BEYOND THE HEADLINES: The best of intentions

Columnist Richard Rolke touches on Greater Vernon's cultural debate

When pursuing political assistance, never give them an out.

But unfortunately that’s what occurred a couple of weeks ago when the Greater Vernon Museum suggested it may be willing to temporarily shelve plans for an expanded facility.

“The art gallery has more pressing immediate needs,” said Rob Tupper, museum president.

Now it should be pointed out that Tupper’s comments were based on the cost of a new museum and gallery swelling from $17 to $35 million. He was trying to be proactive in acknowledging the persistent financial concerns of elected officials and taxpayers.

I suspect there was also an element of chivalry involved as the very same day that both groups were before the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, a street pipe broke and water and mud gushed into the gallery, causing significant damage.

But what’s become abundantly clear is some politicians were not paying attention.

No sooner was the meeting done and directors were convinced the museum was completely off the table.

It was left to the media to explain to them that, in fact, the museum had only proposed a deferral as a result of the overall price tag and a desire to ensure that some aspect of culture proceed instead of it all hitting a roadblock.

The reality, based on a follow-up discussion with Tupper, is that the museum very much wants to be on the radar during 2014, and to proceed to referendum with its art gallery partner.

And that is very likely given the direction taken by GVAC itself.

Staff has been directed to review every aspect of the cultural amenities, from facility size to the community’s ability to cover debt servicing, in an attempt to whittle down the cost to a more palatable level.

Depending on what the process determines, the scope of the projects could be scaled back to the point that a borrowing referendum can proceed.

But for that to occur, hopefully Greater Vernon politicians are clear that the museum and art gallery haven’t abandoned each other.

Both groups deserve praise for taking a team approach when it comes to planning and, ideally, they see the benefits of presenting a common front.

Now no one should fault Tupper. He was correct to be sensitive about the financial pressures facing GVAC directors and the willingness of residents to embrace such a potential expense.

But, unfortunately, his good intentions could either be misinterpreted by the politicians or provide them with a much-needed loophole as they try to present themselves as strong fiscal managers before November’s civic election.