Napanee Pride expresses concern over Council’s banner policy

Greater Napanee Town Hall on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, before the public meeting of the Town Council commenced just after 7 p.m. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Despite a deputation objecting to the move, The Council of the Town of Greater Napanee voted to impose a more than $450 charge on any individual or group who applies to have banners displayed in the downtown core.

The decision was part of an update on amendments to the Town’s Flag and Proclamation Policies.

At their January 30, 2024 meeting, Council received a report regarding proposed changes to the Town’s policies around flag raising and lowering, proclamations, and associated activities. At the time, Councillors gave feedback that focused on the display of banners on town light posts. 

Council members requested greater specificity around the dates when banners would be changed over, and detailed costing for the staff time and equipment to change banners over at all locations where the Town performs this service. Some members expressed that they believed the Town should not incur large costs for celebrating community events outside specific limited exemptions as defined within a Council-approved policy.

At the February 13, 2024, meeting, Council received an update, and most members supported allowing community organizations to request banners at multiple locations, including Dundas Street, with a “cost-recovery service fee” to be applied. The updated policy was then scheduled to come back to Council for final approval at their Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, meeting.

However, Greater Napanee Pride has expressed concern because, to date, it is the only non-profit organization in town to have erected banners throughout the downtown core. In a deputation on behalf of the local Pride organization at the February 27 meeting, Treasurer Tiffany Lloyd explained the group’s concerns.

Lloyd began by pointing out that the Town’s staff report clearly recognizes the benefits to the town of special events like Pride celebrations.

“It highlights [the role of the banners and other public art displays] in fostering a sense of belonging, ownership, and civic pride… [aligning] very closely with the Town’s ‘Strategic Priorities,’ [which] champion the importance of participation in civic celebrations as a foundation of a healthy and engaged community,” she said.

Lloyd continued and pointed out that “many of the Town’s civic celebrations are organized and run by community groups/non-profits… volunteers dedicated to making this town a better place to live” and said that imposing additional taxes, fees, restrictive zones, and time limits “contradicts the very objectives of our Town’s strategic plan and the communal ethos we’ve worked so hard to build.”

Greater Napanee Pride has hosted numerous events in town, including drag shows, debates, open-mic nights, dances, an education summit, games nights, and baseball games, which have provided safe spaces and contributed to a vibrant community life — yet, Lloyd noted, every time Pride uses a Town facility, the group is charged.

“Napanee Pride is funded by donations from individuals and organizations that think they are helping to support Napanee Pride when, in fact, thousands of dollars from these donations are being handed over to the Town for services that the taxpayers are already funding through various taxes, user fees, and special levies,” she asserted. 

Lloyd called the $450 fee “at best, subjective” and noting that, “it is estimated by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport through [its Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model] that Greater Napanee Pride brought in around $100,000 in local spending last year.” 

Most notably, she added, “Napanee Pride is one of the few community-driven initiatives whose prime objectives are visibility and education,” so making it more difficult to hang banners on Dundas Street would be preventing “a vital part of our message that everyone is welcome here.”

“By restricting them, we not only diminish the visual impact of our parade, but also send a discouraging message to those who look to these events as a beacon of acceptance and support in their personal journeys,” Lloyd argued.

Another concern was the implementation of a 30-day limit on “art installations.” Lloyd voiced Pride’s concerns that installing and removing the professionally painted crosswalk would double their costs. Greater Napanee Pride pays all the costs associated with the crosswalk, and it would be about $5,000 to install it, leave it for 30 days, and then clean or paint over it.

However, Town Clerk Jessica Walters later clarified that her wording on the “art installation” part of the policy was not intended to include the crosswalk, as that was “more of a permanent installation.”

After Lloyd’s deputation, Council discussed the matter among themselves. Councillor Bob Norrie pointed out that Town staff already install banners on Dundas Street at six other times of the year.

“I have zero doubt about what Miss Lloyd said about the $100,000,” Norrie said. “If an organization that is well known around the world is bringing that kind of tourism business in, I don’t see why we can’t include them… We’re looking for money for our small businesses. If they bring in upwards of $100,000 for that month, I don’t have a problem with our staff putting [the banners] up. Staff can do it six other times without an issue on Dundas Street. Why not seven?” he said.

Councillor Mike Schenk followed with, “Everybody has to be treated equally.” He compared the Dundas Street banners with “kids coming into town to play hockey … You know what the rent or fee is, right? There is a lot of organizations; all I’m saying is you treat them all equally… So I’m in favour of [the policy]… Because if you’re bringing in $100,000, you’re gonna argue about $459?”

Norrie interjected to explain that, no, in fact, Pride makes no money from its activities, as it is a not-for-profit, and that the $100,000 it creates through its activities goes into the pockets of Town business owners.

It is unclear why councillors kept referring to the banner fee as being $450 or $459 for banners displayed in the downtown core. As per the report before Council for approval, that fee is to be set at $460.

Continuing the debate, Councillor Bill Martin said, “I just want to make sure that all the groups are being treated the same… but everybody doesn’t put banners downtown, either. So I don’t know if we can distinguish that somehow… I’m kind of at a loss.”

Councillor Angela Hicks then spoke to the matter.

“If the Girl Guide movement, Boy Scouts, Heart and Stroke Month, Cancer [Society], you name it, if they come knocking on the door — if they’re not the Legion putting up the veterans banners, they’re paying the fee. That’s what we’re saying,” Hicks said.

After further similar comments by Mayor Terry Richardson and Deputy Mayor Brian Calver, Hicks asked for a recorded vote on the matter.

The motion to accept the policy as written was passed, with only Norrie opposed.

Kingstonist has contacted Napanee Pride and Council members for further in-depth comment on this issue, and will provide updated coverage when more more information and/or response is received.

Meetings of the Council of the Town of Greater Napanee can be viewed virtually (or watched afterward) on the Napanee Town Council YouTube channel or attended in person in Council Chambers at Napanee Town Hall, 124 John Street. Further information about Council meetings, including agendas and reports, is available on the Town’s CivicWeb portal.

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