BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Spotlight on Vernon’s mayor

When asked for his thoughts on a rainbow crosswalk downtown, Akbal Mund wouldn’t give a direct answer.

Richard Rolke is a columnist for The Morning Star.

Richard Rolke is a columnist for The Morning Star.

Vernon’s mayor finds himself in a challenging spot.

When asked for his thoughts on a proposed rainbow crosswalk downtown, Akbal Mund wouldn’t give a direct answer.

“One of the discussion points is who pays for it?” he said, adding that a rainbow crosswalk could also establish a precedent.

“What other groups will want their symbolism on city structures?”

Travis Irmen, who has suggested the crosswalk at 31st Street and 30th Avenue, has been abundantly clear that the eight colours aren’t exclusively related to LGBTQ.

“It’s a diverse symbol,” he said.

And consider the meaning behind the eight colours:

Pink – sexuality

Red – respect for all life

Orange – healing journeys

Yellow – sunshine

Green – the environment

Turquoise – arts and culture

Blue – peace

Violet – spirituality

They are all pretty innocuous, and before you get too fixated on pink/sexuality, my interpretation is that could cover everything from gender (male/female) to sexual orientation.

Most of council appears to understand what Irmen is trying to achieve.

“It’s all about awareness and promotes a lot of good things. It’s not a singular issue icon,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

So when Mund questions, “what other groups will want their symbolism on city structures,” he bypasses the point that the rainbow crosswalk sought by Irmen isn’t just about sexual orientation. It’s about  sending a message to everyone that they are a valued member of the community no matter their background.

But even if orientation was the primary focus, it’s very simplistic to describe LGBTQ as just a group. It gives the impression that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and queers are some how different. In fact, like heterosexuals, LGBTQ residents are active in all facets of our society — workplaces, charities, schools, families and churches. They are not just a group.

Now of course Mund also raised the issue of who should pay for the rainbow crosswalk. It would be interesting to know if that same question has been asked when a resident lobbies for a traditional white crosswalk in their neighbourhood?

Crosswalks are part of basic infrastructure that residents expect local government to provide and the colour of the paint is absolutely irrelevant.

By raising the cost factor, there’s a suggestion, once again, that LGBTQ issues are somehow separate from the overall community.

As for precedent, the city pumped money into two murals specifically identifying our First Nations and multicultural heritage, largely to promote tolerance and understanding. How is the rainbow crosswalk different?

Now I have known Mund for many years and I know him to be an inclusive and caring individual, who actively supports those living around him.

But unfortunately, his public statements about a rainbow crosswalk have clouded Irmen’s request and placed negative focus on the city.

It will be interesting to see what council’s next step is.