Website instrumental in municipal election 

But not without its problems

P>By Alison Taylor

Whistler’s first community-wide non-partisan election website played a pivotal role in the 2005 municipal elections.

It was so popular that discussions are now underway between the website’s creator Duane Perrett and some newly elected councillors to keep the site running as a way to foster community dialogue.

Perrett said he was amazed to find out there were 4,756 hits on his web page on election day last Saturday. While that number does not represent the number of actual users, rather the number of times the homepage came up on any given computer, it highlights the role votewhistler.com played in the election as a way to access information and stimulate debate online.

When Perrett introduced the online forum in the weeks leading up to the election, which allowed people to post comments and questions, the interest in the site grew exponentially. One day he recorded 500 unique computers logging on the site.

"I think it informed a lot of people about Whistler," said Perrett. "And I think the best thing of all about this is that even though we realized that a bunch of us do disagree on things, at least it brought us all together in one way… At least we know that we agree that we can work together and Whistler’s what we’re out for. We’re out to get a better Whistler."

Perrett calls his website a "happy accident," which just exploded over the course of the election campaign, drawing in most of the 24 candidates and hundreds of community members in an interactive Internet forum.

His work on the website and the things he learned about the candidates through the site eventually swayed his own vote last Saturday.

"I myself learned so much about the candidates that I didn’t even vote for the same people I originally was planning on voting (for) before I created the website," said Perrett. "So I’m sure a lot of other people informed themselves and I’m sure that it had an impact on their voting."

But the website is not without its detractors.

Councillor Marianne Wade, who was not re-elected on Saturday night, expressed concerns about the content on the website, particularly some of the anonymous comments that were directed to her.

"I think people used that site to smear people and twist things around and because it can be anonymous, people weren’t attaching their names to it," she said this week.

"It was a constant (barrage) of people really trying to sway the vote, absolutely I would say."

Among the attacks directed at Wade was the criticism that she spends most of her time working as a consultant in Vancouver, the implication being that she is not keyed in to the things going on in Whistler.

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