At the regular meeting of Kimberley Council on January 9, 2023, Military Ames asked for, and were denied, a request to place a service dog statue in Veterans Memorial Park.
The park was built and paid for by funds raised by Military Ames, but it sits on city land, a former garage. Zoning the land as park was one of the only options available because it was considered a contaminated site.
Cindy Postnikoff of Military Ames is not happy with Council’s decision and vows that their fight to get the statue installed is not over.
When Military Ames presented at Council in December, they came with a petition with over 3,000 signatures in support of the statue
“we did this petition because one of the concerns from the Council decision in 2021 was ‘perceived public perception’,” Postinikoff said. “We worked hard to address each issue raised at that 2021 decision, including the removal of the proposed Service Dog Columbarium, as reflected in the 2023 City Staff Report. There were very few comments made at that time, as the acting Mayor Sandra Roberts said the evening was busy and there was no time for discussion. We reached out to Mayor McCormick and Council with two separate invitations to meet with us to discuss any questions or concerns they may have and hoped for an opportunity to educate as is the purpose of the project. Two Councillors responded, Councillor Royer and Councillor Cairns.”
Postnikoff says a few hundred signatures on the petition were rejected by the city because they were not city residents.
“Of the 2700 plus accepted signatures we have no way of knowing how many are Veterans,” she said. “We did not target Veteran signatures because the concern was ‘community perception.’ However, there are several signatures on the petition where Veterans did identify themselves as such.”
Postnikoff says she feels Mayor McCormick minimized all the support by saying he would have been more persuaded to see signatures of the 500 to 600 veterans between Kimberley and Cranbrook. She says those numbers must be hypothetical, as she does not have an exact count of how many veterans there are in the area.
“After throwing out our Cranbrook signatures! Had we done what he now says would have been more persuading, we can only conclude he may have rejected any signature from outside of town as a non-resident and said that it was really not much support at all.
“He also noted some anonymous people and Veterans, that he had talked to, wanted the Park to stay how it is.”
She notes the Mayor was not held to the same standard of proof, as Military Ames was, in showing these individuals.
“ I say this because we had to support every signature with a full address, signature etc. and in the last minutes of the motion he pulls this information out of his back pocket and has nothing, nothing to support what he’s saying. Apparently he feels he doesn’t have to. I wonder if those folks do exist? What makes a few people more important than the Veterans with the courage to stand in front of him and the community that stands with all of us?”
Postnikoff says their signature campaign was held to a high standard of printed name, address, signatures and all had to be original. These copies had to be given to the City well in advance because of a ‘no surprise rule’ and to be validated and had we made any mistakes, they would have been rejected.
“Councillor McBain commented that he was waiting for ‘backlash’ from Military Ames because of his comments after our presentation. This effort to antagonize our Veterans and the public is disgraceful, this is not the action of a good leader or role model. Because our Veterans were unaware or able to control their reactions, he didn’t get that backlash, he said he felt validated with his decision to turn down the motion,” she said. “I felt proud of our people for not reacting, which was not easy. He commented that if we were successful he would be at the unveiling and also said, he was opposed to the location and would support it in another location that would bring more attention. There is no such location.”
Postnikoff says she feels that the no votes had made up their minds before they even heard the presentation in December.
“Councilor Dunnebacke was clearly not open to persuasion (as is the job of Mayor and Council) he had his mind made up a month before the presentation when I approached him and he stated he would not support our project, none of that has changed.
“Councillor McGuire never uttered a word at the presentation nor did he utter a word during the vote. He simply voted against it.. why? During the weeks between our presentation and the vote we had invited all Council to sit down with us.
“What would a memorial of a Service Dog hurt? What?”
Postnikoff says people are asking what’s next and while she doesn’t have all the answers, she is adamant that the statue of the service dog will not go anywhere else in the community other than where it belongs — at Veterans Memorial Park.
“This is not over,” she said. “Please show your support, this is your community and you deserve to be heard.”
When asked for comment Mayor Don McCormick said council supports bringing awareness to service dogs and how they assist veterans, and would be very happy to talk with Military Ames about finding an alternate location for the statue.