NOTE: The following was posted Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 on the CFJC Facebook page in response to the Armchair Mayor editorial of the same day, Tranquille corridor upgrade a good idea but it won’t solve social issues.
By JEREMY HEIGHTON
Executive Director, North Shore BIA
IN RESPONSE to Mel’s article:
Once again, a person of influence has, intentionally or not, diminished the good work that our community on the North Shore is undertaking. I honestly don’t think it’s intentional, I think there is a systemic bias against the North Shore that is based in a myriad of historic and current challenges.
It is a stigma, which is both inaccurate and dismissive of the amazing work being done by community partners, the City of Kamloops staff, and ourselves. Together we are laying the foundation of a brighter tomorrow.
I would like to add some “other” perspective to the column that ran this morning, as I think that it serves our community to understand how much work is occurring on the North Shore and how we are looking toward the future, not just the past and current situation.
Let’s start with planning. The NSBIA began a public input process in 2018, which asked residents, business, and property owners to vision what they need to see on our corridors, in the coming years.
This report outlined 111 project ideas which distilled down to 37 key projects. The report was sent to the City in summer of 2019 and forms the foundation for our vision of the North Shore. Then, in 2019, the City launched the North Shore Neighbourhood Planning process. This broader community engagement project looked across the residential and commercial communities and sought to find a common set of outcomes, which it did.
The plan sets the foundation for our community, for the next decade. It is an ambitious plan which looks a generation ahead to embrace public spaces, some density zones, economic recovery and increased residential connections through recreation and transportation. While we are aware we are not “there” yet, we have the foundation to build forward. This plan is expected to come forward to council in the coming months for ratification.
Now on to the planters and trees along Tranquille Road. Mel is correct these planters went in over 50 years ago, and at that time they were in touch with design and public space standards. As those standards have evolved, the planters have not evolved. This is due to a couple of factors:
1) A lack of ability to allocate funding. We have seen plans for Tranquille Road revitalization in front of council a few times since 2011, two of these times the plans were approved, but vanished in the budgeting stage, due to low priority status.
2) Lack of Improvement funding. Over a decade ago, the city decided that the downtown core was their priority for upgrading of infrastructure and streetscapes. The downtown received a specified pot of funding to facilitate those upgrades (beautification fund) to the tune of a half million dollars, which was replenished each time it was drawn down.
The North Shore did not receive the same type of funding following the 2008 NS Plan, so beautification projects were left to regular budgeting, which always had higher priorities.
To counter this, we have requested from the City a $250,00 Infrastructure Upgrade Fund be created (like the downtown version) to help us to get these types of projects (planters and trees) completed.
The NSBIA did apply for federal infrastructure funding twice this year, to kick start these planter projects. However, due to the fact the planters and trees are not our asset (they belong to the City) we were denied. Early this summer, the City acquiesced to our requests and filed their own grant application, which is what Mel is referring to in his column.
Now on to community pride. Truthfully, I don’t know where to start with this as there is so much to unpack in Mel’s comments.
He talks about social discord which is a real issue. However, it is not endemic to only the North Shore, this is a problem which plagues our downtown, Valleyview, Sahali and other neighbourhoods. But it is also one we are not prepared to roll over and accept.
Here at the NSBIA we have written letters to every level of government, Municipal, Provincial and Federal. We have met with politicians and community leaders feverishly over the last six months and continue to advocate at all levels.
We have been working with the Business Improvement Area Association of B.C., the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, and the International Development Association to lobby for changes to criminal accountability and alignment of federal and provincial laws which will empower our local enforcement teams to enforce accountability for willful criminal acts, instead of releasing these offenders to the streets.
On this point we have requested and are proceeding on a private meeting in the next two weeks with the mayor, RCMP superintendent and Crown counsel, to fully understand where the disconnects are and to determine how we can work together to solve the issues.
Finally, I conclude with community pride. As Mel Notes:
“Community pride comes from a sense of common purpose, not just from sidewalks and benches. It means giving back, and I don’t know the secret to instilling that in people who live on the street.”
True. It’s a difficult concept to embrace and the factors that create community pride are many. However, the specific project Council discussed yesterday was the planters and how they will be maintained.
We have committed to funding those who are currently socially housed on our corridor, in the maintenance of the new planters that we place there. We will ask that they care for each planter, with the hope that they see not just an opportunity to have some semblance of gainful employment, but also peer pride that protects and supports improved aspects of our corridor. Will it be perfect? Probably not. But, we need to start somewhere.
Connection to the community is a key aspect of creating synergies and positive connections. There will be much more to our community pride building actions over the coming years. For now, we are starting with a clear vision, advocating for community safety, and promoting social connection to our community, and I personally think that’s a pretty good start.
Jeremy Heighton is executive director of the North Shore Business Improvement Association.