Better sense of timing needed

As President Barack Obama and others, keep emphasizing timing is important in tackling the recession. So, how are we doing locally?

Well, just as the winter season ends - the season when people try to make enough money to get themselves through spring and to the eight weeks that constitute summer - parking has become more expensive and difficult around the village. Eventually people will adjust, but it doesn't help anyone pay their bills right now.

Day skier lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all "under construction" for the Olympics, and therefore unavailable for parking. Lot 4 was included after the surprise "gift" of $700,000 from VANOC that will only cost municipal taxpayers $600,000 to take full advantage of.

Last week the municipality quietly introduced pay parking in the underground lot adjacent to the conference centre. We all knew it was coming. And there is never a good time to introduce a new charge for something that previously was free. But bringing it in this spring, after the tepid winter many village merchants have had, isn't doing anyone any favours, except perhaps the merchants near Marketplace who still enjoy free parking.

The introduction of pay parking next to the conference centre also coincided with the seasonal reduction in bus service.

Fortunately there are several large conferences bringing people to village hotels in the next few weeks, because it's not getting any easier for people to get to the village.

Then there's the timing of the closure of Whistler Secondary School next year during the Olympics. It has long been thought that VANOC would use part of Whistler Secondary during the Games - to house volunteers, as a staging area for volunteers or equipment, or for some other function. VANOC apparently never promised financial compensation, but a trade for technology or some other material goods was discussed.

So the school board developed a calendar that has Whistler Secondary closed from Feb. 5 to March 2 next year. The Olympics are Feb. 12-28. The extra time was intended to allow VANOC to set up and tear down whatever they need to do in the school.

But at the end of April - four months before the new school year is to begin and long after many families have made plans for next year's closure - it was announced that VANOC doesn't want, or can't afford the asking price for, the school.

Some parents have always been worried about the extended closure, which totals 17 instructional days. Other schools in the district will only be closed for two weeks, or 10 instructional days, during the Olympics. But the school board isn't showing any signs of changing Whistler Secondary's calendar, even though there no longer appears to be any reason for the extended closure.

Whether the school board was overreaching in its negotiations with VANOC, or whether VANOC's often-vague plans changed part way through is unclear. The board says it's too difficult to change the calendar now; many families have already made plans to rent their homes out or travel next February.

What it is is another example of Olympic expectations and planning that hasn't come to fruition, resulting in disappointment all around.

And speaking of VANOC's plans, we still don't know, nine months before the Olympics, who - if anyone - is staying in Squamish. A request for proposals to house people on cruise ships in Squamish remains out there.

This is the same organization that agreed to hold medal presentation ceremonies in Whistler's Celebration Plaza, then 14 months before the Games decided they couldn't afford to do the presentations in the plaza - until the IOC and Whistler's plans to present their own medallions persuaded VANOC to backtrack again.

The landscape and the economy VANOC has to work in is constantly moving, but a little more certainty in the last year of preparation for the Olympics is expected.



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