Over the past number of weeks, I have acted as one of the spokespeople for Friends of Mount Sima. While this group takes a few days to re-group, I want to make a few comments in a personal capacity based upon my experience with city council.
First, wind the clock back to June 2013. Council said a community plan was required for Sima. They encouraged the community to continue working on ideas to support the hill’s continuity and encouraged prompt action in this regard.
Wind the clock forward to Sept. 9. Friends presented to council the results of its work and made a request for $200,000, one-fifth of the operating budget. We told them about how hundreds of residents mobilized to open the hill this winter, made commitments to purchase over 700 passes and raised about $85,000 in donations and sponsorships. A new group agreed to sit as board of a new society. The budget restructured to reduce the scale of operations.
Most councillors acknowledged our prompt action, but remained unconvinced. No money in the bank, will the pledges will be realized, you are not a society … you should take a year off … we will have to raise property taxes.
We responded – took action to incorporate, re-directed support offered by the Yukon government, obtained the support of Snowboard Yukon, Freestyle Yukon and Alpine Ski Association Yukon, which reduced our request to $72,438. That’s just above the low-ball estimate to mothball the hill. We suggested that no payment come from the city until we had over half of the money from the pledges for passes in the bank. We simply wanted their pledge for $72,438. If we didn’t deliver, no payment required.
Council’s response? A new set of questions. No bank account, what about WildPlay, what about the policies for the hill – have you reviewed these? Why should we trust you to deliver?
How are you different than those other guys?
I heard several councillors say they want the hill to succeed. What does this mean? Volunteers took up the challenge issued by council, responded to every request, identified solutions. Council made no effort to forge a partnership, propose any solutions. Our request to have council direct administration to work with us on a long-term strategy with our other partners was left on the floor – disregarded and dismissed.
I expect more from my elected officials. And whether you think Mount Sima should be open this winter or any winter really isn’t the issue. The issue is how council works with its constituency.
Long before Friends of Mount Sima crystallized as a group, I appeared at council and told them that I found their process to be impenetrable. My experience over the past four months has done nothing but confirm my views and add to them. Council has a social contract with residents. It has an obligation to work with us, not in a patronizing manner with an ever-changing list of expectations and demands, but in a clear, honest, open and forthright manner. Regardless of what happens with Sima, I urge council to consider how this process unfolded and to give some thought as to how it can honour and forge a new working relationship with residents.