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Will Bank St get rainbow signs?

Councillor Diane Holmes' preelection prototypes gather dust

Village signs debut at Pride 2010 Credit: Marcus McCann

Six months after prototype rainbow street signs were flashed at the Pride parade — and four months after a municipal election — Councillor Diane Holmes has not yet committed to putting them up.

Now Holmes says she wants the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA) to endorse the Village before any signs are mounted.

That was not the language used before the election. At Pride in August, new Village signs, embellished with a rainbow logo and the words “The/Le Village,” made their debut. The signs were the result of a longstanding collaborative effort between Holmes and the Village Committee, a group of residents that wants the city to recognize that many gays live in the neighbourhood.

At the time, the stated goal was to put up six signs that would mark a gay-friendly district on Bank St.

In September, a prototype Village street sign was mounted on the northwest corner of Bank and Gilmour streets. After it went up, Holmes and members of the Village Committee canvassed residents, through an online voting system and through ballot boxes placed in various stores along Bank St. For 10 days residents, shoppers and business owners cast their votes for or against the signs.

Glenn Crawford, chair of the Village Committee, said in an interview with Xtra at the end of August that it was his understanding Holmes would install the signs if the public response was supportive. It was — overwhelmingly: 1,240 individuals were in favour of the signs, with only 33 against. As well, 33 businesses expressed support.

But Holmes seems to be wavering, and five months later the Village remains unmarked.

After the municipal elections in October 2010, Crawford met with Holmes to discuss the next step in installing the signs.
“Instead, Diane brought up the BIA’s independent survey,” Crawford writes in an email to Xtra. “Her concern at that point seemed to be that it would be important to see what the results of the second survey were, and that we should approach the BIA with the results of ours, to help convince them to vote in support of the signs.”

Since the signs are to be placed on city property, Holmes could put them up without approval from the BIA. Holmes told Crawford that she hopes the survey will change the board’s attitude and create a more favourable climate in the BIA.
“The board is not keen, which we all know, so they’re going to have to look at this survey and see. At some point the board has to realize that if their businesses are interested then they are going to have to be interested as well,” says Holmes.

Gerry LePage, executive director of the BIA, says the board hasn’t formally taken a position on the street signs.
“I can’t really speak to it, but I suspect that probably within the next two weeks they will have a position,” says LePage.

The board has a long history of ignoring the results of its surveys. The first one, sent out in 2002, showed that most businesses are in favour of the Village. The next two surveys were conducted back-to-back in 2008 and yielded inconsistent results.

But Holmes tells Xtra she’s not entirely comfortable with the BIA’s new survey, commissioned in 2010, because it does not define the Village (six blocks, from Nepean to James St), and because it included a throwaway question about a bike lane on Bank St.

The BIA has not given its approval for a Village partly because the request came from the community and not from within the BIA.

“I think to some degree it was a surprise to the BIA, and they don’t really know how to cope with it. If you want to change the name and add something to that street within their catchments, they really have to agree with it,” says Holmes.

To date, the results of the 2010 BIA survey have not been released (at the Feb 16 meeting the release date was pushed to March). In the meantime, the Village Committee has raised more than $10,000 to help local businesses source, mount and pay for rainbow beautification projects — without any help from the city or the BIA.

Their latest coup is three large rainbow flags installed at the corner of Bank and Cooper streets in January, as One in Ten moved into the second-storey space above Strategy. The flags are similar to ones the Village Committee helped mount at Bridgehead, Venus Envy, Youth Services Bureau and Wicked Wanda’s.