AFTER MONTHS of virtual meetings, this week City of Kamloops again allowed the public to attend council meetings in person. It was a chance for people to see first hand what our local mayor and council are doing to help manage the city.
I had expected a few more, given the postings on Facebook. There has been an ongoing and growing online discussion about problematic, unhoused individuals, especially along the Tranquille Road commercial strip.
From permanently parked shopping carts overflowing with possessions, to businesses vandalized multiple times, to open drug use, to aggressive, erratic behaviours, the residents near Tranquille Road are frustrated.
One post on Facebook stated “I’m urging anyone that has concerns about what is happening on the North Shore attend the City Council meeting today at 1:30. Please no violence, but let your voices be heard.” Dozens of comments were posted about the pending meeting.
In the end, fewer than a dozen residents attended, sitting quietly and looking weary, and listening to the head of the Kamloops RCMP detachment, Superintendent Sydney Lecky’s RCMP 2020 Year End Report.
There was no written submission provided by Lecky for the public to review, and there is no recording of his presentation but in essence things are what they are.
Sitting in council chambers may have made the residents realize the inertia involved in making change. Questions from councillors centered on Car 40 serving mental health calls, the importance of communication between groups, and how reporting crime helps manage resources even if an individual crime might not be solved. None of the City councillors had any solutions, and Superintendent Leaky was reluctant to provide a magic wand.
Everyone knows what’s happening. Fewer people have solutions.
Last week, I had a lengthy conversation with a long-time advocate of marginalized people. The person volunteers at the food bank, PITStop, and ASK Wellness and knows many street people by name. They have supported services for unhoused and marginalized people in Kamloops for years, but are increasingly frustrated at the lack of action by City Hall to deal with the disorder on the Tranquille corridor. They support services, but they want order as well.
It’s a rare event when the public show up at a City council meeting. City council should not dismiss the small numbers who showed up at this week’s meeting as a sign of overall citizen satisfaction about how the City is handling social disorder. Residents, business people, and service providers are all feeling frustrated by the ongoing and worsening situation along the Tranquille corridor.
The worst that can happen is if frustration turns into vigilantism. When individuals feel that authorities aren’t doing enough, and, as Coun. Bill Sarai said figuratively, decide some people “needs to get slapped at the back of the head.” Vigilantism is not a solution.
The best that can happen is if the RCMP isn’t seen as the solution. Housing, counselling, drug therapies, health services are all required. Lecky did support more foot patrols, but beyond that, he left the door open for City council to work at finding other solutions.
More policing can’t solve a housing affordability issue. More policing won’t give people faster access to drug rehab services. More policing doesn’t increase mental health services in Kamloops.
Fewer than a dozen weary people, sitting through a long City council meeting may not seem like much. But those 11 people are the ripples on the top of a pond of frustrated people wanting action from Kamloops council. Weary people waiting for action.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.