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Limited List Of Openings Proves The Point: Surrey Mayor Is Keeping Facilities Closed To Pay $129 Million Police Transition Bill

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Surrey residents deserve to have their pools, rinks, rec centres
and libraries opened now, says Councillor Linda Annis

Surrey, BC: Councillor Linda Annis says a city press release distributed Friday afternoon outlining the limited opening of a handful of city facilities reinforces that the mayor is keeping rinks, rec centres, pools, seniors centres and libraries closed to help pay his $129 million police transition bill.

“One look at the list and you can see it’s all the low-hanging fruit, a handful of easy outdoor facilities and programs that don’t cost much at all,” said Annis. “Closing our facilities when Covid-19 hit us was the right thing to do, but now it’s time to reopen our pools, rinks, rec centres, libraries and seniors centres in ways that meet the provincial health guidelines.

Stores, restaurants and other facilities have all found creative and effective ways to re-open safely, and so should our city facilities. Instead, we have some of the province’s best public facilities sitting empty, all to save money so the mayor can pay for his police department. We have really smart staff and terrific facility managers, don’t tell me that if they were given the green light to open that they couldn’t figure out how to do it and run their facilities safely. Our teams are terrific, but that’s not the direction they’ve been given.”

Over the past week Annis has been posting pictures of closed pools, rinks, seniors centres, libraries and rec centres across the city on Twitter and Facebook. “For instance, the new Clayton rec centre is completed, but sitting behind fencing because it was closed even before it opened,” noted Annis.

‘Important public amenities like these make cities more livable and they are really important for our kids, seniors and families. If the mayor wanted them open they’d be open, but every day they remain closed he can siphon off more money to pay the costs that are mounting around his police department.”

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.

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Council Passes Two Bylaws To Make For A Greener City

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In the final regular Council meeting of 2020, Surrey City Council approved two bylaws that will make for a positive environmental impact on the City. Amendments to the Surrey Tree Protection Bylaw will see penalties substantially increased for the illegal cutting of specimen quality trees from $2,000 to $5,000 and for protected trees from $1,000 to $3,000.

The penalty for an offence related to a significant tree has also been increased from $10,000 to $20,000. The fines are per offence. Council has also approved the Plastic Bans and Single-Use Items Bylaw which calls for the ban of plastic shopping bags, foam cups and foam take-out containers.

“While much of the focus of 2020 has been on fighting COVID-19, with a new year almost upon us, there is much hope that a return to normal is on the horizon,” said Mayor Doug McCallum.

“That is why Council is renewing its focus on our environment. The bylaws that were passed at Council’s final meeting of 2020 is a precursor of the priorities we will be placing on bettering Surrey’s environment in the new year.”

“Surrey has long been a leader among municipalities when it comes to sustainability and we are well poised to be leading from the front come 2021,” said Cllr Allison Patton, Chair of the Agriculture, Environment and Investment Committee. “Council will continue to work proactively to ensure that Surrey continues to be at the forefront as a thriving, green and inclusive city.”

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A $45 Million Budget Cut To RCMP In 2021

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“Increasing Population, Increasing Calls To Police, No New Officers Since 2018, Fewer Officers In Proposed Surrey Police Service – And A $45 Million Budget Cut To RCMP In 2021: If You Think This Is a Serious Public Safety Concern, You’re Right”

Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis says public safety in Surrey is facing “a perfect storm” in 2021, all because the mayor and his remaining Safe Surrey Coalition councillors have their priorities all wrong.

“Our population is closing in on 600,000, the annual number of calls to police has grown to nearly 200,000, we haven’t hired any additional RCMP officers since 2018, the proposed local police force actually plans to have fewer officers than we have right now, and the mayor and his remaining councillors have voted to cut the RCMP budget by $45 million in 2021,” said Annis.

“Any one of these issues would be a public safety challenge on its own, but when you add them all together we’re about to face a perfect storm that will hurt public safety in our city in 2021 and beyond.”

Annis said calls to police in 2017 reached 182,540, and in 2019 reached 199,020, with 2020 looking almost the same. By the beginning of December there were 188,920 calls to police, and there are still a couple of weeks left to go in 2020.

“Frankly, I think the mayor and his councillors are playing fast and loose with public safety,” added Annis. “When you don’t provide the resources and officers a growing city needs, you risk putting the community and its families in harm’s way. It’s short-sighted and frankly it’s dangerous.

“Service calls to the police are up and growing, officer numbers are stagnant, and the proposed municipal force actually calls for fewer officers, which is absolutely ridiculous for a city nearing 600,000 residents. Meanwhile, we’re cutting the RCMP budget in 2021.

It makes absolutely no sense. What we should be doing is putting the municipal force on hold and properly funding the RCMP and increasing the number of officers right now. Instead, we are siphoning off every available dollar into the mayor’s Surrey Police Service, all at the expense of public safety issues staring us in the face.”

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Celebrating the holidays safely in Surrey

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With the Public Health Orders extended through the holiday season, we know this is a challenging time for our community. While these measures are not forever, they have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. The City is calling on residents to virtually celebrate the holidays with those outside their household and avoid all non-essential travel.

“While this Christmas season will no doubt feel different, we know that the future looks bright with the arrival of vaccines. However, with COVID cases still spiking in the Fraser Health region, it is critical that we stay vigilant by keeping our guard up and doing what we can to protect our most vulnerable population this holiday season,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “While we all must do our part in keeping each other safe there are still many ways we can stay connected and support one another over the Christmas holidays.”

The following are some ideas to celebrate the holiday season safely here in Surrey, while following the provincial health orders:

  1. Walk around your neighbourhood and take in the beautiful lights and decorations set up by homes or businesses as part of the Light Where You Live Campaign.
  2. Surrey Parks are always open for a lovely winter stroll, while following the safety guidelines.
  3. Experience a Victorian Christmas by taking a virtual tour of the Historic Stewart Farm.
  4. Enjoy songs, stories and rhymes with your children on Surrey Libraries Facebook page.
  5. Take traditional holiday celebrations virtual this year, through video apps such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, WhatsApp and FaceTime. Consider a virtual gift unwrapping activity with your family. Share photos or videos of your festive lights with us for a chance to win prizes or enter the Surrey Tree Lighting 12 Days of Giveaways contest!
  6. Participate in Surrey Libraries Christmas activities like Teen Christmas Kahoot! Tournament and Take & Make Crafts.
  7. Take a free online fitness class in the comfort of your own home.
  8. Check out more online activities to enjoy during the holidays at surrey.ca/online-programming.
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City’s Popular Tree Sale Program Expanded

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Surrey, BC – Building on the success of the City’s tree sale program in 2020, the City of Surrey has expanded the program from a once a year event to four times a year.

This past October, the City’s annual tree sale sold out, with over 700 trees purchased by residents and planted in their backyards. Given the overwhelming success of this event, the City will host four tree sale events in 2021.

“The demand that we saw in October made it clear to me that Surrey’s tree sale should not be limited to an annual event,” said Mayor Doug McCallum.

“I am proud to announce that we will hold the City tree sale four times a year. The first one is slated next March and we’ll have up to 1,000 trees available for sale. I want to thank our Parks staff for their work on this very worthwhile initiative, and I want to thank our residents for their enthusiastic support.”

“Planting a tree is good for your neighbourhood, our city and our environment,” said Councillor Allison Patton, Chair of the Agriculture, Environment and Investment Committee.

“I am delighted that the City’s tree sale has been expanded to allow our residents four different times of the year to take advantage of this great program.”

Residents will be able to purchase select tree species online in the weeks leading up to the pick-up days. The first City tree sale of 2021 is planned for Spring Break in March, the second in April will correspond with Earth Day and Party for the Planet, the third in early autumn, and the fourth in mid autumn. Up to 1,000 trees will be made available for sale during each event.

The City will be issuing reminders on social media as the date of the tree sales approaches.

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Linda Annis: Fewer Community Commitees With Fewer Community Members Means Less Transperancy And Public Engagement

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Surrey, B.C. Councillor Linda Annis says council can expect “less good advice and even less public engagement from the community” with last night’s decision by the mayor to cut the number of civic committees and reduce the actual number of community members on each committee, all while increasing the number of councillors.

Civic committees are intended to provide council with community input and expertise on areas of importance in our community, everything from agriculture and the environment, to public safety and social services,” said Annis.

“The community-based committees have always been an invaluable way of hearing from our community and particularly from Surrey residents who have some specific expertise. Councillors are not experts in many of these areas so getting input from our residents who have both an interest and also something valuable to say has always been important, at least until last night.”

Annis said by merging and reducing committees, and by reducing the number of community members on each committee, while increasing the number of city councillors, defeats the whole purpose.

“You don’t need three councillors on a committee at the expense of fewer members of the community,” said Annis. “It makes absolutely no sense and it just reinforces the complete lack of transparency that seems to be the mayor’s way of running things.”

Annis, who was named to the newly merged Public Safety and Social Services Committee and the city’s Heritage Committee, said merging committees means less time is available to give important areas in the city the attention and focus they deserve.

“For instance merging the agriculture and environment committees into one means these two important areas for our city will not get the real attention they need and deserve, and with fewer community members on the committee we’re not going to get the broad perspective and input that has always made the committees valuable to city councillors,” added Annis.

“Slowly but surely our community and neighbourhoods are being shut out of city hall decision making. We saw it last night when taxpayers were ignored and the incredible budget tax increases were approved, and we also see it here in the make-up of the new committee structure. Surrey residents are being ignored more and more and transparency and public input are fast becoming sidelined. When we stop listening to our residents and taxpayers we’re headed for trouble.”

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