Water over the Dam -and Dollars too

The great debate at Monday’s Council meeting was over the Blue Community initiative.  While the generalities of the issue regarding water had been approved back in 1996, the point of conflict was over whether the City would or would not permit the sale of bottled water in its venues.  You can read about this decision in the Bulletin:

Or you can watch the debate at item 10c, 9:03 pm:

Though some of this debate may have appeared as absurd, it was not.  It was merely poorly framed.  It was necessary even if, at the end of it, the wrong decision was made.    In my mind, the issue in the bottled water debate was really about form versus substance and it wasn’t an easy question.  Banning bottled water was form, i.e. showing the flag and sending a signal.

The substance?  Well, there wasn’t much substance.  The real substantive issue was about the availability of “free” public water through taps or fountains.  There are, for example, no such facilities in the VICC -though if someone brings a cup, they can use the taps in the bathrooms.  This is another form / substance issue, i.e. if there were a tap in the bathrooms marked as drinking water the issue could be ended for most folks -at least most water drinkers.

In the end, I would have been compelled to vote with the losers on this one, i.e.  for action rather than reaction: for substance rather than form.  It would have been better to simply ensure the availability of recognizable public drinking water in all city facilities and let the bottled water get squeezed out, as was suggested by one Councillor.  This was another occasion when it would have been better to let it ride for another week.   With the decision made at Monday’s meeting we have the onus of a ban plus loss of income and good will, and at the same time, all the expense of making water available in public venues.  Didn’t we always used to do this?  When did we begin building public facilities without public drinking water?

We really need to find a way to handle discussion and debate between Councillors and Citizens and Councillors with each other which do not rely primarily on time pressure for their resolution.  Haste makes waste…

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