NEWS Councillors on x-walk: yes but no

Councillors support a rainbow crosswalk, just not right now
Two councillors who say they’re fully in support of the proposed rainbow crosswalk are defending their decision to vote the recommendation down.
On July 18, councillors Rico Damota and Helen Kelleher-Empey opposed municipal staff’s recommendation to support the installation of a rainbow-coloured sidewalk in Jasper funded by OUTJasper, a local LGBTQ advocacy group. The difference between those councillors’ decisions and that of Councillor Gilbert Wall, who also opposed the motion, is that Damota and Kelleher-Empey say they are in favour of the concept in principle. Both, however, would prefer a municipal policy in place before they lend their support to the initiative.
“I’ve been behind this from day one,” Damota said in an interview. “I just want a policy that’s going to reflect the pure intentions of having this crosswalk.”
Damota said he had concerns about potential “extremist” groups wanting similar support from the town. He also says the suggested location—at the intersection of Connaught Drive and Miette Aventue—may not be safe. Finally, he said these things take time.
“I think it’s positive but things don’t happen overnight,” he said.
Kelleher-Empey, for her part, said she’d been away for the two meetings leading up to the July 18 council meeting, both of which addressed the rainbow crosswalk initiative. She also said she’d like to see a policy in place before supporting a social statement through a crosswalk.
“I’m all in favour of it as long as there’s a policy in place.”
Rainbow crosswalks are cropping up in towns and cities across Canada as a declaration of an inclusive, progressive community. Despite what their detractors say, they are not meant to be promoting a certain sexual preference or representing a particular lifestyle.
OUTJasper first approached the municipality’s operational department about the logistics of installing a crosswalk in the spring. Once staff researched costs, potential sites, design, materials and maintenance, the issue came to council, where a recommendation to install it was voted down, 3-2. Mayor Richard Ireland and Councillor Brian Nesbitt voted in favour.
Council did not direct staff to draft a policy for the crosswalk after the July 18 meeting; however, at the July 25 Committee of the Whole meeting, council discussed how a policy on social initiatives could be guided. Council also considered correspondence from the public for, and against, the installation of a rainbow crosswalk.
Jasper’s Mike Day wrote in favour of the initiative: “Why would we take a stance against a crosswalk that represents the values that our community embraces?”
Ginette Marcoux, on the other hand, suggested a rainbow crosswalk would “Disney-fy Jasper” and “show support for a group that represents less than three per cent of the population.”

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