by Andrew Bennett on May 16 2013
by Andrew Bennett on May 16 2013
by Rossland Recreation on May 15 2013
by Nelson Daily staff on May 13 2013
by Adrian Barnes on May 13 2013
by Kyra Hoggan on Monday May 20 2013
by John King on Thursday May 16 2013
by Kyra Hoggan on Wednesday May 15 2013
by Andre Carrel on Tuesday May 14 2013
by Charles Jeanes on Tuesday May 14 2013
Opinion: National Post Story Says Nelson Residents Lack 'True Grit'
An article in The National Post last week about Nelson’s dog by-law misrepresents both the town and the bylaw.
The article is about the bylaw that bans dogs from Nelson’s downtown core. Its author, Elizabeth Hames, writes that City Council enacted the bylaw in the 1980s, but in fact the part of that law that bans dogs from the downtown core was passed in 1995.
The bylaw was written and passed by Nelson City Council, and yet Hames did not include the perspective of anyone from city hall in her story.
“I was really surprised by that,” Councillor Deb Kozak told me yesterday. “I thought journalists were supposed to investigate all sides of the story. I was very surprised that they did not talk to the mayor, a councillor, a city staff person or even a bylaw officer.”
No consensus on downtown dogs
The article implies that everyone in Nelson is against the bylaw—that it’s a simple case of citizens against a stubborn city hall—and that downtown businesses are unanimously up in arms about it because they say it drives away dog-owning tourists.
Kozak says she knows downtown business people who support the by-law. “Even within the business community downtown, there is no consensus,” she said. “The most frustrating aspect of the dog bylaw is that when we raise the possibility of modifying it, there is such passionate response from both sides. This issue inflames the public.”
Flower children corrupted
The main thesis of the National Post story is that the powers-that-be in Nelson who passed the law were all sixties counter-culture types who sold out their pure values, became middle class, and then perversely tried to keep out younger generations of hippies by banning their dogs. Hames writes:
It is perhaps a law unfitting a city that free-love flower children and organic cannabis helped build…
By the time the new wave of hippies hit Nelson in the ’80s, the original flower children had children of their own, having happily traded in their socialist retreats for single-family homes.
The 1995 council that wrote the downtown dog ban was headed by Mayor Gary Exner —a man as far from being a former hippie as one could imagine—and his council consisted mostly of conservative business people with histories no more flower-childlike than Exner’s. Most of the citizens of Nelson, then as now, were middle class people with no counter-culture background at all.
Tom Thomson’s opinion
One of the sources Hames uses to make her case is Tom Thomson, the Executive Director of the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce. I asked him what he thinks of the article.
“I think that Elizabeth had a sensationalist angle," he said. "She had a predetermined agenda. She called me about three weeks before she came to Nelson and I told her, ‘I can’t believe you want to come all the way to Nelson from Vancouver to do a story about a dog bylaw for a national paper.’”
“She came into the Visitor Centre and we chatted for about 35 minutes. We talked about Nelson and the amenities and attractions we have, but she wasn’t really getting answers she was looking for from me. She was trying to get a story about a community putting a bylaw into place to try to drive the so-called new wave hippies out of town.”
Thomson said he was not comfortable with that angle. Referring to Nelson’s counter-culture population he said, “We are a pretty vibrant, entrepreneurial and open community— it’s one of the things that makes Nelson Nelson. It is what makes an eclectic community. My God, I mean, the Chamber of Commerce voted Shambhala the Business of the Year last year.”
Nelson’s history simplified
Hames’ capsule history of the area suggests that first there were miners, then, in the 60s, hippies. While it is true that American draft dodgers and back-to-the-landers influenced the culture here, they didn’t invent the place, as she seems to suggest. Nelson had already been a centre of arts and culture since the early part of the 20th century. We had a university here starting in 1950.
Tiresome pot and hemp stereotypes
Over the years I have seen many big-city reporters come to Nelson for one reason or another. Often, on arrival they spot a few people with dreadlocks and go a bit berserk, spicing up their stories with oh-so-original jokes about pot and hemp, seemingly blind to the full spectrum of other attractions and problems of Nelson.
Classical musicians, mountain bikers, web-designers, and the homeless
A look not far beneath the surface in Nelson would reveal to them a vibrant classical music scene, world-class mountain bikers and skiers, and a flock of entrepreneurs (composers, web designers, etc.) with high-end international clients.
They’d find vibrant hockey and youth soccer programs, a cutting edge college music program, an art school, and a local bar and music venue that manages to book international level bands that many bigger cities can’t.
Plus: Higher-than-average per capita numbers of business licenses and municipal voters, very expensive housing, lack of conventional employment opportunities such that if you want to live here you have to get up at an early entrepreneurial hour to survive, some genuine poverty and homelessness that has nothing to do with being a “hippie", and, yes, an economy dependent to a small but unquantifiable degree on marijuana.
Hames’ last paragraph reads:
But if Nelson has a tendency to avoid the true grit of life, it’s not entirely out of character. It would seem to be what drew so many residents to the mountain town in the first place.
Nelson residents, I leave that one for you to ponder. It’s about you, after all.
An earlier version of this story ran for about an hour on the morning of January 27. This amended version was posted later that same day.