An Armchair Mayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger
THERE’S A difference between setting a precedent and making a one-time exception. And for just about every rule, there’s at least one exception.
One of the City’s rules is that flying other people’s flags in front of City Hall is reserved for visiting delegations. It’s not a bad rule; back in the day, any group that asked was allowed to have its flag flown on the City flagpole. There would be a little ceremony on the front steps with a few representatives, and the mayor — or a councillor, depending on who was available — would ceremonially tug at the lanyard and up the flag would go for a day or a week.
The media would sometimes attend and snap a photo for the community page. It got to be a bit much, with all the worthy events and flag requests.
But council could have made an exception for the upcoming Pride Parade, which will march through downtown next month, and it would have looked good on them. After several successful marches through the TRU campus in the past, this is the first year the city’s LGBTQ community will parade downtown.
The parade will pass by City Hall, and it would be nice to have the Pride flag flying at City Hall as it goes by. But when the application came up for discussion in council chambers, most of the councillors couldn’t bring themselves to make an exception.
They reasoned that if they said yes to one such request, they would have to say yes to all. That’s not at all the case. Council has the prerogative to make one-time exceptions, which is what a few of the councillors wanted to do. Allowing a flag to be flown for a first-ever event is a legitimate thing to do, and council can reserve the right not to treat it as precedent setting.
One councilor pointed out, all groups have the opportunity to fly banners across Victoria Street, but moving the Pride Parade downtown is a significant milestone that deserves a little more attention.
Council did go along with forgiving permit fees based on the one-time principle, and it could have done likewise for the flag. A lot of communities do it.
Rules are set to provide guidance but, once in a while, it’s OK to bend them.