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No middle class in ski town stories

Allen Best

WHISTLER, B.C. Twenty-nine municipal employees in Whistler represented by a union have been getting considerable attention. Wages are not the issue, but the benefits package and a $4,000 bonus for the high cost of living in Whistler are.Union representatives estimate that living in Whistler, primarily because of housing, costs about 30 percent more than in Vancouver. Of the employees in question, about half commute in order to get more housing for their money. And instead of paying a cost-of-living bonus, the city officials want to provide recreational benefits and deliver more employee housing.Pique newsmagazine’s editor, Bob Barnett, was indignant at the major coverage of the negotiations. The story, he groused, was a non-story – except that it was in Whistler. And because it was in Whistler, the story presented by the national media was of a place where “you are either a frivolous millionaire or one of 10 people sharing a converted sauna as a bedroom.”Banff studies Whistler parkingBANFF, Alberta After a visit to Whistler, officials in Banff are thinking harder about charging for parking. The key, said Mayor John Stutz, is that Banff would have to provide more public transportation as well as free parking in outlying areas. And the story from Whistler is of success. “Main Street used to be free to park, but people would park there all day, and it as so jammed with people trying to find paring it would cause traffic flow problems,” Whistler’s Sandra Smyth, a municipal employee, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Free parking, and lots of it, still exists, but in outlying areas. The town collects nearly $500,000 annually in revenue.Similar to Whistler, Aspen 10 years ago adopted paid parking as a way of freeing up spaces, using the booty to finance improved bus service. Even bitter opponents now concede the idea was a good one, even if somewhat unpleasant.In contrast to Whistler and Aspen, the primary motivation for paid parking in Banff is to make money. As such, the idea would seem to require a strong sales effort. Five years ago town voters go rejected paid parking by a four-to-one margin. Vail, Colorado


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