The Kamloops Voters Society recently began meeting again to discuss city issues.
The discussion group of concerned citizens, which investigates and researches various city happenings, at one time had 120 members who met in the Clocktower Theatre at Thompson Rivers University. However, KVS fell by the wayside following the 2014 election, when Dieter Dudy and Denis Walsh were elected.
“They used to be on the board,” KVS board member Randy Sunderman said. “Around that time, when we were elected, we just took a break.”
Today’s city councillors were part of a coalition group in 2014 put forward by KVS called Vision Kamloops, which also included Jenny Green, Brad Harrison and Daphane Nelson. Sunderman, a self-employed economist, said KVS since re-emerged in light of current issues.
KVS has a board of four, but Sunderman would not disclose names of other members. Chief among issues on KVS’ radar is the industrial tax rate. Sunderman noted the city’s finance committee is meeting next week and will discuss heavy industry taxes. Sunderman wants to create a wider discussion about shifting taxes from heavy industry to residents. The city cut heavy industry rates this year, which continue to be among the highest in the province.
“That’s the one [issue] that’s come to the forefront right now,” Sunderman said, noting implications for residents.
He has attended recent city council meetings, including one involving discussion on a single-use plastic bag ban, as part of his role as a board member with the Kamloops Area Preservation Association. Sunderman said as individuals, it takes a lot of time and effort to read through documents and understand issues, which is why a group is needed.
He said the group does not have a political slant.
“In fact, we typically draw from across the spectrum,” Sunderman said.
Asked if it is incorrect to classify the group as left-leaning, he said he would question what someone means by that and stressed that the group is municipally focused.
“In our entire existence, we have never been involved in getting into provincial or federal discussions,” he said.
The group’s Facebook page is invite-only, but it expects to be issuing press releases on various city issues.
Earlier this week, KTW received a letter to the editor from Sunderman and the Kamloops Voters Society, which was initially formed formed nearly a decade ago, as a result of desire for improved public engagement by the city.
Sunderman, who was involved at that time, said residents had “no real opportunity” to provide input and dialogue on the budget process, something he said has since improved. The city is currently reviewing its city council meeting times, with the idea that moving meetings from afternoons to evenings could potentially improve public involvement.
Sunderman said he is a fan of evening meetings.