City of Kamloops councillor candidate profile: Katie Neustaeter

Meet Katie Neustaeter

Castanet Kamloops is going to help you get to know the candidates running for city councillor over the next few weeks. Every weekday morning starting on Sept. 12, we will be posting a Q&A for each hopeful running for Kamloops council in the Oct. 15 local general election. All council candidates will be asked the same questions, and their answers, submitted to Castanet by email, are published in full.

Castanet Kamloops: Why do you think you would be a good councillor for the City of Kamloops? What unique perspective, skills or vision do you bring to the table?

Katie Neustaeter: I know business, governance, public service, and Kamloops. I’m committed to maintaining our unique culture while bringing forward a new vision. In true Kamloops fashion, I play hard and work harder; I am dedicated to growth that reflects the lifestyle and voices of this city.

Also, I understand the job. Serving your community as a councillor means consistently applying good judgment to difficult decisions. I’m collaborative and consultative and will work for the whole. A lifetime of dedication to Kamloops while building relationships across sectors and demographics has prepared me to understand where we’ve been and where we need to go — together. Additionally, I know enough to know that I have a lot to learn, and I’m here for it.

My combined background in media, the social service sector, and Kamloops volunteerism positions me to understand the needs of our community. I don’t just live in this city; I’m involved in it. I’ve demonstrated that I not only have Kamloops’ best interest at heart, but also that I have the experience, fortitude, and results to back it up.

My vision for Kamloops is one where all can thrive, which requires an awareness of our challenges, but focuses on solutions. While I’m realistic about the pace with which it can be achieved in local government, I’m not afraid of change.I’ve also proven my ability to exercise fiscal responsibility, manage crisis, revise process, and follow the courage of my convictions.

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing the community today?

Neustaeter: Development, particularly housing, is currently our most pressing issue. We need to listen to the expertise of builders who’ve been telling us that arbitrary and blanket requirements, inefficient processes and unnecessary bureaucracy are barriers to building the affordable homes that our population needs.

It’s past time to implement creative ways to cut red tape, change arduous zoning complexities and decrease permit processing time. Co-operative housing, tiny home subdivisions, multi-family housing (ie. condos, duplex/triplex/fourplex, etc.) and other entry-level housing options (and making them possible) is necessary.

With only 3 per cent of available land to build on in Kamloops, we are also faced with a serious lack of options and need to find ways to unlock land. For example, the Chamber of Commerce has put forward a Land Trust policy document that proposes a “robust mechanism for ecological land donations” – these are the kinds of solutions we must seek.

Additional considerations include maintaining awareness that industrial land is critical and needs to be preserved for business development, and that an inventory of the use of social housing and its utilization must be a regular occurrence.

Address housing effectively and we will begin alleviating the other pressing issues facing our community (per question #3).

How can the city best tackle social issues — mental health, addictions, homelessness, crime — given the need to work with other levels of government responsible for those areas?

Neustaeter: Some solutions begin with housing, others require an approach that interconnects/consolidates wrap-around services and/or removes the greatest impact to the general public.

Evidence shows that we can’t warehouse street-entrenched people in singular buildings and expect recovery or change to occur; we must construct policy regulating the disbursement of supportive housing across buildings and prioritize units for those seeking recovery.

We need to work with qualified service providers to create a Day Space on the North Shore. We can constantly move folks who lack options from location to location, but unless people are given a clear, accessible, safe option with available resources, we will continue to see the problem expand.

It’s time to examine the execution of harm reduction (meant to be 1 element of a 4 pillared approach: treatment, harm reduction, education, and prevention) and rebuild strategies to alleviate the devastating issue of addiction and overdose.

Additionally, city council should work with and advocating to other levels of government to aggressively discontinue “catch and release” and enforce consequences for prolific offenders.

Finally, good neighbours make good neighbourhoods — this starts at home. We must find practical ways to build the connections that inspire individuals to build community and feel less alone.

Kamloops and area has felt the impacts in recent years of a changing climate. What do you think the city should do to foster climate resilience and reduce emissions?

Neustaeter: Climate change and the areas to prioritize when combating its effects aren’t my expertise. We should look to experts in environmental sciences and municipalities seeing results in the reduction of emissions and explore how we might adopt their methods.

Still, I’m nervous about the long-term efficacy of electric as a solution — we need more discovery around clean hydrogen, seemingly a more viable product for future sustainability. Incentivising/promoting the implementation of common-sense products like solar panels/lights and continuing to encourage pollinator-friendly plants/trees seems logical.

Our recycling situation deserves attention, and I have misgivings about the recently passed compost initiative. I prefer to empower citizens to independently create change and have hesitations about emissions when exporting our “problems” instead of creating local solutions.

Dealing with the social infrastructure of environmental crises is my wheelhouse. We need to proactively build strategies, partnerships, and procedures that mitigate confusion and trauma when events happen. A clear flow of communication ensuring activities performed by key stakeholders are not duplicated and that gaps are filled, anticipating and activating a coordinated response effort to house, feed, resource, and care for the mental health of people affected by environmental crises is necessary, and we must do it together.

How can the City of Kamloops strengthen its partnership with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and continue working toward reconciliation with First Nations?

Neustaeter: As a non-Indigenous person, it’s not my place to lead in this area, but to listen, learn and enter with a spirit of humility and willingness.

I’m proud of the relationship that Kamloops and Tk’emlups te Secwepemc enjoy. It should be celebrated, never taken for granted, and needs to be fortified. Continuing the efforts of truth and reconciliation cannot happen without an honest understanding of our history and how Indigenous people have been intentionally disadvantaged through colonial systems. This learning should be promoted by the city through efforts like sharing circles and other educational opportunities.

Furthermore, economic reconciliation is often misunderstood or ignored. Acknowledging that the Indian Act subjugated Indigenous people financially by removing them from our economy while squelching their own helps us move toward collaborative solutions.

Under the guidance of our neighbouring community, TteS, we can begin making these things right at the local level by offering innovative partnership opportunities on capital and infrastructure projects that benefit both peoples. Perhaps joint proposals at provincial/federal levels and a joint marketing approach that attracts economic opportunity through a unified strategy?

Tk’emlups, “where the rivers meet”; a great symbolism for how our two communities must come together and function as one.

Visit Castanet's Kamloops Votes page to find profiles for City of Kamloops mayoral and councillor candidates along with links to candidates' websites and social media accounts if available.

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