Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dodi Morrison: Action needed

The following appeared in the August 05, 2008, edition of the Western News:

Probably generations younger than mine will not know the name Anna Russell. She was an English singer and humourist who delighted in poking fun at all pompous institutions. One of her most hilarious renditions was a take-off of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. (It really is a funny story.) At one point one of the characters does something he immediately regrets.

“And then, of course,” says Anna, “he’s sorry; (so like a man),” she adds. And that reminded me of a downcast article I read in a Calgary paper last year. The city council was grovelling over the fact that it had torn down a 90-year-old school — against strong community opposition. The backlash was such that they had quickly proposed a moratorium on tearing down older buildings — well, buildings older than 25 years, in fact — without public consultation. A bit extreme, you say? Well, having huge community opposition is quite uncomfortable.

Two people told me recently the province had offered to build affordable housing if the city would donate the land, and was refused. I gave their remarks little credit, until a third person, certainly in a position to know, told me the same thing. Yet they gave away land and money for a concert hall. I love classical music, dance etc. — but I long more for a way to keep young families and much-needed service persons in Penticton. And I am truly worried about the obesity I see so commonly, especially among the very young. Are these not legitimate concerns?

Everywhere we are hearing, “Don’t give up.” All very well — but a few shoulders have carried this load for all of you.

Take action.

Ron Barillaro: Stand up and be counted

The following appeared in the August 05, 2008 edition of the Western News:

The Okanagan Skaha school board must be very satisfied with themselves, now that the courts have upheld their decision to demolish the gym and auditorium at Penticton Secondary School.

Once again, the concept of might makes right comes to the fore. The problem I have with this is: how can anyone who was elected on, and purports to believe in, democratic principles, in clear conscience, even entertain such an attitude?

If the contract has been let and the ultimate end is near, what would happen if a challenge to the court decision were made and the destruction had already started? I shudder to think. Would, or for that matter could, restoration be made? Scary thoughts, don’t you think.

It may seem too late for salvation. That is, only if you believe it is. If you are a “preservationist keener,” get off your duff and make your sentiment known. Flood the school board office with calls. Light up the switchboard. Get focus groups and protest at the board office. Make you sentiment known.

Don’t just sit in the wings and complain while taking no action to rectify things. Urge the protest group to appeal the decision of the judge. Be proactive and, if need be, reactive. Don’t just stand there, do something if you’re a believer in cultural values and history. I, for one, have no interest in city fathers pursuing a white elephant arts and entertainment centre that we can ill afford, irrespective of the far-fetched promises our elected pundits seem to make saying that it will be funded by governments and casino funds and corporate sponsors.

I wish to inform the city fathers that not everyone just fell off of the turnip truck.

The far-reaching consequences will be felt by our kids, and our kids’ kids for our illustrious events centre. True, it will be here long after your terms have ended, for the most part. You can always look back and say, as new administrations bring in policy, we’re not responsible for that. That’s what new administrations can say about your faux pas.

From my perspective, I see two choices for us as concerned taxpayers. The first is to bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and pretend that whatever happens won’t really affect our daily lives now or in the future. The second is that we can stand and be counted by supporting a call for an appeal and hopefully achieve the desired result of preservation or a re-think on the board’s part. After all, it is our tax dollars that they are playing this game with.

Bottom line is this — if you are content to sit on the fence, the fence will fall. If you are prepared to bolster the fence, it will stand. Stand and be counted if you believe in the school preservation. Do it now, whatever you can. I am.