BEYOND THE HEADLINES: The name game

Readers may have noticed that after 23 years of publication, The Morning Star has abandoned the term North Okanagan Regional District. It has been replaced by the Regional District of the North Okanagan.

The explanation is that in an effort to reduce potential public confusion, The Morning Star will use the same name that the regional district uses in its advertising.

Some may believe that the regional district has changed its name but it hasn’t. Under letters patent (it’s like a birth certificate), Regional District of the North Okanagan has always been the legal name since the agency started in 1965. The specific origins of NORD are unknown but it goes back at least 40 years.

“I came to the District of Coldstream in 1970 and it was being called NORD then,” said Peter Mackiewich, who was regional district administrator from 1973 to 1997.

“The letters patent doesn’t stop you from using either one (NORD or RDNO).”

Neil Davidson, who was Vernon’s mayor in the 1980s, promoted valley-wide abbreviations: NORD (North Okanagan), CORD (Central Okanagan) and SORD (South Okanagan).

As the public latched on to NORD, Mackiewich says the district promoted the name, including in advertising.

“We absolutely used NORD. Nobody I ever worked with had a problem with it,” he said.

There’s never been an official explanation as to why a name the regional district encouraged residents to use for years has now taken a backseat.

It should be pointed out that The Morning Star has never received an official request from the regional district board or senior administration to switch to RDNO. The trigger appears to date back to the last couple of years when some mid-level staff asked the paper to use RDNO in articles. Once again, they have never indicated why they are apparently troubled by NORD.

If you attend board meetings, you will hear most individual directors refer to the organization as NORD. Are these elected officials wrong or just reflecting the language used by their constituents?

As the regional district reporter for almost 18 years, I have discussed the name with senior administrators and board chairpersons, and it’s been a non-issue. They recognized that NORD had become part of the common lexicon. It flows off the tongue a lot easier than RDNO and after four decades, people know exactly what NORD means when they hear or read it.

Both local radio stations still refer to NORD while the only media that generally uses  RDNO are Internet services.

If an official name were the basis for everything, we’d all say the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre instead of the simplified Performing Arts Centre. The City of Vernon should be shelved for the Corporation of the City of Vernon.

Many of us have one name on our birth certificate but opt for another in our day-to-day lives.

At a time when respect for government is difficult to find, jurisdictions at all levels should be doing everything possible to be more approachable.

If residents are comfortable using NORD and the term reinforces awareness about the agency, then a decades-old tradition should be accepted. Instead, a small group of bureaucrats are pursuing a different direction and that can only lead to confusion and cynicism among the public.

One also has to wonder if there are not more pressing matters on the regional district agenda.

—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star