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BEPPLE – Shifting issues mean City Hall must evolve

BACK IN OCTOBER and November 2022, City of Kamloops undertook a Citizen Satisfaction Survey. The survey, which is undertaken every few years, measures the mood of the city.

The survey tries to capture what people think is best and worst about the city. It asks people if they think things are improving or not and what they want the City to prioritize.

The results of the 2022 survey will be released by the City on Jan. 13 and discussed in the Jan. 17 council meeting.

I haven’t seen any of the results yet, but I am confident that top issues will include homelessness, drug use, and crime. These were the issues that dominated the fall election and news stories for the past year or more.

Kamloops has been grappling with supporting hundreds of unhoused people on our streets, the unrelenting opioid deaths, and street level crime. Local government, non-profits, the justice system, health care and others each are working at solutions, but still the problems persist.

If nothing else, the survey will confirm our top priorities. The 2022 survey should confirm that we all agree more needs to be done to address social issues such as homelessness, the opioid crisis and petty crime.

Issues come and go. Over the years, the City has done a number of surveys on citizen satisfaction. There have been surveys in 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2016 and 2020.

Each survey, respondents were asked what the most important issues facing Kamloops were that should receive the greatest attention from local leaders.

Back in 2003, the top issue was pollution/air/water, followed by improving sports/recreational facilities/referendum. Policing/law enforcement agencies was number five, and crime (general) was number six. Social issues, such as youth at risk, homelessness and drug addiction were not even on the list.

In 2006, taxation/ municipal government spending was the top issue, while transportation was number two, and crime was number three. Social issues, including homelessness and drug addiction, were the number five priority.

In 2009, social issues were the top issue, followed by education, then crime. Social issues mentioned by survey respondents included children and youth at risk, homelessness, and drug use and drug addiction. Drug-related crimes were the biggest crimes of concern.

In 2012 and 2016, the proposed KGHM/Ajax mine was the top issue. Social issues dropped down to fourth and crime was eighth.

When the KGHM/Ajax project was canceled in 2017 by the province, Kamloops residents’ priorities shifted again.

For the first time in 2019, homelessness showed up as a specific issue. In that survey, it was the second highest issue of concern. Infrastructure was the highest issue of concern. Crime was listed as the third highest issue.

Some issues were never priorities in the surveys. For example, from 2003 to 2019, neither housing in general or affordable housing specifically were listed issues of concern by those surveyed. But now, with vacancy rates at 0.9 per cent, perhaps housing will finally be an issue in 2022.

Similarly, despite hundreds dying in Kamloops of drug overdoses over the last two decades, and the opioid crisis being declared a public health emergency in April 2016, the opioid crisis has never been listed as a separate issue.

Granted, some might argue it is captured in crime, or social issues. But with 70 or more individuals a year in Kamloops dying from drug use, will the opioid crisis be a specific issue people want local leaders to address in the 2022 survey?

What has been happening since 2003 to 2019 is a gradual shift of people’s priorities from wanting local leaders to address infrastructure and taxation issues, to people wanting social issues to be addressed.

For the 2022 survey, it seems inevitable that homelessness, crime and drug use will be areas of priority. Gone are the days when the public wanted city council to focus on just water, sewer, parks and potholes.

Whether City of Kamloops council likes it or not, social issues, long the purview of provincial government, are what our citizens want City Hall to concentrate on more and more.

Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (9358 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on BEPPLE – Shifting issues mean City Hall must evolve

  1. Funny how of all the hundreds of acquaintances I have in Kamloops and having lived here for a few decades now no one I know has ever received a call from anyone in regards to a “citizen satisfaction survey”.

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