Maxed Out 

It takes two to tango

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I'm stuck with the feeling we were Santa'd in our quest to do good. In the early envisioning process, we were never asked to explore, for example, what our "Dream Whistler" might cost. What it might take in the way of governmental resources. How we would pay for it. Whether we could afford it.

We were promised - by the consultants we'd hired, natch - a very cool SimCity computer model showing us what kind of ring of hell we might create by not taking the virtuous path and what shining city on the hill we would create by pressing the right levers. When it was delivered.... What? We never got it? Another unfulfilled consultant's wet dream? Okay.

Envisioning begat workshops and once again we were sitting on Santa's knee, wishing for things to be the way we'd like them. Whether it was visitor experience, healthy communities, seamless transportation, zero waste, we were bouncin' and merry and pullin' the old guy's beard, telling him our innermost desires.

And as with the department store Santa, no one asked - no one thought - whether we could afford to achieve our dreams. We were not only not encouraged to speak of such things, our municipal facilitators quickly quashed any discussion of what it all might cost and how we might pay for it. That wasn't what we were there for.

But out of it all emerged our applauded Whistler 2020. And now that we're enmeshed in the process of updating the long-overdue Official Community Plan, that exercise is informed - some would say hamstrung - by the goals and strategies enshrined in Whistler 2020.

And yet, we've never been asked, never been encouraged to discuss the threshold question: what is the role of municipal government?

We're going to discover the answer to that question, or maybe we won't, when the RMOW organizational review is complete. Now that the consultants are deep into it, they are presumably rearranging the deck chairs to accommodate a government whose role(s) have already been determined and constitute their terms of engagement. To come up with a revamped organization without knowing that they would have to be the proverbial traveler with no map and no fixed destination.

So what will our new government look like? Will it look like the kind of government I'd like to see? One that pays more than lip service to the democratic foundations of openness and transparency? One that feels confident to draw on the expertise of its employees and residents rather than leave all decisions more difficult than clearing snow to consultants? One that understands the inherent conflict of interest in having senior staff involved in striking binding non-contracts with employees when those staff will enjoy the benefits of the agreements they help craft? One that's willing to undertake bold initiatives - say, pay parking - and nimbly rework them when it becomes apparent to everyone who can walk and chew gum at the same time they're not working? One who understands the larger economic picture our tourist economy operates in and doesn't leave it to staff's wish list to overspend on capital projects, only to finally and gratefully announce they'll justifiably delay/scrap some of them rather than spend to new heights of taxation?

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