THE REALITY TELEVISION PROGRAM Dragon’s Den is coming to Kamloops on Thursday. Or at least a version of this show that is based on individuals pitching their business ideas to business gurus and celebrities.
On Thursday, the City of Kamloops is hosting a consultation session for its supplementary budget items. After a hiatus because of COVID, the City is back to hosting an in-person session. During COVID, there have been only a few in-person consultation events hosted by the City.
Instead of gurus and celebrities, individuals and groups will be making their pitch to mayor, council and staff for which of 12 supplemental budget items City taxpayers should pay for.
After such a long time with few chances to look politicians and bureaucrats in the eye, this budget consultation is lining up to be a well-attended event.
There are a range of proposed spending items up for discussion. First up is Community Climate Action Plan Funding Strategy. Local advocacy groups such as Transitions Kamloops, Kamloops Cycling Coalition and Kamloops Climate Cafe are asking their members to come out to speak to this item. They want to ensure adequate funds are allocated to address mitigating and reducing the climate change emergency.
There’s also the Lorne Street Train Whistle Cessation. If people who live along Lorne Street understand local politics, they will be showing up en masse to let mayor, council and staff know they want $1.2 million spent to reduce the train whistles at crossings along the Lorne Street corridor.
Advocates for children with disabilities will be there asking for spending on the Improving Accessible Playgrounds budget item. The baseball community, tennis players, and beach volleyballers will be advocating for improvements to Norbrock Stadium, Kamloops Tennis Centre, and Overlander Park respectively.
Some of the budget items may not have lobby groups. There may or may not be people advocating for new City Hall employees, a cemetery mausoleum, and urban wildlife management.
It’s hard to imagine that there is a community group advocating for City Hall LED Exterior Lighting. And as much as it might be appreciated, I haven’t heard of any groups lobbying for Public Wi-Fi. But there will no doubt be people wanting to tell the City why money should or shouldn’t be spent on these items.
As well as the 12 supplemental budget items, the public can pitch their ideas on any existing or proposed item. It’s a chance to put ideas on the table, and to question existing spending.
I’m not sure if the City has thought through this consultation, in terms of how many people may show up. Along with groups advocating for specific budget items, there are also others who will likely show up as well.
First, there are the community groups who have been vocally advocating about public safety, drug policies and homelessness. There are no budget items covering any of these issues, but there has been a lot of public discussion and on-going issues. Expect some people to show up wanting more funding for items such as policing, bylaw enforcement, affordable housing and social services.
Second, it’s an election year. With two candidates for mayor, current councillor Arjun Singh, and past councillor Ray Dhaliwal, already declared, expect them and their supporters to be out looking for allies and raising their concerns about the budget. Still undeclared candidates will be testing the waters as well.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, there is pent-up demand for face-to-face public consultation. On-line surveys and Zoom meetings only go so far. People want to talk to others in person. Over the last two years, there have been extremely limited opportunities to speak to local politicians and staff in person. The public will be coming out to the budget consultation to make connections and to be heard.
Here’s hoping that the size of the room accommodates everyone who shows up. Here’s hoping enough City staff and politicians show up to adequately listen to everyone as well. Here’s hoping no one is turned away.
If you want to go, the City of Kamloops in-person supplemental budget consultation is Thursday, March 10 2022, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Sports Centre Lounge, McArthur Island Sports and Events Centre. It’ll be the next best thing to Dragon’s Den.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.