In the past year, I’ve missed many events and outings that are usually a regular part of my life.
The Kamloopa Powwow, Blazers’ games, chamber of commerce events, Rotary Crabfest, Operation Red Nose and Western Canada Theatre productions — the list of events that connect our community goes on and on.
These events were fun for me, something I enjoyed doing in my personal time. Since being elected to council, I’ve also found them to be great opportunities to hear from residents about issues that were on their minds on any given day.
These were times where I could learn about concerns and problems, things we were doing right and, of course, things we were doing wrong or that could use improvement.
This past year has brought me face to face with the question: Without these events, how do we as local government representatives connect with the 100,000-plus people we represent? How do we continue to check the pulse of the community? How do we continue to get feedback from our residents when we can no longer see them in person?
Some people point to social media as a good way to request feedback. While I’m not sure Twitter and Facebook should be driving our policy decisions, we certainly do turn to these channels when appropriate.
I would say social media input has provided some context to our conversations since the pandemic began. But it is important to remember that not all residents have access to or use social media.
Council will continue to promote the city’s Let’s Talk webpage for residents to provide feedback on major projects and specific issues.
But what about the items you, as residents, want to talk about? I don’t mean topics we ask to hear from you on, but topics you want to talk about. You know, the snow-clearing process, pesky potholes or the ideal recreational swim time at our pools.
We know your concerns haven’t gone away. We just need to hear about them in a different way. And I want to help bridge that gap here. As impersonal as it feels, the best way for us to hear from you at this time is through email or phone calls.
The fact is, we don’t know what we don’t know. We need you, our eyes and ears on the ground, to continue reaching out to let us know where we’re getting it right and where we can do better.
In turn, I can reassure you that myself and all of my council colleagues are doing everything we can to listen and help the people (you) who put us where we are.
Collectively, we are trying to think outside the box on how to better connect with residents. While it seems “old school,” we are talking about things like writing letters to the editor in Kamloops This Week, holding virtual town halls and even having a monthly call-in AM radio show. These tried and tested communications methods, while maybe no longer cutting edge, provide reliable tools for the toolbox that we need to connect with residents.
Speaking of tried and tested communications tools, I can tell you one of the biggest highlights of being on council so far was receiving an envelope full of handwritten letters from Kamloops Minor Hockey Association players, thanking council for opening a hockey rink.
Sure, it wasn’t on the internet, but perhaps that is why the impact was felt so strongly around the horseshoe. The personal touch of a handwritten letter goes a long way, even in 2021.
We are all listening and we’re still here to serve. All of council’s individual emails and cellphone numbers are listed online at kamloops.ca/city-hall/city-government/city-council.
Mike O’Reilly is a Kamloops councillor. Council columns appear monthly in KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. O’Reilly can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this column, email email@example.com.