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Surrey Town Hall: Security, Infrastructure & Bylaws

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The Surrey Town Hall series organized by the City of Surrey as part of the commitment to establish better communication and cooperation with citizens, visited Fleetwood for their final meeting. A group of approximately 45 people gathered at the Surrey Sports and Leisure Complex with a rare opportunity to meet the Mayor and members of the Council and discuss the current state of the community. In attendance were Mayor Dianne Watts and Councillors Barinder Rasode and Marvin Hunt. They were joined by Planning and Engineering GM’s, Jean Lamontagne and GM Engineering, Vince Lalonde.

Security, bylaw enforcement and a the clean up of Fleetwood were the most interesting areas of discussion on Tuesday evening. Tuesday’s Town Hall confirmed that each of our communities are unique within the City, with differences in prioritization of problems and needs.

Residents express concerns to the Mayor and Council

BYLAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS

Municipal government is introducing bylaws to prevent future illegal activities in Surrey due to the high costs of dealing with law breakers. This element of governmental functioning still presents one of the biggest problems for local authorities. Enforcement of bylaws is crucial to help the local government deal with offenders without getting involved in lengthy court processes and placing a strain on resources.

Speaking on behalf of Council, Mayor Watts clearly expressed her wish to see new branch of judicial authority – bylaw courts. These will allow for accelerated proceedings and faster decisions,  followed by an increased rate of implementation of bylaws in Surrey. Utilizing more power from the provincial level would increase the abilities for the municipal governments to fight against those who don’t follow the letter of the law. Currently, a simple legal process could take 3 to 4 years, including numerous possible appeals. According to Mayor Watts, the introduction of bylaw courts could shorten legal battles for up to several years.

This is not the only issue where local government is attempting to move forward despite intergovernmental relations and authority divides. A group of citizens from Newton asked the Mayor and Councillors how they can permit the transformation of a community bingo hall into a potential casino facility in their community. The answer: the City doesn’t have any authority over bingo/casino halls and all regulations are in hands of the Provincial government (BCLC). Community halls are a valuable resource of revenue for the province of British Columbia through gambling, bingo and slot machines. Funds gathered through these activities are used to support amateur sports, arts and community organizations across the Province. However, there’s significant fear among Surrey residents regarding the proposed facility in Newton. The possibilities of addiction, poverty, and financial issues for the most vulnerable populations were of concern. Residents could call on the Mayor and Council to send a letter to the Provincial government, but in my opinion Newton citizens could also write to the local MLA and ask for help in resolving this issue. It is valuable for citizens to learn more about the differences and division of responsibilities of each branch of government in Canada. This understanding helps to clarify the roles of the City and the Province, especially when discussing issues that involve the conflict between the rights and duties of each.

Mayor Watts and Councillor Rasode respond to the issues

CLAYTON – SECURITY, COMFORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE

A group of Clayton area residents  expressed their concerns in hopes to hear more from the elected officials regarding future plans for their community. Coach houses, usually built on the far side of properties, are bringing in a big number of new residents than was anticipated when the area was in development. Those who call Clayton home described that due to a lack of parking space, cars are parked on both sides of some streets. This could potentially compromise security and safety if emergency responders or other essential services providers were unable to access the scene in a timely manner due to the lack of space on the streets. There is a rising fear and concern from the residents that the current state of their streets could lead to an unfortunate incident. A strong promise was given by the City officials that these and similar issues will be looked at and required action will follow as soon as possible.

This group also asked the Mayor and Council to invest more in infrastructure projects, new schools (due to rising population) and for further planning for this vibrant and proud community. I’m not sure when these wishes will be fulfilled,  but I am sure that the City will add them to the list of all other areas in need for more infrastructure, schools and planning.

DRUGS, RCMP AND BLOCK WATCH

Problems with drug dealers and buyers around parks and community buildings in the the city is a battle. Recently we heard some concerns from residents in the Newton area. The residents asked for some important advice on this issue: what to do, how to contact police and what they need to be able to act. We learned from RCMP representative at the meeting that the best solution is a simple phone call providing details on location, car plate numbers or any other suspicious activity without endangering your own safety. A tip from this discussion: a simple pair of household binoculars can be a good tool if you witness suspicious activity in your neighbourhood. Residents being aware and providing information will help the police to combat the drug sellers and other forms of criminal activity.

The City and RCMP, gave kudos to the Block Watch groups and stressed the importance of their activities in the fight against crime at the micro level. Councillor Marvin Hunt discovered the importance of Block Watch when he was searching for the best option for home insurance. He learned that  he could save $200/year on the insurance if  his neighbourhood had a Block Watch. At the time, the neighbourhood did not have one, so Councillor Hunt moved forward with a proposal and became the first leader of the newly – formed Block Watch in his neighbourhood.  Forming a Block Watch is not only beneficial for crime prevention, but also offers incentives for your property’s insurance.

TOLLING, FUNDS AND PROPERTY TAXES

Mayor Dianne Watts, absent from previous meetings due to a trip to Geneva, Switzerland and an unforeseen circumstance when she was back in Surrey, was very open and talkative with attendees. Mayor Watts attempted to answer all questions and addressed issues related to tolling, funds for infrastructure and property tax increases. Mayor Watts explained that her and the Council’s vision is to have fair tolling on all bridges and a fair share of funds collected and distributed. Mayor Watts’ stand is strong on the possibility of an increase in property taxes, expressing that The City of Surrey doesn’t want to burden its residents if they will not get a fair share of projects and investment for their communities.


Mayor Watts addresses Surrey residents at the Town Hall meeting in Fleetwood on Tuesday, May 1st.

Born in Bosnia, Esmir’s interests are in journalism, politics, communications, history, culture, sports, books and technology. He has contributed to some of the most innovative independent media projects to come out of Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of the earliest members of Surrey604, Esmir now resides in Sarajevo working with Bosnian FACE TV.

Politics

2019 Surrey Report Card: Councillor Gives Mayor’s Team a D for Transit and F for Proposed Police Department

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More and more of us in Surrey believe our city is headed in the wrong direction: Councillor Linda Annis

Surrey, BC: In her 2019 report card for city hall, Councillor Linda Annis has given Mayor Doug McCallum and his four Safe Surrey councillors a D when it comes to transit and an “F” for the proposed Surrey Police Department.

“The mayor said he could get Skytrain from Surrey city centre to Langley for the $1.65 billion that had been allocated to LRT, but that turned out to be completely untrue and wasn’t even close to reality,” said Annis. “Instead, we’re getting only four stations and everything stops at 164th, with no new funding for at least the next 10 years. That means no significant transit improvements for neighbourhoods such as Newton, Cloverdale, Clayton, Campbell Heights and South Surrey. Frankly, when it comes to transit the mayor and his Safe Surrey councillors haven’t delivered as our city continues to grow. As a result, we’ll continue to be a city that spends more time in our cars than people living in Vancouver or other Lower Mainland cities.”

Annis said that while there’s growing disappointment about transit, she believes the proposed Surrey Police Department is the single biggest city hall failure in 2019.

“I think the idea of the SPD and the way the mayor is dealing with it deserves a failing grade,” said Annis. “There’s nothing about the transition report that gives anyone any confidence that we’re spending money wisely, or even solving a policing or public safety problem. The mayor and his four councillors have ignored the community, ignored taxpayers, and are trying to ram through the SPD at any cost. You only have to look at the new city budget to see that the transition to the SPD is swallowing up every available dollar, which means no new police, no new firefighters, and no new rinks, parks or community centres. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to grow, but cutting back on police and firefighters. Frankly, taxpayers are getting shortchanged. It just doesn’t make any sense, and, if the SPD is actually created, it will have fewer officers than our current Surrey RCMP detachment. It’s a financial nightmare and there are no answers from the mayor and his team. As a result, I think by any measure the proposed SPD plan deserves an F.”

Annis added that when it comes to housing affordability in Surrey, new city taxes and charges to developers that are passed on to home buyers only work to make Surrey less affordable. Consequently, when it comes to affordability, Annis gives city hall a D in her 2019 report card.

“Politicians talk a good game when it comes to affordability, but increased city taxes and the growing number of charges from Surrey city hall to local developers are simply being passed on to people looking to buy a home,” noted Annis. “Here in Surrey, those taxes and extra costs are nothing more than a cash grab to help fund the transition to the SPD. In the end, taxpayers and new home buyers pay the costs, and affordability goes out the window.”

Outlining her priorities for 2020, Annis said ethics, better transit, public safety, smart development, youth at risk and new schools are among her top priorities. Over the coming year, Annis said she will be advocating for:

  • Hiring the promised ethics commissioner for the City of Surrey
  • Complete transparency around the proposed SPD and its costs, with a public referendum that gives taxpayers the final say
  • More and better transit for Surrey neighbourhoods
  • Smart development that ensures Surrey is creating a community where people can work, live and play, with less commuting to jobs outside of Surrey
  • Zero tolerance for school portables, with the City being more proactive with the Province and school board
  • More transitional housing for the homeless

“Our community is continuing to grow and we’ve got tremendous potential, but we have to make better decisions about our future and make sure we’re getting it right, particularly when it comes to transit, policing and development,” explained Annis. “I’ve always believed that the mayor and council are elected to listen to our voters and taxpayers. That transparency is key, but we’re seeing less and less public input, engagement or consultation and that’s no way to build a better city. I’m hoping that in 2020 we’ll see politicians at city hall listen more and talk less, ensuring Surrey residents always have the final say about their future.”

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Politics

BC Libertarian Party Assembles to Drive Change

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Dustin Murray walked into his first BC Libertarian party meeting hoping to meet like minded thinkers for change in the province, but walked out as the parties Surrey-Delta-Langley treasurer. The party met Sunday afternoon to discuss and approve the party bylaws, as well as elect three new members for the Surrey Delta Langley location.

The president, and vice president were both filled by two elected party members. Alex Joel filled the position as president and Jesse Batsford filled the position of vice president. But once the position of treasurer was open, the last member of the party present declined the offer allowing Dustin Murray to step in and hold the position.

“I can’t sit around and do nothing, so I’m here to do something,” said Murray.

Once the member of the party voted Murray as treasurer, Murray finally handed in his application to be a formal member of the BC Libertarian Party, along with his five dollar application fee. Dr. Kenneth Van Dewark, who hold the regional caucus chair and lead the meeting, traded Murrays application with the parties treasurer paperwork which Murray swiftly signed at the bottom.

(L) Dustin Murray – Treasurer, Don Wilson – Party leader, Alex Joel – president and Jesse Batsford – vice president

(L) Dustin Murray – Treasurer, Alex Joel – president and Jesse Batsford – vice president

Murray’s role as treasurer is purely ceremonial for the party but Murray said he is still looking forward to create action in little ways for his family and himself. Murray is one of a handful of new members that joined Sunday afternoon. While the party has been around since 1986, the party has only seen a significant growth within the past two years.

“I would say, it (BC Libertarian Party) was more of a book club then a viable political option,” said Dr. Van Dewark. “But I think the situation in BC is, it’s become such that people are hungry for an alternative and the party has become a vehicle for that.”

According to party leader Don Wilson the party has grown for its advocacy on lower taxes, more choice and freedom alternatives. “Free market economics, classical liberal ideas, the protection of property rights and free speech, that’s our focus,” said Wilson.

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Mayor McCallum & City Council approve free parking on streets around Surrey Memorial Hospital and at City Hall Parkade

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Surrey, BC – Surrey City Council unanimously approved two hour free parking for on-street parking around Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) and at the City Hall Parkade.

“I firmly believed that people visiting their loved ones at Surrey Memorial Hospital should not pay for parking, nor should our citizens have to pay to park their vehicles when conducting business at their “house,” which is City Hall,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “This was a promise that my team and I campaigned on and we have taken immediate action to deliver on it.”

With Council’s decision tonight, the 103 on-street pay parking spaces around SMH and up to 165 spaces for the public at the City Hall Parkade are free of charge for the first two hours for visitors. The two hour time limit has been implemented in order to ensure that the spots are being utilized as intended and discourage external users, such as park-and-ride, from occupying the stalls for an extended length of time. The full corporate report can be viewed here.

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City of Surrey only municipality to be named among Canada’s most admired corporate cultures

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Surrey, BC – The City of Surrey has been recognized in the “Broader Public Sector” category and is the only municipality to be named among Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures for 2018.

“To be the only municipality in Canada to receive this award speaks volumes about our employees’ passion and innovation for the work they do,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “I am glad that our City staff are being recognized for their commitment to deliver superior service to our citizens in Surrey.”

The award is presented annually by Waterstone Human Capital, a leading executive search firm specializing in recruiting for fit and cultural talent management, to companies that demonstrate exemplary performance in vision and leadership; recruitment and hiring for fit; cultural alignment and measurement; retention; rewards and recognition; organizational performance; and corporate social responsibility.

“Our corporate culture is a reflection of the extraordinary things our employees do each and every day,” said Vincent Lalonde, City Manager. “Recognition on this level is a testament to the exceptional efforts of our employees. It’s a real honour for the City of Surrey and its staff to receive this award.”

This national program, now in its 14th year, recognizes best-in-class Canadian organizations for having cultures that have helped them enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage.

“At Waterstone we believe corporate culture drives performance and that it’s your organization’s greatest asset,” said Marty Parker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Waterstone Human Capital and Chair of Canada’s Most Admired™ Corporate Cultures. “What’s notable about the 2018 winners is their commitment to culture as a competitive advantage. They set an outstanding example for cultivating and sustaining great cultures that ultimately drive growth and performance. This year’s winning organizations are to be admired for the diverse and impactful ways they ensure culture underpins their success.”

For more information about the program, visit www.canadasmostadmired.com

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TransLink Mayors Council Meeting Brings Victory for Mayor McCallum

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In the first TransLink Mayors Council Meeting, mayors collectively voted to suspend the Surrey light rail transit and move forward with implementing a SkyTrain extension to Langley. Despite numerous unanswered questions and concerns in suspending the LRT, Surrey’s new mayor Doug McCallum spoke to the mayors about the impact the switch will make for Surrey.

As the meeting proceeded, he was victorious. Before the votes were counted a discussion between the mayors was made where multiple mayors questioned the suspension. Mayor McCallum disagreed with a statement that Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie made during their discussion.

Mayor Brodie said that the decision behind the LRT was not made lightly in previous years considering Surrey residents, politicians and transportation experts were consulted. Mayor Brodie said the previous party, Surrey First, proposed the idea and had worked on the implementation of the line for years.

“I think this approach is going down a very dangerous precedent,” mayor Brodie said. Whether or not the plans should change based on an election was a question the mayors should think about before casting their vote, mayor Brodie said. Mayor Brodie requested that the board meet again to vote once the timeline and facts are more concrete. The next mayor’s council meeting will take place on Dec. 13 but mayor McCallum said, “The region is ready to move forward. We need to move forward.”

While mayor Brodie said majority of the Surrey residents prefer the LRT, mayor McCallum opposed Brodie’s statement and said that the only residents for the construction of the LRT were previous politicians and residents with a business background. He gave an example of two of the delegates that attended, Anita Huberman CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade and Dr. Greg Thomas President and CEO of G3 Consulting Ltd.

Huberman said during her speech that to build the LRT is to connect Surrey all around. “Let’s build it,” she said. Mayor McCallum said that his role is to be the voice for the people and said, “I believe in being a messenger for our city.”

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