Roles and responsibilities

"Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." - Jalal ad Din Muhammad Rumi, the 13 th -century Persian, Muslim poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi Mystic.

It is time to leave the rhetoric behind and focus on what Whistler needs to move itself forward as we head into the final weeks before our municipal election.

Sure there is a lot of angst about pay-parking, the asphalt plant and a few other hot-button issues but, I would argue, voters need to focus on the big picture right now.

We need to look for leaders who can lead - people who can work collaboratively together and with staff to keep Whistler a thriving community. We need to look at who has been a leader in the past, who still is one, who has listened and who "works" for the community.

Future leaders will have to tackle some tough issues not least of which is municipal spending - how are we going to pay for the Fitzsimmons slump debris barrier and the "ever-shrinking" transit system? How do we support business, families and visitors?

And what organizations are responsible for tackling all these challenges?

Current leaders should be recognized for the work they have done in the work to rebuild Whistler's bank account through the "reserves." In Games time contributions to this were reduced as part of the financial plan to host the event.

They serve an important function and cannot be used without careful consideration.

But this does not mean that Whistler can afford to take on roles or responsibilities that are not within its core focus or that services should be duplicated if other organizations are already doing them.

This is one reason a healthy debate needs to be had about what role the municipality should have in "growing" tourism. I would argue this type of discussion is key to the big picture of our future.

At the core of the issue is should the RMOW be the lead organization driving tourism? Is that the role of municipal government or is local government there to keep our roads clear of snow, plan how the community grows and plan how to pay for that?

Whistler may be unique as our whole town is really built around the tourist experience, but does that really mean the RMOW should take growing tourism on as a core responsibility?

Increasingly since the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games were won the municipality has taken a larger role in event management for the resort. Historically this was a role carried out by Tourism Whistler with help from other organizations, but as sponsorship dried up due to tough economic times the RMOW took on more of this and it made sense at Games time.

But the Games are over. Why not have tourist-driven festival and animation programs run by Tourism Whistler, an organization that considers the marketing of tourist events its core competency? Where events overlap with community and heritage, an organization such as the Whistler Arts Council could play a lead role.

The Resort Municipality Initiative money could be managed by the RMOW but used by organizations such as Tourism Whistler and WAC to run successful events.

This not only places planning and execution with organizations built for it, it makes sense financially as it cuts down on duplication of efforts such as having two media departments promoting the same events - one at the RMOW and one at Tourism Whistler. It may even result in better deals when it comes to booking acts for Whistler Olympic Plaza.

Indeed, the robust review demanded by the province in order to receive RMI funds is for the most part carried out by Tourism Whistler's research department already.

In times past, Tourism Whistler has hosted many successful events using in-house expertise and contracting out such things as production. The lesson here is that it is better to use the experts than try and duplicate workload.

Part of finding success in the big picture has to include a resort wide heritage and culture plan - an inventory of existing programs, expertise and venues as well as a co-coordinated strategy for building on this foundation. The activities associated with cultural events and animation would no doubt bring visitors as well as support local residents.

But roles and responsibilities need to be considered carefully.

Our new crop of leaders won't have all the answers and so it is up to all of Whistler to get involved in sustaining the resort.

Residents need to engage in the debates, local businesses need to market themselves for the times, accommodations need to keep pace and be creative, arts and culture need to be at the table too.

What is needed now is government leadership, which everyone believes is working for them.





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