisions thwarting the forces of darkness and evil who want to develop things that maybe shouldn’t be developed in places no backhoe should be allowed to go. For, unlike the opinion expressed in last week’s letter from Ms. Horan of AWARE’s Valley Bottom Subcommittee, poor turnout at public events matters a great deal. When it’s not running on the lubricant of money, local governments most assuredly operate on the principle of squeaky wheels getting greased. Good intentions apathetically held are a lot like a fart in a stiff wind – makes you feel good but doesn’t really have much impact on anyone else.

Caught in the crossfire of this internecine sniping would have been our happily divided council. While there are those who long for the good ol’ days, when a predictable body of councillors would happily throw the keys to the chastity belt to virtually any developer with a half-assed idea – Nick North comes immediately to mind if one can be bold enough to condemn a development as crucially important as a golf course – our current collection of stout-hearted boys and girls is far from predictable. This is a good thing; reasonable minds can and should differ when it comes to complex issues.

Still, there are some who wonder whether everybody’s reading from the same Grand Plan. That would be the plan we spent the better part of the first term of this council putting in place. Evidence of the efficacy of such a plan might be more or less consistent decisions.

There are those who believe the current crop of decisions coming from council chambers is more like what you might get querying one of those novelty Eight Balls. You know the ones where you ask a question and turn it upside down to find the answer, sometimes an "Indubitably so," sometimes "Your chances are slim." How else, other than sinking to a highly personal psychoanalysis of what drives the individual, might an outside observer explain things like the Emerald Forest, Decigon Part II, The Peaks and so on? More ancient, less advanced societies often attributed inexplicable decisions to things like faeries, spirits and supernatural possession. Well, they might have been right.

Supervising the whole bun fight – and working behind the scenes – will have been the beleaguered administration of our fun-filled mountain home. These are not happy days in the seats of power. There are rumblings of mutiny on the poop decks and cranky peasants abound. Worse yet, the local media are saying unkind things, disagreeing vocally, questioning authority, not accentuatin’ the positive and definitely messin’ with Mr. Inbetween. So much so that Hizzoner and Mr. G had to go to the unpleasant extreme of inviting the local muckraker in for a little friendly talkin’ to.

I understand this whole brouhaha is obviously the media’s fault. I accept whatever part of the blame is parsed my way and know I should, as one letter writer pointed out, stick to writing those cute cat and dog stories and leave the topical issues alone, or at least to those who can lay claim to being the voice of reason as opposed to just being the voice. Tough noogies.

Having been both a lawyer and a banker, I’m going for the grand slam of Least Admired and Trusted Jobs in modern society. After, or maybe along with media, I’ll give Mountain Motors a call and see if I can do a stint selling used cars. Those milestones out of the way, all that will be left will be running for politics and holding elected office to make my life a sweep. In the meantime, running with a "pack of hyenas" seems like a lot more fun than hunkering behind closed doors and getting a little paranoid about who exactly is on the "Friends of Carlotta" list this week and who are perceived enemies.

But other duties call and I’m off to Arizona to help mind the family home fires. I’ll miss the presentations, the pained expressions, the ever so telling body language and the heady excitement of local government in action. If the thought wasn’t so unpleasant, I’d have someone tape whatever shows up on the local cable coverage and watch it when I get home. Instead, I’ll have to settle for the online version of events provided by my brother hyenas and, more telling, the letters that get printed.

And, of course, the issues will still be hot when I return, not that anything seems hot after a visit to Phoenix in the summertime. At the heart of what’s going to eventually get hashed out is what kind of resort municipality we’re going to be when we grow up, what kind of people are going to live here and, to some extent, what kind of government we’re going to have.

That’s because the important issues here are not the two proposals council’s taken a pass on. What’s important here is how we address and deal with issues like those. It’s about how we communicate with each other, both within the power structure and between muni hall and the local wee folk. It’s about the openness of government all the candidates strongly favoured the last time around and what those words really mean on a day to day basis.

In the meantime, pass the carrion.