View From City Hall: Being challenged can make us better

May these challenges we have faced make us better people, more united in common cause and committed to coming out of the pandemic better than we were when we went in.

As I look out our window and into smoky skies, I am reflecting on how much we’ve been through as a community in the past 16 months.

This has been a challenging time for Kamloops.

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We have seen ourselves in the national and international news for tough and sad stories.

Friends and relatives outside of town have been in touch to check up on us. Our goodwill and resilience is being tested.

Kamloops councillors rotate monthly as deputy mayors and, this month, it has been my honour and responsibility to serve in the role.

One of the newer roles council has assigned the deputy mayor is to formally reply to emails sent to all of council and, if needed, forward these emails to city staff. 

This month, I have spent quite a bit of time replying to residents of Juniper Ridge with significant concerns about the evacuation out of the neighbourhood after a lightning strike caused the July 1 Kamloops East wildfire.

Many of these residents gave great praise to emergency first responders and were very appreciative that no lives or structures were lost.

However, the evacuation was a very frightening and traumatic experience for a lot of people.

And there are definitely improvements that will be made.

As I’ve replied to Juniper residents, I’ve been thankful for the understanding and willingness of most to work together to find solutions. After all of the challenges we’ve faced as a community, there are still reservoirs of resilience and goodwill. 

These reservoirs are being tested. City council members often get tagged/mentioned on social media when people express concerns about substance use, anti-social behaviour and crime.

These issues have increased since the beginning of the pandemic, but they have also been with us for a long time.

I acknowledge the frustration expressed. There are no easy answers, but we do have choices.

We can blame others and look for simple answers that, frankly, don’t work.

Or we can seek to understand these are tough issues that will require great patience and collaboration to find the best solutions. 

If we decide to try to take matters into our own hands, the outcomes can be very bad — and even tragic.

I recognize some citizens don’t have faith and trust in their elected representatives. And I think city council members have to continually work to earn, build and keep your trust. 

I recently received my second vaccination shot. The progress with vaccinations has given me hope that the pandemic will soon be over and we will soon be back to gathering, shaking hands and engaging in permission-based hugs of all types.

Again, our progress toward the post-pandemic world depends on the choices we make. 

The vaccination centre at the Tournament Capital Centre is full of helpers, caregivers and people supporting other people.

Fundamentally, this is who we are as Kamloopsians.

I hope we all remember that. 

May these challenges we have faced make us better people, more united in common cause and committed to coming out of the pandemic better than we were when we went in.

Arjun Singh is a Kamloops councillor. His email address is asingh@kamloops.ca. Council columns appear monthly in the priint edition of KTW and online at kamloops thisweek.com. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.

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