In case you missed the amateur hour that was Saskatoon City Council, you missed the passionate debate over whether or not Mayor Donald Atchison should be able to name streets, parks, and bridges. Here is what Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Clark had to say about it in his email newsletter.
City Council will receive a report with a few minor amendments suggested to the Naming Process. Recent debates have raised the prospect of a more significant amendment to the process. I would like the process to be changed so that the actual designation of names to parks and streets is not done solely by the Mayor. Saskatoon is the only City in Canada that grants this power to the Mayor alone, and I believe it is time to change this.
For me the issue is not out of concern with any specific names that have been applied in the City. There are two main reasons.
First having a single elected official hold naming power opens the process up to political influence, rewarding friends or campaign donors. This is not about Mayor Atchison specifically, but a question of good governance and creating policies that mitigate this potential.
Secondly – there have been hundreds of names applied in recent years to streets and parks in the City, as we add on new neighbourhoods. These names form the identity of our neighbourhoods and the City as a whole. The responsibility for establishing this story for our community should not be the purview of one individual. Ideally this is the kind of work that would have the input of people with historical knowledge and understanding of our community from several perspectives – to help ensure that as we make our mark on these communities with names that they capture a breadth of the history and identity of the City.
There is a tremendous opportunity to develop a thoughtful process to ensure that these streets and parks capture the essence of who we are as a community and where we came from. Right now the process relies on the public or property developers to bring forward names, a Committee made up of politicians and City staff determines whether a name can go on the “Names Master List” and then the Mayor picks the ones he wants to use.
I think it makes sense to have a committee that has a mixture of elected people and the public on it to be part of the approval and application of names. I also think that it would be worthwhile to engage our City Archivist and other historians to look at our Names Master List and identify which communities are being missed and a way to ensure that these get represented.
Yes you read it right, Clark used the term, “tremendous opportunity” to describing a process that involved naming street names. I don’t know what to say either except that its probable that Clark gets excited over governance things that I do not.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with this is irrelevant. In my opinion it is a shame that we don’t have streets that honour Henry Dayday, Roy Romanow, Lorne Calvert, and even Grant Devine. Heck I am all for an entire neighbourhood that uses names of former premiers. (austere houses are on Romanow Avenue while over mortgaged houses are on Devine Lane)
What does surprise me is that if council wanted to move on this, they should have done one thing really well. They needed to have counted the votes for and against before the council meeting started and they never did that. If they did do that and someone changed their mind (which it sounds like happened), that is politics but somewhere along the way, you need to know that stuff or you look like idiots. So after some attacked and defended the mayor and in many ways made it personal, it was time to vote which was a five-five tie so the motion failed, the status quo continues and you look really small minded and petty. Oh right, you have also just attacked the mayor (or one of the few perks the mayor has) and now you are left with nothing to show for it. Well except with an even more divided city council.
Of all of the issues facing the city, fighting over who gets to name streets isn’t high on my list of things that need to be done.