The measure of three years

Three years ago less a week, after another tough campaign, G.D. Maxwell wrote a feature story for Pique that attempted to put the outcome of the 2002 Whistler municipal election in context. Among the quotes from the duly elected and nearly elected was Max’s assessment that: "The community’s got a good head of steam built up behind it. This election seemed to energize people once again to the democratic process. It’s unlikely the new administration will ignore public input – or wait so long to seek it – as at least the perception has become."

I bring this up not to show the imperfections of Max’s crystal ball, but as an example of how far we have not come in the last three years. Leadership, public engagement, transparency – not to mention the old standbys, affordability and affordable housing – were issues three years ago and they should be issues on voters’ minds when they go to the polls this Saturday.

Circumstances have changed in the last three years – the Olympics are now a reality; the World Economic Forum is no longer a reality; Whistler has become a little bigger, with more hotels to fill; the primary measure of the local economy, hotel room nights, now shows a four-year decline. But to many observers the past three years are remarkable for how few tangible accomplishments this council can claim. Affordable housing is the most obvious. No new housing was opened in the last three years despite the fact that was one of the priorities this council identified shortly after they were elected.

There were some unexpected setbacks that delayed housing, and the good news is that there is enough housing on the horizon to make a significant dent in the housing wait list. But the measure of a council is taken every three years, not three and a half. And so we are at the point where we take inventory of the issues before us, assess the people who have volunteered to serve the community, and choose seven to represent Whistler for the next three years.

Everyone who cares enough to vote has their view of what issues are important and what qualities our elected leaders need to address the issues and to run our town. But it seems to me there is sentiment among a lot of voters that Whistler’s problems stem from Victoria. We haven’t received the financial tools we were apparently promised. The boundary expansion hasn’t been approved and that’s allowing development to take place to the north and south that we have no control over. The class 1/6 taxation issue continues unresolved and we still haven’t signed off on the 300-acre land bank. We’re not doing anything wrong – in fact we’re winning international awards for doing things right. It’s those damn people in Victoria who are screwing us.

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