How to cre­ate an im­age prob­lem

The Compass - - OPINION -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.