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Mayor calls for a ‘time out’ after residents push for vote on city name change

Powell River council heard loud and clear Wednesday from citizens upset about the ongoing debate over changing the town’s name.

Two speakers whose families have lived in the area for generations said at the Committee of the Whole meeting they want to see the question put to a popular vote. Diane Sparks said most of council are recent arrivals to the community and don’t appreciate the full history.

“Changing the name of Powell River will not achieve reconciliation,” she said. “It will bring more resentment, divisiveness and conflict between the two communities, but most of all, you don’t care, it’s not your hometown.”

Ted Vizzutti says there’s a political battle going on behind the scenes, and that the history of the town’s namesake Israel Powell is being rewritten through misrepresentation.

“They manipulate the narrative of Powell River, its history, and then they start trying to control in ways by involving kids,” he said. “The school system tells them that Powell was a bad person, that the real name of Powell River is something else. They actually start to brainwash the next generation.”

Vizzutti and Sparks both asked for a clear public vote on the issue, with no misleading questions or additional options, just asking residents if they want to change the name, or not.

After Vizzutti spoke Mayor Ron Woznow said the town could benefit from a “time out” on the topic.

“In listening to your presentation, it just reaffirmed for me that, two things: one is, it’s important to have a time out, and secondly, that there’s probably no real truth,” he said.

Woznow told a story about meeting the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Abadi more than 20 years ago.

“They were talking about opinions versus truth, and the consensus was, when somebody says they have the truth, it usually is the start of divisiveness,” he said.

Woznow said a “time out” would be a good idea, and people can come back later to discuss what he called a “difference of opinions.”

At the Wednesday meeting council also received a dozen recent letters against the name change, and also asking for a public vote.

Letter-writers referenced a community survey which found 93% of more than 2,000 respondents do not support it.

The whole meeting can be viewed online.

Letters submitted by the public can be seen here. 

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