November 07, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

Council candidate: Dave Buzzard 

click to enlarge 1545buzzard.jpg

Age: 40


Occupation: Commercial Photographer

Latest Book Read: The World Without Us , by Alan Weisman. A fascinating examination of how long the effects of humankind would affect the planet after we've died off. DeNiro's Game , by Rawi Hage, is a great read about two teenagers in 1980 Beirut.

What music are you listening to these days?: I'm getting into ’70s bands like the Allman Bros. and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as classics like Crosby Stills, & Nash and the Grateful Dead. It shows my age, but I identify with bands like Nirvania, Pearl Jam, and Sound Garden. I used to hang out in Seattle in the early ’90s catching grunge bands in Pioneer Square. On a more modern note, I really like the various incarnations of Jack White.

Favourite recreational pursuits: Skiing and biking, but not as much as I wish I could.

1. Why are you running for council?

This June, I had a serious fire at my house, and then in September I had to have surgery on my spine that nearly crippled me. The support that I received from the community and my friends made me want to give something back.

2. Given that revenue from development is declining and the municipality is more dependent on hotel tax revenue at a time of economic uncertainty, how do you propose the municipality balance its budgets the next few years?

Not only is revenue from development declining, but with an estimated 12 per cent decline in occupancy, and with lower room rates as well, there is going to be a significant shortfall in revenue from both the hotel tax, and property taxes from strata units that are tied to occupancy rates. With the current capital reserves badly depleted by the spending of the last few years, Whistler faces several very difficult years ahead.

Capital spending has to be brought under control, and municipal operating expenses have to be streamlined to be more efficient. I run my business, and my life, on strict budgets, and that's what the RMOW is going to have to do in the future.

This will be the fourth major economic slump I've weathered in Whistler over the last 34 years, and I'm still here. In the early ’80s, we were living through the same economic slowdown we are today, but mortgage rates were in the 18 per cent to 22 per cent range. Buyers of suites in the village were walking away from their deposits on half built village units. If we survived that, we can survive this latest storm.

3. What other important issues does Whistler face in the next three years?

As well as the budget crisis, Whistler faces a chronic shortage of short-term employee housing. There has also been a breakdown in communication between council, municipal staff, and the Whistler community. Council is seen as remote and out of touch, municipal staff as officious and overly bureaucratic.

4. What needs to be done to address those issues?

As funding from the Whistler Housing Society is already spoken for their existing projects, the RMOW has to work with private developers to promote the building of seasonal employee housing. Tax breaks, DCC grants, and expedited rezoning would be good ways for the RMOW to make these projects more viable. The financing scheme from the late Phoenix Project, where Chamber of Commerce members reserved spaces in the housing development in exchange for subsidy funding, could also be used.

The people of Whistler have to know that council and staff are approachable and open to suggestion. Council members should spend more time personally examining the projects that come before, than relying on staff reports.

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