Notwithstanding all the talk of oil pipelines and nuclear power, what’s really on the minds of many is where Whistler is headed and who is steering the ship.
I am not convinced that Whistler is getting sucked down the kind of vortex we see in Seymour Narrows. Whistler is suffering the death of a thousand cuts. The question is: What are we doing about it?
At the risk of prompting yet more complaints about my choice of analogies, somebody famous once said that a hallmark of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the outcome to be different. I thought this Mayor and Council had promised to get rid of some of that insanity, yet they have been tempted by the trap of dealing with an issue by throwing a whole bunch of government at it.
On Tuesday evening (June 19) staff presented a report outlining a planning and community engagement process for education. Staff proposed a new task force with a mandate to establish a strategic framework to pursue and evaluate education opportunities.
The process will utilize various community engagement and input methods such as a Town Hall meeting, on-line questionnaires and a random survey. Additional professional expertise will be obtained as deemed appropriate. The process will consider directions that may be developed through separate but related municipal processes.
These components will result in a document called a Strategic Framework for Education Opportunities.
Staff anticipates a proposal call to solicit interest and pursue opportunities. Any proposals received will be measured against the strategic framework.
A dedicated project manager with specialized expertise will be contracted.
Staff’s advice to council regarding the cost of the process is, in simple terms, “it’s going to cost money.”
Why do I get the feeling that this process is going to be like the Whistler 2020 process all over again? Why did this report even get to council? By designing a potentially expensive bureaucratic and onerous process, staff is recommending the same old insanity to council.
Sometimes effective, efficient government requires a process. More often effective, efficient government requires the ability to step back and ask what decisions are required, in what order and what is required to make those decisions?
The Hall has dealt with more controversial and complex proposals than the Capilano University proposal without going to the lengths proposed.
There are threshold questions the Whistler U proponents should be able to answer before council even considers designing a process.
In the minds of many, the key threshold question is whether the campus should be allowed at the proposed location. The municipality has environmental assessments recommending against the proposed location. The proponent says they have an environmental assessment supporting the proposed location. That presents a conundrum.
The proponent’s assessment was written by a consultant who is highly respected in Whistler and whose judgment the Hall has often relied upon. Wouldn’t the proponent of Whistler U have prepared an executive summery that digested and compared the environmental assessments on each side? Why hasn’t that summary and comparison been presented?
The author of the staff report is a very smart manager. There are a lot of very smart people in the Hall. Instead of designing and implementing a costly and elaborate process, would it not make more sense to ask staff to identify the issues that could reasonably be expected to be deal-killers and then determine whether the information exists to respond to those issues?
That simple approach might render unnecessary the process recommended to council.
Some years ago I watched as a new planner recommended a bylaw imposing a fine of $10,000 on merchants who dispensed plastic grocery bags. I couldn’t help wondering whether the well-meaning but naïve staff person had been set up for the fall by somebody who knew better.
That Council didn’t rise to the bait. When we open The Question today it will be interesting to see whether this one did.