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Low turnout for political dialogue

Only four people show up to discuss issues with McKeever, Forsyth

By Alison Taylor

A Dialogue Café, designed to gauge council at the halfway mark in their term, drew just a tiny crowd of interested citizens Tuesday.

Is it a sign the community is content? A measure of the apathy for local politics? Or was it simply a sunny summer’s evening, perfect for a mountain bike ride rather than discussing hefty issues?

Councillors Gord McKeever and Ralph Forsyth didn’t take the turnout of four personally.

Instead they talked about their experiences over the past year and a half and looked ahead at what’s facing council in the months to come.

Interestingly, the evening came on the heels of one of council’s biggest decisions this term — granting some of the last remaining development rights in the valley to neighbouring First Nations.

That, said Forsyth, is one of the biggest issues on the horizon for Whistler.

“(It’s) a whole new set of rules,” he said.

Several issues were discussed informally at the small gathering.

The issue of pay parking in the day skier parking lots was up for discussion. Those lots are in the process of moving from the province’s hand to the municipality’s. A pay parking system has long been envisioned for the lots to help fund transit initiatives in the valley.

McKeever explained they are looking at a host of options for the lots, including a system where drivers would pay more to park closer to the ski lifts and perhaps pay nothing in the lots furthest away from the village.

But before any pay parking is implemented, he said, there would be extensive public consultation.

Resident Sara Jennings said Whistler needs to do more than implement pay parking if it wants to seriously tackle climate change.

“I think we need to get a lot more radical,” she said.

When asked to look ahead McKeever said some of the biggest issues have been ticked off council’s list. The Rainbow employee housing development is still a priority, he said. That project has yet to get final reading.

Planning for the 2010 Games is also on the radar and succession planning for after the Games is critical too, adding that Whistler must keep its eye on what’s going to happen post-Games.

Forsyth also expressed his concerns about short-term housing.

“That is going to be the issue facing the community,” he said, particularly in light of the pressures for housing before and during the Games.

The councillors were upbeat and both spoke to the personal satisfaction of serving the community as local politicians.

The Monday council meetings are just the tip of the iceberg, they said. A lot of the work takes place on committees and task forces.

“That to me is where the value is to the community,” said Forsyth.

He expressed surprise when people at the café said they wouldn’t do his job.

“It’s the funnest job going!”

The Whistler Forum will host another council Dialogue Café on Tuesday, May 29 at Millennium Place with Councillors Tim Wake and Eckhard Zeidler. The evening will run from 7:30 to 9 p.m. for a $5 donation per person.