Housing task force set to get to work 

Council briefs: Tech committee endorsed; does Whistler need a new tagline?

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During last week's torrential rainstorm, Coun. Jack Crompton got a knock on his front door one evening.

"We open the door, and the guy says 'Can I rent a room in your house?'... this is the first time anyone's ever done that at my house," Crompton said at the Oct. 18 council meeting.

"I thought to myself, 'Wow, that really mirrors what I'm seeing in our community.'"

At the meeting, council endorsed the terms of reference for the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing, which will look for solutions to Whistler's current housing woes.

The task force will bring together all of the resort's key stakeholders to produce a set of short (three to six months) and long term (two to three years) recommendations for making housing more accessible and affordable.

Community members interested in joining the task force can email Toni Metcalf at tmetcalf@whistler.ca.

The first meeting is Nov. 7 at 1 p.m.

Crompton said the task force is a great start.

"It's a fine balance, but I hope this task force can deliver both short-term action and long-term solutions," Crompton said, to which council watcher Wolfgang Lindemann replied from the audience "hear, hear."

Earlier in the evening, Lindemann took to the podium for the third straight council meeting to ask several questions related to housing.

Among other things, Lindemann asked if the municipality has done in-depth research into setting up temporary work-camp housing to "act as a shock absorber," and questioned the notion that doing so would set a legal precedent, as Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey said at the Oct. 4 meeting.

"Is this legal card just another avoidance tactic to not do the most crucial, proactive plan to end the suffering in our community?" Lindemann asked. "We would like to ask the mayor to set the bar higher, in excellence and compassion, and commit to solve the affordable housing shortage, and commit and promise on the public record that all creative shock absorbers will be set in place regardless what the housing market demands."

In response, Acting Mayor Jen Ford said the Mayor's Task Force would be looking at those creative ideas in its search for solutions.

"We are working on it, we are committed... we're certainly not ignoring this issue and we're doing everything we can," Ford said.

Lindemann wasn't alone — around nine young people also showed up mid-meeting, presumably to voice their thoughts on housing, but were too late for the question-and-answer period and were turned away by council.

Attendees were asked to send their questions to council through email (www.whistler.ca/stay-connected/contact).

Public Q & A takes place at the beginning of every council meeting. Council meetings past and present can be viewed online at www.whistler.ca/municipal-gov/council/watch-council-meetings.

Technology Advisory Committee endorsed

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is about to get with the times.

At its Oct. 18 meeting, council endorsed the formation of a Technology Advisory Committee (TAC) that would be tasked with keeping council and the community up to date on all the current tech trends.

"Its key focus is to collaborate and provide input to council on initiatives and trends such as village-wide Wi-Fi, e-government, open data, big data and broadband connectivity," explained information technology manager Kerry Ing, in a presentation to council. "And certainly that list is not exhaustive, as there's several trends and recommendations we would want to bring forward."

Local governments in Seattle and San Francisco have struck similar committees.

Along with Ing, Whistler's committee will be made up of reps from Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, Whistler Sports Legacies, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Arts Whistler, one member of council and one member-at-large from the community.

Coun. Sue Maxwell asked about the scope of the TAC, and if it would be used mainly to enhance tourism or if council might direct it to tackle other problems as well.

"I don't think the focus would be tourism only," Ing replied. "I think it would be the use of technology, and having discussions on the implications of technology for the community as a whole."

WHAT'S IN A NAME? AND WHO THE HECK ARE WE?

Pemberton: Adventure Begins Here. Squamish: Hardwired for Adventure. Lillooet: Guaranteed Rugged.

Whistler?

"Host Mountain Resort 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games."

A recent letter to council sparked a discussion about the local identity at the Oct. 18 council meeting.

In the letter, writer Hakon Kalvenes, an associate pastor with the Whistler Community Church, respectfully wondered if it might be time to look deeper.

"Maybe it is time to rediscover who we are? Maybe it is time to change what we communicate to those visiting us about who we are?" Kalvenes wrote. "I sure hope we are more than a 'Host Mountain Resort.' Let us be creative as a community and create a statement that welcomes people from all over the world to Whistler — 'Where Heaven Touches Earth' — or whatever we can agree upon!"

But the Olympic branding is about much more than being a host, said Coun. Andree Janyk.

"Being an elite athlete in alpine skiing... I think being a host community for an Olympic event and a Paralympic event, it really speaks to who you are," Janyk said.

"And certainly we can consider something else perhaps, but I don't want to ever lose that, because that really was something that was worked hard for."

It's also proved to be quite marketable, Coun. John Grills noted.

"I'm not a high-level Olympic athlete, but I do see value in this, and we were the first host mountain community, which is still something special," Grills said. "When there's no longer a huge line to take your picture at the Olympic rings, it may be time to consider a different moniker."

Coun. Sue Maxwell pointed out that most community taglines are about trying to advertise something, or appeal to a specific group of people, "whereas Whistler I think is in a different state of its tourism development," she said.

"I think that the Olympics is more inclusive."

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