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Does Whistler really need a post-Olympic community party?

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As Whistler's residents and VANOC bask in the afterglow of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler's Mayor, Ken Melamed announced plans for a $150,000 community wrap-up party for April or May to mark the achievement of hosting a successful Olympics.

I'll be the first to admit that Whistler hosted a great Olympic event, but do we really need another party?

On March 5, Vancouver 2010 and partners donated $300,000 to UNICEF to help rebuild Haiti and to serve as a lasting legacy of Canada's Games. Hopefully Whistler officials will follow VANOC's lead (never thought I would say that) and donate the funds to a more worthwhile cause or lasting community legacy.

Many residents have questioned the RMOW's use of funds as we enter the "leaner" years and homeowner's experience double-digit property tax increases.

WHISTLER'S POST-OLYMPIC PARTY

According to the RMOW's website, "The Post Olympic Party is a community-wide celebration that is included in the 2010 Winter Games budget, which is fully funded by hotel tax (and not taxpayer dollars). All direct 2010 Winter Games costs are paid from this budget. The Resort Municipality Transfer Tax (the full name of the hotel tax) is a tax on hotel bills, which is provided to us by the Province. The RMOW is directed by the Province to use these funds for tourist-related costs, and the costs paid by these taxes are not funded by property taxpayers."

Semantics aside, haven't Whistler residents enjoyed enough Olympic countdown cakes, mascots and free concerts to last a lifetime? During the Olympics, I counted at least 56 free concerts in the Village Square and Whistler Medals Plaza, with bands like Blue Rodeo, Feist, Barenaked Ladies and Usher. Even more free concerts are planned for the Paralympics.

I fail to grasp how a community party funded using BC's hotel tax will help offset "tourist-related costs." Wouldn't that money be better spent on an advertising campaign to attract more tourists?

Regardless of where the money is coming from, surely it can be spent on better things than another sponge cake or free concert?

I'm sure most residents would be fine if the party was cancelled and the $150,000 was used to pay off our growing debt (despite the mayor's assurances of a slight surplus from the games). As a community, why don't we donate the money to the local women's shelter, buy new library books, invest in more bike lanes or purchase new equipment for the Whistler Medical Clinic? Why not save the money for a rainy day?

WHISTLER'S PARTIES CONTINUE

For those still feeling the effects of the Olympic hangover, the party continues as Whistler plays host to WinterPRIDE from March 1 to 8 and the Paralympics from March 12 to 21. Let's not forget Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras.

If that's not enough partying for you, Whistler hosts the annual 10-day Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival from April 16 to 25. Its Telus Outdoor Concert Series "the mother of all winter wrap-up parties" will bring us another 10 days of free concerts and other cultural events.

TIME TO PAY THE OLYMPIC BILLS

The party is over and it's time for our "prorogued" municipal officials to get back to work and start paying off the $6 billion worth of Olympic bills. After all, someone has to pay for those free drinks, Olympic pins, concerts, cakes, trips to Ottawa and Athens, resident handbooks, Arc-teryx jackets and men's gold medal hockey tickets.

Perhaps the real goal of the community party is to divert residents' attention from the "true" costs of the Olympic games and upcoming cuts to social programs and cultural programs.

 

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