EDITORIAL: Distracted by the pretty lights

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in Penticton, so why are they spending on pretty baubles?

The City of Penticton is facing some dire financial times, at least according to information contained in the city’s lawsuit to overturn the wage increases recently awarded to firefighters.

In documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court in October, the city’s argument states that “much of what the city has accomplished is threatened by its deteriorating financial health,” citing  financing of long-term debt as a major problem for the city along with operating costs ranging 10 to 95 per cent higher than peer municipalities. All that, according to the city, adds up to the firefighters’ wage increases being an exceptional burden for the city. The city is now appealing the arbitrator’s decision for them to pay $1.89 million to the firefighters — which has already been handed over to them.

It’s harder to understand why city council voted to add $125,000 to the budget for revitalizing the 100 block of Main Street. The increase will add coloured lights and the ability to make images with them to the $398,000 light canopy planned as part of the project. The light canopy is a luxury item. In terms of beautification, it is of limited use especially since it won’t be in operation when the street is open to traffic, which is the majority of the year. Adding coloured lights to it is an extravagance, which, according to the city’s own arguments, Penticton shouldn’t be able to afford.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in Penticton. Years of restraint has put many infrastructure repairs and improvements on the back burner.

Consider how Penticton’s firefighters must feel. The city is going to court, attacking the concept of paying them wages equivalent to how their peers are valued in other communities, at the same time as the city is willing to put out $523,000 for a light display.

It’s time for city council and staff to start getting their priorities right. Surely even politicians and bureaucrats can see that people who save lives and property should have a higher priority than pretty baubles.