Me and my Kamloops

A few 2020 thoughts for Kamloops….

It is always a challenge to distill thoughts for a whole year into something easily digestible.

It is important though to try. Not only to do intentional thinking myself but also very importantly to solicit input and ideas from whoever would like to offer them.

I begin this year with hope and a can do attitude. In a time where there is a lot of anxiety, divisive, and negativity, I will anchor my service in all the experiences I have had in my life which showcased confidence, collaboration, and positivity.

And there have been so many in my life and significantly in my service on Kamloops city council. I see local government culture as a tremendous force for good. We are taught to agree well and disagree well. We work so closely with citizens.

We have amazing people in Kamloops. The recent news that we are the most giving community in Canada on the Gofundme website confirms what so many of us see every day. The people in Kamloops, as a group, are sensible, thoughtful, caring, and open minded.

I think where this is a gap in experience and understanding between citizens and those they elect, among them, to represent the community it is primarily the responsibility of the elected representatives to bridge that gap. That is why I will always try to engage respectfully and thoughtfully with those we represent. Ultimately, obviously, the community as a whole is in the drivers seat through their choices at election time.

There are a lot of hopeful (and challenging:) )projects and issues city council will be working on in 2020.

1) Arts Centre Referendum: In a referendum this coming April, City council will be asking the community to consider borrowing money to help fund the building of a new arts centre in Kamloops. There is a lot of demonstrated support for this project – a foundational donor in the Fawcett family, support from all the major arts organizations in the city, and unanimous city council support. There are also concerns with city spending, lack of parking, and a centre that will only serve a subset of the population. I look forward to outlining why I think the arts centre is a very good project and to engaging with concerns raised.

2) Economic Development: Economic development, from a city council perspective, is tricky. Entrepreneurs are in the driver seat here. We have many foundational, high paying industries in transition in our natural resources sector. I love one of the strategies of the Kamloops Innovation Centre to help natural resource businesses create more value and be more efficient through the appropriate use of technology. The City of Kamloops funds an arms length economic development agency that does great work in my view but it’s hard to really come up with great metrics, often due to the confidentiality economic development clients want to maintain. We are fortunate to have a very diverse economic base not dependent one on big business or one key sector. Within the city’s development services and business permitting departments, we hopefully will be taking an intentional look in 2020 at any unnecessary or unnecessarily unfriendly practices and regulations. As local government consultant Tracey Lee Lorenson has shared, probably the best thing city council can do to be business friendly is to govern well, fairly, and consistently.

3) Community Climate Action Plan: This is a plan, on a strategic level, that I have been quite involved with shaping and formulating. As we are seeing again with the huge wildfires in Australia, the consequences of not reducing greenhouse gases are immense. I say this not as an activist but as someone whose public service job it is to look at evidence, evaluate it fairly and comprehensively, and help make decisions on behalf of this community. My learnings on climate action work also lead me to a strong belief we have to be as inclusive as possible and not polarizing or alienating. This work is huge and requires to be considerate of everyone as we undertake it. It also requires heartfelt and honest conversations of where we are, where we need to get to, and how together we can get to where we need to go. The engagement on the Kamloops community climate action plan will start fully in 2020. The work to prepare for community engagement has been robust and there have also been some bumps in the road. Council has set a strategic goal of 80% emissions reductions by 2050 and have directed city staff to provide options within this climate action plan to achieve that goal.

4) Homelessness, mental health, addictions: When the provincial government launched their latest housing initiatives in 2017, Kamloops council and senior staff worked very hard to align ourselves with those initiatives to build more social housing locally. I am proud of our work which helped secure more than 100 more homes. However, I am also heartbroken that the magnitude and complexity of the issues that lead to homelessness outpaced our work on housing. More and more, I worry about our citizens who are without a home, who as my friend Cynthia Travers says are home free. I see housing more people, keeping more people safe even when outside, will require more non traditional approaches. This even more tricky as social services are seen as primarily a provincial government responsibility. I want to learn a lot more this year about what we might be able to do as a community to really end functional homelessness. I want to keep in better touch with the amazing people who work day to day serving our most vulnerable.

These are just four broad topics and some initiatives within them. Most of these are very large and complex. They contain as many opportunities as they do challenges. I have sketched some broad outlines and will be writing in more detail about these and many other opportunities, ideas, challenges, and issues this year.

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Arjun Singh

Arjun is a trained facilitator and is currently co-chair of the Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation.

Arjun was born and raised in Kamloops. His parents, Dr Gur and Mrs Manju Singh, immigrated to Canada from India in the 1960s. He previously served on council from 2005-2008. He has a MA in Professional Communication from Royal Roads University and a Certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation, and Public Engagement from Fielding Graduate University.

Arjun welcomes your questions or feedback on any community issue or initiative.

Since 2005, he has written a blog for Kamloops citizens and people interested in Kamloops – www.yourkamloops.com.

You can also find Arjun on twitter at @yourkamloops or @arjunsingh.

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