feature 343 

WANTED: One Mayor The straight skinny on the best job in Whistler By Christopher Woodall Every three years a job posting comes along that combines the best of decent pay, wild perqs and enough prestige to satisfy even the largest of egos. Yes, well, the hours can be rather long and because everybody knows who you are, your butt is hanging out for every whiner, wanker and editorial writer to kick at. We're talking about being The Mayor. Go ahead, try it on for size: "(your name here), Mayor of the Resort Municipality of Whistler." Feels good, eh? But surely there's more to being mayor than cutting ribbons at official openings. And the job application process looks kind of spooky — no other job requires that you please, not just some human resources bureaucrat, but the entire adult population of your community. Think of it. The mayor's job is the only political spot electors vote for directly. You vote for several aldermen. In the larger arena, you help vote for several provincial or federal members of parliament. You don't get to vote for the prime minister or the provincial premier, but you do vote directly for the mayor. Should you want to be mayor — and you should — once you get to sit in his chair, you'll find it's a sweet deal. But to get there you have to do this election thing. Like any decent job, "applying" for the position can be a lot of work. To be the mayor, first you have to convince two buddies to go with you to muni hall to back up your application, or "nomination." You can go for the top job if you are a Canuck (as in citizen, not the hockey player), 18 years old, a British Columbian for more than six months, and haven't done anything that would stop you from voting. It's a curious irony that both the most exulted and the scum of the earth in Canada are prohibited from voting. So forget running for mayor if you're a Supreme Court judge or a child murderer. There's nothing in the regulations about being a human being. Whistler once saw a dog run for the mayor's job, for example. Nearly won, too. Well okay, it wasn't that close and the dog was really running to be mayor of Function Junction, and there was the Canadian citizen thing to sort out. But the dog's chances to win scared the hell out of Mayor Ted Nebbeling, who publicly made up with the dog when the election was over. If you're squeamish about your personal worth, you might not be too happy to learn that you have to declare what corporate or personal financial pies you have your fingers in. The idea is to ensure you won't be caught supporting, for example, construction of a 20-storey glass tower on the Benchlands that "just happens" to be on land you own. If you're lucky, no one else will have applied to be mayor. Their loss. But it sometimes happens. More likely though, other guys have heard how great the mayor's job is and want to hog it for themselves. Thus, the election. Because there are other candidates for the job, you have to out-dance, out-schmooze, out-kiss the babies, and out-advertise the other contenders. That means money. Hopefully you'll spend other people's money. But there are rules for this. You could stand on a street corner with your hat out for passersby to toss coins at you, but if someone drops more than $50 on you, have a receipt book handy to record who the donor is. The rules say any anonymous donations more than $50 must be given to your local government office. Bummer, eh? But it may prevent Mega Corp. from stacking the financial deck by backing your opponents. Other than that, there are no limits on how much you can accept or spend. One thing, though: you have to put a price on any "goods and services" you receive that apply to your election campaign. These are called "contributions in kind" and can include food and beverages donated by a local restaurant, paper supplies from a print shop, or photography by an eager lensman. And if the "goods and services" are offered at a discount, you have to declare the difference between the "discounted" price of the service and its fair market value. So if someone on the campaign trail gives you the finger and you discount the intent of the gesture, then the difference of what he meant by the gesture and what you got out of the gesture has to be claimed. Volunteers are okay as long as they aren't doing what they would be doing for pay in the normal course of life. So if you have some doctor friends, say, who volunteer their services as hookers to give your campaign a lift, then that's okay. Of course you'll want to put up some signs. There are rules on this, but they are loosely patrolled as long as you don't go nuts. You aren't allowed to put your campaign signs along the highways, for example. Yes, everybody does it, but they aren't supposed to. You're not supposed to staple them to B.C. Hydro poles, either, but everybody does. The catch is that if B.C. Hydro wants to rip them down, they can. And will. It's a safety issue for them. Your signs can't be more than two metres (about six feet) square, or more than 2.4 metres (about seven feet) tall. It's first come first served as to location, but don't be surprised if your signs just happen to be lying on the ground. Or tossed behind convenient bushes. Some people like to put a photo of themselves on their campaign signs. It's a good way to find out what you look like with a goatee, or devil's horns, or dark eyeglasses, or a convenient scar, or missing teeth. You might be tempted to find out what the "artists" who doctored your portrait look like with missing teeth or blackened eyes but what the hell, politics is schoolyard war. Just say, "nyah, nyah, nyah," and have done with it. Don't forget to collect all your signs when the election is over, or lose the $200 you deposited for permission to erect signs. But it's Election Day! You've won! Here's where you really find out what a sweet job being mayor is. First of all, you get $44,866.30 a year in pay, which isn't as much as Hugh Smythe gets to run Blackcomb, but it's a lot more than he pays his liftees. In a resort where parking is worth gold, you get two free spots: one outside muni hall and one in the parking garage beside the conference centre. Tapley's Pub and Misty Mountain Pizza were never so convenient. Neat, eh? You get a really big office, but no, you can't sublet the couch for $500 a month like your landlord neighbours do. You'll have a new name. No longer will you be "Fred" or "Ethel Smith." Now you'll be called "Mayor Fred" or "Mayor Ethel." Pretty classy, eh? What with free parking and swanky office, you'll think you're cock of the walk; that you can pretty much do as you please. Well, no, not exactly. True, your name goes to the top of the list, but there are these six councillors to contend with. They don't get paid nearly as much as you (just $13,459.89) but when it comes to running the town, they count as equals. About the only thing you can do in council meetings, for example, is introduce stuff to vote on. But it's the councillors who do the actual voting, so be nice to them. You get to cast a vote to break a tie, but that's all. Your main job is as the chairman of council and to serve on committees. Of course, despite the municipal solicitors who'll worry every piece of every bylaw to the bone, you can introduce really serious legislation, like Whistler's infamous anti-swearing bylaw, or declare important civic occasions, like Tony Curtis Week. And all that takes up a lot of time. We're talking more than 40 hours a week on "in office" stuff alone. You'll have to attend to a lot of functions outside of office hours, too. I know what you're thinking: man, this could be a tougher job than I thought. That's right, it is in some ways. There will always be people bugging you to do this, or not to do that. They'll be blaming you for every little thing that goes wrong. One thing you can do as Mayor of Whistler is "read the riot act." Under Section 67 of the criminal code, all you need are 12 or more people in a group who are causing a disturbance. Then you find out where they are, get as close to the action as possible without getting involved and tell the disgruntled mob demanding action on employee housing, or the Blueberry Hill gate, to disperse. If they don't, you can have the police round them up. Talk about fun! Of course, you can't just go off on your own to do this. You're supposed to work in conjunction with the chief of police and he or she may turn a firehose on your attempt to exercise unbounded authority, instead of on the unruly masses. But rioting aside, whenever somebody famous scoots into Whistler, being mayor means you have the best excuse to drop by their table at Araxi’s to say hello. In the three years you get to be mayor, that could be well worth all the fuss. "Yoo-hoo, Mr. Trudeau! I'm Mayor Woody and I'd like to welcome you to Whistler!"

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