UPDATE: Regulating farmers’ market vendor T-shirts ‘actually laughable,’ says councillor

Council will continue to discuss politically inspired clothing at the next regular meeting

White Rock Farmers’ Market manager Helen Fathers says the notion of regulating vendors from wearing political T-shirts is “laughable.”

The discussion about politically inspired T-shirts was brought to City of White Rock’s regular council meeting last week by Coun. Grant Meyer.

During the Nov. 20 council discussion about approving the market for the 2018 season, Meyer told councillors that a prospective politician – whom he did not name – suggested a concern about market vendors wearing political T-shirts, especially considering next year’s Oct. 20 civic election will take place during market season.

“Is that fair? Meyer asked. “Especially being that the city does sponsor the event.”

During the conversation, the market was repeatedly referred to as city-sponsored.

Fathers, who is also a city councillor but recused herself from the discussion, later told PAN that the market is not a city-sponsored event.

“The fact of the matter is that there’s no in-kind sponsorship from the city. The market pays all its fees, there’s no money from the city. I don’t know what to say – we’re self-sufficient and proud of it.”

PAN emailed city CAO Dan Bottrill and the city’s communication team asking how the market is sponsored by the city.

City communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi responded, providing a list of items the city provides to the market, including: the use of a city-controlled portion of Miramar Plaza and Miramar Mews; city electrical power; use of washrooms at the White Rock Community Centre (the market is charged $56 per market day to keep the centre open); use of a portion of Russell Avenue from Johnston Road (the market pays $208 per year for the right-of-way permit for this road closure, plus a $1,000 security deposit); and the market pays $336 to install a market banner on Johnston Road.

After PAN published online the city’s response, Fathers emailed Bottrill and Farrokhi to address “inaccurate information.”

“The city does not keep the community centre open for the market,” Fathers writes, explaining that a church group rents the space on Sunday mornings, and the market pays half of the attendant fee, “as a gesture of good will,” and that the rental agreement for the church has “nothing to do with” the market.

“You also missed the Banner Fee for the Pier which is another $350 paid to the City (annually),” Fathers writes. “You also missed the insurance of $5 million that the Market is required to hold in its dealings with the City – there is a considerable cost associated with this. Lastly, Miramar Plaza is owned by the two Strata’s A and B not the City of White Rock, the City holds a Right of Way clause on the property.”

During council’s discussion, Meyer said it was raised to him that the market had become “quite political over the last little bit.”

However, Fathers told PAN she has “never seen vendors wear political T-shirts at the market.”

“Quite frankly, we can’t monitor what people wear, nor would we ever want to be in the position where we oppress what people wear. I’m sorry, it’s just bizarre and it’s actually laughable.”

During past municipal, provincial and federal elections, candidates have been known to walk through the market handing out leaflets, Fathers said.

“They’re entitled to do that, that’s beyond our control,” she said. “You know what, it’s a lot to ask of an organization that brings so much to this community.”

Council plans to continue its discussion on approving the market Dec. 11.

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