Despite a plea to honour Lethbridge's city's roots, city council has approved a committee's decision on naming a new public facility. On a split vote, it agreed Monday with a recommendation to call the new community arts centre "CASA."
But not before retired coalminer Frank Toth appeared before council urging that the centre's name reflect the thousands of miners who helped build the city's fortunes over many decades.
The name of the new facility, he told council, "should recognize the true spirit of the builders of the community."
Not only did the miners' labour create the demand for a now-famous railway bridge across the Oldman River, Toth said, but it also led to labour legislation that improved working conditions across the nation.
It was a Lethbridge miners' strike, he said, that resulted in the eight-hour work day that Canadians take for granted. Toth said he submitted several naming ideas to the council-appointed committee, and hoped someone's history-related suggestion would be approved.
Councillor Jeff Coffman pressed that point as well. While "casa" is a Spanish noun for "home," he pointed out Lethbridge has had very few Spanish links historically.
"The name should represent who we are," Coffman said. "It should be about community identity."
Coffman urged debate be tabled for further consideration.
"Let's get feedback from the community."
While appreciating the fact that "casa" means the same in Italian, Coun. Joe Mauro held it's not a suitable name for the centre.
"Outside the city limits, nobody is going to have a clue about what the name stands for," he said. "I think it's a silly name."
In submitting the committee's recommendation to council, Ashley Matthews said the committee felt the name would emphasize the facility's role as a home to the arts.
Matthews, the city's general manager of recreation and culture, reported the committee wanted a name that was short, inclusive, "fresh and exciting, with a modern and contemporary appeal."
It's also easy to "brand," he said
The name is not an acronym, but its role could be promoted as "Creating arts in southern Alberta."
Coun. Bridget Mearns - who joined Coffman and Mauro voting against the recommendation - questioned how representative the selection committee members were. Seven of the 10 work for the city, she pointed out.
But the University of Lethbridge was also represented, replied Mayor Rajko Dodic, and so were the Allied Arts Council and the Heart of Our City initiative.
And the committee's membership and the process it followed were both approved by council, added Coun. Tom Wickersham.
"I have confidence in the committee," and so did Coun. Liz Iwaskiw.
"I'm not going to be second-guessing them."
Coun. Faron Ellis and Jeff Carlson also spoke in support, with Carlson observing no name pleases everyone. Coun. Ryan Parker was absent.
Naming committee member Suzanne Lint, executive director of the Allied Arts Council, praised council's earlier decision to ask for citizens' suggestions.
"It's wonderful to have a community naming process because this is going to be such an important, iconic community building for the city," she said in a statement.
The mayor, commenting after council's decision, said the 38,000-square-foot facility will become a new home for groups currently using the 100-year-old Bowman Arts Centre as well as a mix of other visual and performing artists.
"This is a place all members of our arts community can call home, regardless of their age, skill level or arts discipline."
With construction reported on schedule, the centre is expected to open in May.