New council sworn in, outlines agenda 

One seat remains empty until January runoff election

Mayor Hugh O’Reilly looked back at the past and into the future on Monday at the inaugural meeting of the still incomplete 2002-2005 Whistler council.

Important issues like affordability, resident housing and sustainability have carried over from previous elections, he said. But opportunities and solutions are just around the corner.

"A number of crucial initiatives worked on over the last three years are now close to fruition," he said.

"And these will help us deliver real and meaningful results."

Delivering those results will be newly elected councillors Caroline Lamont and Gordon McKeever, as well as incumbents Nick Davies, Ken Melamed and Kristi Wells.

One after another, the mayor and the five elected councillors took the Bible in their right hand and read the oath of office to Judge Ian Pitfield on Monday night.

A handful of unsuccessful candidates in the Nov. 16 election watched the swearing in ceremony from the sidelines.

They will be vying for the one empty council seat left open by a tie vote. That empty sixth seat will be filled after the Jan. 11 runoff election.

In his inaugural speech, the third he has given as mayor to a Whistler council, O’Reilly was positive about solutions to some of the problems that were loudly raised by the community in the election.

"The good news is that we have never been closer than we are now to such significant and firm opportunities that will make a positive impact on the problems we have been grappling with," he said.

Among those opportunities just around the corner are financial tools, the land bank for resident housing and the development of the comprehensive sustainability plan, also known as Whistler. It’s Our Future.

Without going into too much detail in his speech O’Reilly explained that the previous council worked hard over the past three years to find alternative tools to fund the resort infrastructure.

The province has been made aware of Whistler’s financial challenges and has been open to discussions about the resort getting different tools to make it more financially equitable for residents.

"Financial tools are part of the affordability strategy currently being developed... It will be an in-depth analysis of the affordability issue in Whistler with specific recommendations," said O’Reilly, adding that the public input process will begin in early 2003.

The second opportunity for Whistler deals with the land bank for resident housing.

The government has currently promised the 300-acre parcel of crown land in the Callaghan Valley to the RMOW as part of the Olympic legacy package, regardless of whether Vancouver wins the 2010 bid.

The land was negotiated with resident housing in mind but O’Reilly said it’s really up to the community to decide what happens to the land bank.

"Our strategy has been to build in options so that the community... can determine how best to use this legacy, or not use it all."

The community will get to make up its mind through the comprehensive sustainability plan.

This last opportunity will not be a success without the help of the community, he said.

The comprehensive sustainability plan has already defined certain criteria for the success and sustainability of the resort and now Whistler must develop scenarios and choose options to determine its future.

"Council will continue to work very hard on this opportunity, but ultimately the success of the comprehensive sustainability plan, and therefore the success of this resort community, is dependent upon the buy-in and participation of you, your family and friends, you colleagues and your neighbours," he said.

O’Reilly’s final point in his speech was perhaps his most important.

In the next three years he said council will be working hard at communication and getting its message out to the public. The lack of communication between municipal hall and the general public was a criticism raised over and over again during the recent election.

To that end O’Reilly said this council would strive to find different ways to get the information out.

"We have also picked up some new ideas through the election process, and we have newcomers to council with some of their own ideas on how we might better communicate," he said.

To begin, he will ask council to review the structure and effectiveness of current committees, commissions and task forces.

"We will work with all these ideas in an effort to find the best way to provide you with the information you need and want from us in the manner you most prefer, and the best way to gather our opinion on all matters."

O’Reilly ended his speech reminding Whistlerites that it’s their job to participate in the decision-making process to ensure Whistler remains the best mountain resort community.

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