Monday, April 21, 2008
Calling the Damage control department at city hall!
“People coming from large communities see empty lots and empty storefronts, and those are warning signs they’ve wandered into a bad neighbourhood,” --Mayor Herb Pond trying to explain the thinking behind the recently purchase commercial banners for the downtown area.
“It was an arrogant move on the part of upper city management, and none of the councillors were aware of this move,” --Civic Pride Chair Barry Foxall, explaining how the civic group felt when advised that locally produced children's banners would be shuffled off to other areas of the city.
Well, that’s it, the people are angry!
Finally stirred to action not over yet another potential increase to taxes, or a miscounted five million dollars, not with the accelerating cost of a dock repair, or the seemingly weekly increase in vandalism, but rather they are apparently taking to the verbal barricades over cloth banners on a street light pole.
In what may be the most unusual controversy around here in a while, the Mayor and city staff are all in a bit of hot water with Civic Pride, the local organization dedicated to the task of improving the city’s esthetics.
After an few frustrating days with our municipal leaders, the volunteer group was painting the picture of an Imperial mayoralty, one where the Mayor and upper managers run roughshod over the little people.
Monday’s Daily News provides some background on the controversy from members of the Civic Group, many of which made sure that everyone was aware who they held responsible for the Banner mess.
In an unusual approach, the Mayor in Monday’s paper explained that the city banners were designed to compliment the tourist maps handed out and reassure visitors should they wander into an area of empty stores, empty lots and such that it wasn’t a bad area. It was a comment that stirs up memories of the last time that the Mayor and council got into trouble over tourism, interestingly enough about maps, you can refresh your memories on that one here and here.
The Daily News continued to poke the hornets nest introduced to the front page on Friday, with part two of the great banner debate, which finds the city on the receiving end of some sharp jabs from those that are feeling pushed aside by the wheels of municipal government.
A word to the wise for Mayor Pond (and any councilors that may unfortunately get tied up to this initiative), it’s never a good thing when the people that do the voting use the word “arrogant”, once handed that scarlet A, it’s hard to put it away by voting day.
A protest is planned for Tuesday at 4 pm at City Hall to express dissatisfaction with the actions of upper management at the City. It could be a worrisome thing for the Mayor and his bureaucrats, if folks will march on City Hall for a banner, you have to wonder how long before they may march for a few of the other issues that seem to be annoying the locals these days.
The continuing revelations of “Bannergate” were found as the Front Page story of Monday’s Daily news.
CIVIC PRIDE SLAMS 'ARROGANT' CITY FOR LACK OF CONSULTATION
Volunteers fuming for being kept out of banner decision
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, April 21, 2008
Pages one and three
The City of Prince Rupert has moved ahead with a banner project of its own, much to the dismay of the Prince Rupert Civic Pride Committee and the School District Arts and Culture Committee who say they were blindsided by the change in plans.
Both groups are upset they weren't told sooner of a change that they say calls for commercially designed banners to be hung downtown, pushing volunteer-made banners to McBride Street and George Hills Way.
Civic Pride Chair Barry Foxall and Secretary Treasurer Charlotte Rowse claim plans for this year's crop of homegrown banners were set in motion back in November 2007 at a cost of $4,000, yet they only found out last week after holding a meeting with Mayor Herb Pond that the city had commissioned the other banners.
“It was an arrogant move on the part of upper city management, and none of the councillors were aware of this move,” said FoXall. “We phoned (councillors) and they told us they knew nothing about it, and the Port Authority phoned us in support of Civic Pride, wanting us to continue the good work that we were doing.”
The banner project was an initiative that Civic Pride undertook back in 2003 after getting groups together including School District 52, Prince Rupert Grain, and the Port Authority.
Students and other volunteers who made banners expecting them to hang in the downtown core expressed their disappointment in the Daily News on Friday. Many plan to make their feelings known at a demonstration outside city hall at 4 p. m. on Tuesday.
Foxall and Rowse said it was an expensive program, since each banner’s holding bracket cost $207 in addition to the time and effort put in by the artists.
At the November 2007 meeting it was decided that, to appease the city, in an effort to direct visitors to different areas of town, the bottom of each locally designed banner would include colour coding corresponding to the district in which it was hung.
“In January they decided to move forward with their initiative, and they should have come to us at that point and told us what they were looking to do” said Foxall. “We could have stopped making banners at that time, saved $4,000 and move on to another project.”
“We’re quite good at those things, that’s what we do,” said Foxall. “Several business owners have come to me to ask if we could do murals on the side of their buildings.”
Mayor Pond said that last week’s meeting was the first time he had met with Civic Pride members since they were angry after hearing about the city’s plan from an unknown source. Pond said there was never an agreement or commitment from the city to place banners in any specific locations, a detail he thinks is very minor in terms of the overall plan.
“We said all along that we would love to have more banners throughout the community, to beautify the city, honour the artwork of our kids, and help visitors navigate and feel safe exploring the downtown core,” said Pond. “Those are three objectives we always wanted to do, we never had the money to do it. So we were certainly always thankful to have the support from Civic Pride to get at least a part of that done. In January, we determined there were some grants that we could get that would allow us to take that next step and do all we wanted to do, and that’s all we’ve done.”
The new banners that the City of Prince Rupert and Tourism Prince Rupert have purchased are three distinct designs and colours that represent three zones that colour-coordinate with the maps given to tourists. Pond said what it is really about is getting the tourists past all the empty storefronts and lots so they realize there is still more to the city that is worth exploring, instead of turning around and heading back to their hotel or cruise ship before reaching Fifth, Sixth or Seventh Streets and beyond.
“People coming from large communities see empty lots and empty storefronts, and those are warning signs they’ve wandered into a bad neighbourhood,” said Pond. “So we’ve created this series of banners, and we don’t know if it’s going to work. But it’s always been a goal to try having a unified identified, standard of banners so when they’re passing some industrial buildings, empty lots or whatever, they know that they’re still in the right zone and they haven’t wandered where they shouldn’t”
Pond feels the banners created by those dedicated artists are clearly a magnificent accomplishment and an asset to the community, and he hopes that wherever they are located, they will be seen and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
Civic Pride members are disappointed with the move, and say that although the bottom line should be to get the kids banners up somewhere in Prince Rupert it is unfortunate none of the other stakeholders devoting time and money to the project were informed of the decision.
“I don’t want these kids to give up on Civic Pride,” said Foxall.
“We really feel railroaded by the same people we were trying to help out and save money.”