KELOWNA - Tourists and locals alike have long flocked to The Sails at the foot of Bernard Avenue for postcard moments in the Okanagan sun.
The sculpture’s graceful curves can also be lit up at night in a variety of colours.
At the discretion of the Mayor’s Office, community groups can ask to have The Sails bathed in colour, usually from the group’s brand or logo.
It doesn’t take much to light up The Sails, at least from a mechanical point of view; push a few buttons and on it goes.
But before anyone turns The Sails a different colour, they must get by the Mayor’s Office and any whiff of controversy about the group or cause will likely see their request denied.
“The lighting of The Sails is no different than me issuing a proclamation. It really just matches our proclamation policy,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says. “This is more for good causes or community benefit. We’re not prepared to endorse items of political controversy."
According to the guidelines, 'requests will not be approved for those intended to benefit personal, private or commercial interests, address matters of political controversy, ideological or religious beliefs, matters of individual conviction, or that advocate against human rights and freedoms under existing Canadian laws.'
That gives Basran’s office considerable control, especially when the goal is to avoid a negative reaction from citizens.
Basran says his policy is a holdover from previous Mayor Walter Gray, who had his own problems with ceremonial functions in the late 1990s.
That’s when then-Mayor Gray refused to sign a gay pride proclamation and ran afoul of the B.C. Human Rights Commission after someone complained.
In reaction, Gray refused to sign any proclamations while still mayor, relenting only a few years ago during a different term in office.
Basran says the window of opportunity for lighting up the popular sculpture is small, from June to September, and his office is getting more frequent requests from local groups.
Kelowna councillors have no say in the ceremonial functions of the Mayor’s Office and Basran says they seem content to keep it that way.
“I ran the guidelines by them so they feel comfortable but this stuff never goes to council.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.