An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE’S A LESSON to be learned about naming public structures after people — don’t, unless you make sure the public is onside.
The new 55-unit transitional housing facility on Mission Flats Road was named Osborne House for all of a couple of weeks. It was named after the late Donnie Osborne, a homeless man.
Seemed like a good idea. Henry Leland House in downtown Kamloops, which used to be an apartment block, was named after a homeless man who froze to death.
But it turned out Osborne, who died two years ago, had a criminal past. Late in life he changed his ways, but naming the housing facility after him was a little too much for some people.
So, rather than get bogged down in a controversy, ASK Wellness dropped Osborn House and went with the new name of Mission Flats Manor.
Nobody can argue with a name as mundane as that.
Public opinion can sometimes override the best of intentions.
Some years ago, Kamloops City council wanted to change the name of Overlanders Bridge to Flyin’ Phil Gaglardi Bridge in honour of the man who got it built.
The public had other ideas, and after an intense letter-writing campaign, the decision was reversed.
There are exceptions, of course. Kenna Cartwright Park is one of them. That, too, was a unilateral decision by City council, but nobody argued with it so the name stuck.
New schools used to be named after school trustees and educators — Stuart Wood School, R.L. Clemitson Elementary, and so on — but that practice eventually drew concern as well, and new schools are now named after their geographical locations.
Nobody can argue with naming a school after Westsyde or Aberdeen, for example. Nor with a name like Rivers Trail or Sagebrush Theatre. Well, OK, maybe with Sagebrush Theatre.
Pretty much everyone who ever lived did something that’s reason enough not to name a facility after them.
So, it’s safer to name things after subdivisions than it is after people — lest we offend somebody.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.