How to create an image problem
For a town that has invested so much energy and money into trying to reinvent its image in recent months, some might say the Carbonear town council is one vote away from throwing it all away.
Members of council are now grappling with a proposed new policy for lesson registration at the swimming pool that would move Carbonear residents to the front of the line. Here’s why: Carbonear taxpayers subsidize the pool to the tune of some $150,000 annually, and some Carbonear residents have complained to their elected officials that they have been unable to enrol their children in time slots that are convenient for their work schedules, or, in some cases, have been turned away altogether because all the slots have been filled.
Up to now, pool staff have used a four-day rotating alphabetical system that ensures all users — regardless of their place of residence — have a fair and equal opportunity to line up at the pool and register. In other words, a child whose last name starts with the letter “A” may get to register on Day 1 for the fall session, but would be bumped back to Day 4 for the winter session.
The system has received its share of complaints, but up to now, many have regarded it as the most unprejudiced way of doing things.
That could all change in January if a majority of councillors vote in favour of a system that would allow Carbonear residents to register on Day 1, and non-residents to register on Day 2, 3 and 4. It would be similar to a system used in St. John’s, where city residents can register in recreation programs the first week, and non-residents are eligible in Week 2.
The two-tiered system is generating plenty of debate, with Mayor Sam Slade describing it as one of the toughest decisions ever faced by council, and he refused to give his opinion on the matter when contacted last week. Some non-resident pool users haven’t been so reluctant, however, and have made it clear they feel the policy is discriminatory and have threatened to boycott the pool, businesses and other Carbonear services if it is adopted.
This reaction from non-residents is hardly surprising. Who wants to be moved to the back of the line simply because they live in a neighbouring community? Just the notion of it flies in the face of everything we teach our children.
To put it bluntly, it’s objectionable. It would likely cause enormous harm to Carbonear’s self-proclaimed title as “Hub of the Bay,” and would send a message to non-residents who recreate, shop and work in Carbonear that they are not appreciated. That’s not helpful in an age when many leaders, including those in Carbonear, are preaching regional co-operation at every opportunity.
If anything, council members should consider this pool subsidy an investment. The pool attracts people from throughout the region for swimming lessons, birthday parties, fitness programs and more, bringing them all closer to the many businesses that operate in Carbonear. The pool is also a major selling point as Carbonear seeks to attract new residents and commercial investment.
It’s understandable that municipal leaders in Carbonear want to protect the interests of their constituents, but at what cost? And using St. John’s as a model is hardly fair, given that Carbonear has the only yearround aquatic centre in the Trinity-Conception region.
To implement a Carbonear-first policy at the pool would be a step in the wrong direction, and would put up the kind of walls people have been trying to dismantle for many years. There’s got to be a better way.
— Terry Roberts