Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on October 2, 2017. 

There’s this curious phenomenon that happens to many of our family’s out-of-town guests when they come for a visit: they fall in love with Kamloops. Sure, for most of the year, hills are dry, though the wild west appeal is certainly present and charming. The summer of 2017 was painfully smoky for long enough to scare away visitors and make us all feel shortchanged when the leaves started turning.

There’s the occasional pulp mill smell, which can be a rude pungent awakening on an otherwise pleasant morning, or evening, for that matter, and yet despite of that, Kamloops inspires to many a homey feeling, for lack of a better way to define that special something.

You stroll through the downtown and it’s pleasant. Not perfect, but that is not the point. Life isn’t either. There are many an eye-pleasing places you can stop by, whether to eat, shop, or grab a cup of coffee and watch people walk by. Even if you’re new in town, the chances of bumping into a familiar face are high; a good thing. Blame it on the many events that Kamloops is hosting throughout the year, or the lively farmers’ market that seems to have grown in popularity this year, especially on Saturdays (a very welcoming sight indeed!)

There is beautiful nature surrounding Kamloops and breathtaking sunsets. Some might say that it all sounds nice and sweet, too much so, if only I could get my blinders off and realize that the many issues that plague our downtown and city are a terribly sad and frustrating reality. They are, without a doubt.

There is the downtown parking (though I still think the former KDN building could have been used for a better purpose,) the presence of many transient people, who can occasionally be aggressive (a friend’s teenage son was recently aggressed near the library), or the ones begging for change, which many people find annoying and intrusive.

City-wise, we have a heartbreaking yet-to-be-solved drug overdose problem, we have careless, distracted, or impaired drivers whose actions make the news too often, and a frustrating lack of family doctors. There are many homeless people still, and we have a recycling issue that leaves much to be desired. There is rush hour traffic, and we have a long way to improving public transportation in some areas and becoming greener. Then, there are the issues that divide the city, such as mines and pipelines, and have been doing so for a long time.

There are a lot of things that can be said about Kamloops, some better than others. But here’s an extra good thing that the recent byelections revealed. That there are many who care enough about all that Kamloops is and isn’t, to put their name out there, share their beliefs, and hope for a seat in the council or to become mayor.

It’s no small thing. It takes courage to do that. The campaign time was short, which allowed for too little knowledge of the candidates, and not enough dialogue with the voters; the percentage of voters was dismal, many are saying, at a humble 21 percent.

We now have a new mayor and a somewhat refreshed council. They will be facing much heat when it comes to the divisive issues, and they will be measured against their predecessors. There will be personal attacks and social media will be raging at times. Which makes me say, once more, that I am amazed at how many Kamloops citizens got ready do it, nonetheless.

Low voter percentage can be blamed on apathy, lack of time to find out who’s who, or a plain old ‘who cares?’ attitude. Hopefully, by the next elections we will double or triple that percentage. If some of us care enough to put themselves out there as candidates, we should all care enough to take time and find out what they stand for and ultimately vote, so here’s to a better next time. Meanwhile, there is much to be proud of. First, that many candidates put time and courage in signing up for the race. It’s the age of people taking jabs at people on social media simply for being out there. Hats off to those who signed up for the task anyway.

As for the ones who got elected, let’s hope we can find good ways to cheer them on, encourage them, criticize constructively rather than attack them, and thus help in seeing some of the many issues Kamloops is facing, solved, or at least improved. Dialogue is everything.

As with everything else in life, you take the good with the bad as they say. Kamloops issues are no different. There’s a lot of good things that are immediately apparent and then there are the stagnant many things that chip at that good image. Those we elected can change some of that during the next year, and chances are they can do a better job if we supply feedback, involvement, and insist on having a dialogue. If voting was a few days only, dialogue can be an ongoing thing until the next round of elections.

Meanwhile, Kamloops is still a great place to be. Here’s to seeing good and better things happen under the new leadership!