Back in mid-June, I used this space to blast my elected officials in Coldstream.
I was upset with a policy the district had initiated that prevented rainbow crosswalks from taking hold. In their attempt to be non-partisan and equal to all, a decision was made that was extremely restrictive and prevented the community from taking a stand on inclusivity.
No sooner had that column hit the streets and things began to happen.
Teacher Kelly Winston took the matter to his social justice class at Kalamalka Secondary School and within minutes, students were writing letters and signing petitions calling on Coldstream to change the rules.
The culmination was Aasha Sanders, a new Kal grad, making a presentation to council July 25.
“It represents the freedom of expression, the freedom to be who you are and still be accepted and valued despite it,” said Sanders of a rainbow crosswalk.
Sanders was also clear that the rainbow colours aren’t just limited to LGBTQ.
“These crosswalks are for everyone. They are installed to show that this community is a supportive community.”
As someone sitting in chambers, I was concerned Sanders’ request would fall flat as staff initially wanted the policy maintained and some council members appeared reluctant.
However, after considerable debate, it was decided that staff should investigate a location for a rainbow and the cost.
Those details came before council’s committee of the whole meeting Monday and my ongoing hesitation that the issue would still dead-end were swept away.
Kalamalka Road, at Kal Beach, was selected.
“I like that it’s public and if tourists come to town, they can see right away that we’re an inclusive community,” said Sanders.
Like everything in life, there is a cost involved and a thermoplastic crosswalk (which lasts between three to five years) runs between $5,000 and $7,000. Yes that’s a lot of bucks, but how many tax dollars get wasted by all levels of government? Also, what price do we place on not just believing we are inclusive, but actually telling people that they are valued for who they are?
Residents also have the ability to provide a personal donation towards the crosswalk if they feel so inclined.
Will a rainbow crosswalk eliminate intolerance? Of course not. But if it helps one person feel good about themselves — whether it’s because of gender, orientation, race, disability or something else — then it’s worth it.
As a reporter of 26 years, I have become cynical about government and the ability to make change. But Coldstream council and staff have renewed my faith in the system. They were listening and took the community’s interests to heart.
My thanks also go to Winston, who has proven that teachers aren’t just about the three Rs. They help ignite the spark in our young people to ask questions, become informed and, occasionally, challenge the status quo. We all had a teacher like Winston.
But, first and foremost, I want to thank Sanders, for taking the lead on this issue and showing us old farts that we can learn from the younger generation.
She is intelligent, logical, passionate and compassionate. If all of our youth are like her, we are in great hands.