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Suspension of disbelief

I've always been a common sense kind of guy, although that's not always a good thing.

I've always been a common sense kind of guy, although that's not always a good thing.

For example one of my favourite books is the Lord of the Rings series - I've read the trilogy every year since high school, and even named my daughter Eleanor because of it (read the last few pages to understand). But from the very first read I saw a flaw in the plot, and that's the fact that Frodo and Sam walked through all those hundreds of leagues of hell to get to Mordor when they could have ridden there on a giant eagle, tossed the One Ring into Mount Doom, and been back in The Shire in time for second breakfast.

I also thought of a better way to win Star Wars . Around the time Lucas reintroduced the original trilogy with all those unnecessary computer animations thrown in, I realized that taking out the Death Star would have been kind of easy. In the first movie, we saw how the Death Star locks onto all incoming ships with a tractor beam and pulls them into the hangar. So why didn't the Rebel Alliance just send a ship into the Death Star's general area packed to the roof with thermal detonators, then blow it up from a comfortable distance?

And in the third movie, even though the Death Star II's shields were still up, a crippled Empire Star Destroyer was still able to plow into the side of it. So why wouldn't the alliance pack a bunch of huge empty ships with detonators and send them in on a collision course? Would explosives even be necessary if you could send ships into the path of the Death Star while they're in hyperspace? Just imagine how many Bothan spies could have been saved.

It's not that I don't enjoy books and movies that require some suspended disbelief, I just have a have a habit of thinking about them afterwards and wondering what I would have done differently in the circumstances. Some might call it nitpicking, but sooner or later common sense always intrudes.

I know I'm not the only Monday morning quarterback out there with a cynical need to second-guess everything. Everybody replays the events in their own lives and thinks about things they should have said or done but didn't. Hindsight is 20-20.

That same hindsight applies equally to politics, and the current struggle in Whistler to balance our budget. Could the RMOW have foreseen and prevented the events that led them to even consider a 20 per cent property tax increase over the next three years? Did you see it coming? And what would you do, or have done, differently?

Seriously, the RMOW wants to know. They had a public meeting last Thursday to present their long-term financial plan, and no doubt other open houses are on the way. There will also be a public comment period to register feedback, all of which will at least be considered in the final analysis.

But keep in mind, as our columnist G.D. Maxwell noted, that there are sacred cows in this community that are just not on the table.

For example, muni jobs and wages are sacred, and likely will not be considered in any of our cost-cutting scenarios at a time when other businesses around town are being forced to freeze wages and lay off workers. The RMOW position is that staff are paid fair wages compared to other municipalities (if not in comparison to Whistler's average wages), and that all staff are required to provide our current service levels. Cutting staff means cutting programs they help deliver, and, as realtor Pat Kelly noted last week, I'm not sure how many people would agree what to cut, or even whether there should be cuts at all.

The Whistler 2020 program is also sacred. At some point the Whistler 2020 sustainability plan is meant to be able to sustain itself, or possibly even earn money for the RMOW, but at this point it requires significant funding to keep it going. We've invested in this program as a community and its supporters are driven to see it through. Done right, sustainability could actually save us money the same way we can save money in electricity costs over the lifetime of a compact fluorescent bulb. But for now it's an expensive part of the sacred equation.

The Olympics and Paralympics are beyond sacred. There's no question that these Games are coming at a bad time for local economy, and that they require a significant investment from the RMOW. But they could also provide a major boost for the resort in the future, as long as the weather co-operates and the world doesn't tune in to find a group of grouchy locals in open revolt against their local government.

We all have some ideas how we would cut the budget, and no doubt some of us would have no trouble opening up the jugulars on some sacred cows if that's what it takes to prevent what could be a 25 per cent property tax increase over four years. For now I'm placing my faith in the elected officials who campaigned on a promise to resolve this mess fairly on behalf of taxpayers.

No doubt I'll think of the perfect way to resolve this after the budget is released. Right now I'm suspended in my utter disbelief.