Last year was an exciting and busy one for local politicians and 2013 is already looking to be equally productive according to Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The mayor said 2012 started with a new council that immediately took action on the issues of paid parking, illegal spaces and rolling back her salary by $10,000.
“We really haven’t let up since that time,” she said.
And she is right. Soon after, council also passed a budget without an increase in property taxes or user fees, something Wilhelm-Morden noted some said couldn’t be done.
Within the year their work included creating a council action plan and a corporate plan that sets out goals and time frames in which they are to be achieved by administration.
She noted the Official Community Plan was also a significant milestone, as that planning document has not seen an update in 20 years and was a “longtime in the making.”
Wilhelm-Morden pointed to securing the Ironman Canada competition beginning this year and over the next five years was important for the resort as a milestone of 2012. She added the announcement of the proposed Audain Art Museum was a huge success for Whistler and the next year will see that major project come to fruition.
The mayor said council also reinvigorated the committee system, and in 2012 saw several new and revived committees take form. The recreation and leisure committee was re-established, the education and learning task force was struck and the Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) was formed.
Initially the formed to deal with the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funds received each year from the province, the committee had its mandate expanded in September to engage in overall economic planning for the community to secure the best position for sustained economic viability.
“Managing risks, strategically leveraging collective assets, and maximizing alignment will each be improved by the collective planning endeavour of the EPI — a shared game plan will strengthen all,” states the staff report presented to council at the time.
As well, while originally under the RMI committee, an oversight committee for the Festivals Events & Animation (FE&A) program was also established to focus on the creation and production of events programming in Whistler.
Wilhelm-Morden said those efforts to engage the community has had positive results.
“I think we have gone a long way to regaining community trust and … not just reinforcing, but improving substantially the relationship between politicians and administration at Municipal Hall,” said the mayor.
The EPI committee can expect a busy year after the RMOW issued a request for proposals late in 2012 to develop a resort community economic activity and economic sector analysis.
“The purpose of this study is to build upon the existing body of economic monitoring currently available within the community, to expand and refine key insights and understanding with respect to key performance trends over the last 10-20 years, and provide insights with respect to key characteristics of the current economic drivers within resort community economy,” states the RFP.
After the analysis is complete it is expected that the committee will report to council in 2013. The mayor said she expects recommendations for the strategic use of RMI funds to be included in that report.
Wilhelm-Morden said council and administration will start 2013 with a two-day retreat with senior managers and Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey.
“We are going to be discussing what went right over the last 12 months and what we are looking to accomplish in the next 18 months,” she said.
In addition to setting goals for the year at the retreat, similar to how council started 2012, politicians can expect to see several issues return to their agenda this year including the results of the education and learning strategy task force and cultural plan in early spring.
Planning for the FE&A program for 2013 is underway as well, and in advance of the province announcing how much RMI funds the resort will receive this year. That is the result of another move council made to use reserve funds to begin planning the program earlier in the year.
There is also high expectations for the proposed Audain Art Museum to break ground this spring. The idea of locating a museum dedicated to the collection of philanthropist Michael Audain was announced late in 2012, but administration and council have made it a top priority in order for it to start construction this year.
While the last council may have been known for its discord, this council under Wilhelm-Morden’s leadership has set a decidedly different tone.
So far politicians have passed all motions unanimously, and the mayor pointed out while they have not always followed administrations recommendations, there is a significant amount of work that goes into agenda items before they reach the public meetings.
“There is a strong dialogue between myself and the CAO about things that are coming up on the agenda,” she said, adding other councillors thoughts are taken into consideration as well. “When report gets to the council table there is a lot of communication that has gone on internally before it gets there.”