Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's in a Name?

Council has been worrying a lot about naming streets lately - far more than in the past.

Formerly, the list from which new street names were selected came from two sources: the Legion's Honour Roll (veterans who have passed away), and federal, provincial, and municipal government representatives. Citizens could also nominate individuals to be added to the list - one that I remember recently was John Hicks. However, the company that was developing a new area for housing was allowed to name the streets within the development. Since private developers have done most of this work in the past, the list of city names was rarely used, so now, with a private development, the developer can name a proportion of the streets, and the city can name the rest.

Once the list had been passed by council, council members had no more involvement. City staff would draw names from the eligible list, and the deed was done without there being any hint of favouritism.

There are plenty of names on the list, and it isn't getting any shorter. Sadly, every year more veterans pass away, and are added to the list. And of course, we never seem to run out of politicians either.

We had a system, and it worked. However, in the new year, the mayor established a new street naming committee, and appointed himself as chair, with Councillor Matheson and me on the committee. The purpose of this committee seemed to be to add names to the list from people who have been named Citizen of the Year or the Council of Women's Hall of Fame. The committee met twice; I was unable to attend one of the meetings (called at short notice) for medical reasons.

At the meeting I attended, I objected to this change for a couple of reasons - we already have a policy in place, with more names than can be used, and these people the mayor wished to add have already been honoured through their award. If we start adding these names, what's to stop the Sports Hall of Fame inductees being added, or other interest groups - I'm sure that you can think of various honoured individuals who would qualify.

When this was discussed at Executive Committee only the mayor and Councillor Matheson were in favour of adding four new names to the list. However, at the council meeting the following week, only Councillor Williams and I voted against this addition.

Now I understand there will be more committee meetings, to add more names from the Citizens of the Year and Women's Hall of Fame. At last night's council meeting, when the mayor chose to criticize my attendance record at these meetings (one out of two), I decided to resign from this committee, and did. I'm already on the JM Cuelenaere Board (meets monthly), Wapiti Regional Library Board (meets monthly), North Central Transportation Committee (meets monthly), Waste Management (meets monthly), Saskatoon Airport Authority (meets quarterly), provincial 911 committee (meets three times a year), and Housing Committee (hasn't met this year). I spend enough time at meetings where meaningful and respectful discussion about matters that affect the city goes on - I don't need to attend unnecessary meetings, particularly those where my input is not valued.

Naming city streets is not something that council members should be getting directly involved in - we have far more pressing matters to deal with. No one has ever called me complaining about a street name - they do call to complain about the poor state of city streets, about broken water mains, about increases in sanitation fees without a corresponding increase in service, and now, since tax notices are out, about the increase in city taxes, particularly the soccer centre levy. These are the matters on which council should be focusing its attention, because these things are our responsibility.

On another note, you may have heard that Councillor Williams and I are trying to help those who might otherwise not be able to take advantage of "free" week at the dump (because it's not really free, you know, everyone pays). We have a honking big truck, which we will load up with stuff from people's yards and houses, if they are unable to get out to the landfill themselves. And we're not limiting ourselves to residents of Wards 3 and 4, either. Just give me a call (922-5313), and we'll add you to the list.

"Action is the foundational key to success" - Pablo Picasso

1 comment:

Lorne said...

Way to go Lee and Shawn. I'll be submitting a cheers to you guys in the Herald for helping people get their stuff to the dump. If you're making another trip, there's seven items at City Hall I'd like to send with you.