COMMENT: Rainbow crosswalk pitch should have been a home run

bob Covey, editor

Just when I thought Jasper wasn’t some regressive backwater,
living in isolation from the rest of the civilized world, the community shows its true colours.

Rainbow crosswalk debates. How is this a thing?

Let’s review, shall we? First, a local community organization, inspired by other cities’ and towns’ initiatives to bring a bit of fun and positivity to an otherwise boring streetscape, has a cool idea to install a rainbow-coloured crosswalk in our downtown. Much of the momentum is gained at Jasper Pride—you know, that festival where hundreds of people with thousands of dollars descend on Jasper during the otherwise sluggish shoulder season to remark on how beautiful, accepting and inclusive our community is?

Next, those same community leaders garner this goodwill to raise a bunch of money in a ridiculously short span of time so that the all-too-easy (and common) gripe of “not on my dime” is moot. That weak argument, after all, was a big reason why Valemount’s village council dumped all over a similar idea a year ago.

OK, so the money’s there, how about logistics? Covered! Those same forward thinkers who envisioned a crosswalk that stood for life (red), feeling (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony (blue) and spirit (purple) had more than one powwow with municipal staff to make sure this thing could actually fly. Paint types, style, design, whereabouts…it was all taken care of!

OK, now the tricky part: the politics. But look! We’ve flown the flag for the past five years! Councillors who raised the rainbow outside the firehall or posed for pics with the Minister of Such-and-Such are surely onboard with the message, right? OK maybe not Gib, but he’s kind of the John Wayne of Jasper council anyway; you know, looks good in a Stetson, tells a mean campfire story, can kick your ass in hockey and horseshoes but maybe don’t bring him to your cousin’s coming out party. Fine. At least he’s a straight shooter!

Only in the weirdest of worlds should the July 18 vote on the crosswalk have been anything but a 4-1 decision in favour of the project. Municipal staff couldn’t have teed it up any higher for council to knock out of the park: “Here’s our recommendation for support, we’ll take care of the details.” You know, so if  an “extremist group” approaches council with a request to install a crosswalk with “swastikas,” everyone will know what to do (hint: you say Get Lost!)

What a sad, boring day for municipal politics. The timing couldn’t be crummier, either, being as it is only a few months before nomination ballots are due for the 2017 municipal election. What does this exercise teach prospective nominees? That as soon as something half interesting comes up, you might get an email urging you to “back down, snowflake! Quit being such a SJW!” Apparently, the lesson for some councillors after four years is that we need a policy for everything. Is making policy really why people go into politics? I thought it was making a difference. How naive of me!

I should be walking on, not writing about, this crosswalk by now. Ironically, all the time wasted sending administrators on a fishing expedition to figure out how the geniuses in every other municipality could have possibly installed a colourful crosswalk without anyone dying could easily cost more than the cash OUTJasper raised. Heck, maybe they can raise another five grand again next Pride—that is, if the guests who normally visit aren’t too embarrassed and dismayed by Jasper’s lack of guts to come back.

Councillors, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you’ve supported this initiative since day one then not support it when the rubber meets the road. There’s a time to recognize what’s at stake by playing it safe.

And if you couldn’t see that on July 18, maybe it’ll become more clear on October 16.

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