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Are Surrey Taxpayers Being Muzzled?

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City of Surrey Staff have been spotted taking down the “Keep the RCMP signs” from the front of people’s property. There are many schools of thought on this. Technically, as many properties have City of Surrey easement and Right of Ways registered on title, the staff are within their rights to removed anything on that right-of-way.

They have also been accused of removing the signs from people’s personal property. Again technically, the signs could be interpreted as a violation of the city’s sign bylaw. So technically the city may be within its rights to remove the signs but morally, are they doing themselves and the taxpayers a service by attempting to quash what is an obviously growing movement.

It is becoming more and more apparent that a growing number of taxpayers in the City of Surrey are against the Mayor’s plan to transition from the RCMP to a city police force. There are a multitude of reasons for this. Some believe that the RCMP are the better choice in policing, ignoring or overlooking the problems which seem to be systemic in the way some RCMP transactions have gone down.

Most agree that there needs to be better local accountability and there is a growing movement toward funding the police in a different way and using some funds to give police better support in dealing with addiction, poverty related crime, homelessness and mental illness.

Some believe that city police are going to be better. When asked why, the only answer that I have gotten is “better accountability” but when pressed for a clearer understanding of how that accountability will work, I am told “police board” which in theory could work but under the RCMP, we also have the ability to have a police board so I find myself back where I started.

What is not disputed is the fact that this will cost taxpayers a significant amount of money.

What is also not disputed is that with COVID 19, many taxpayers in the city are struggling to survive and any future financial plan from the city needs to take that into account. Many in the city think that the transition is possible but that it should include taxpayer input, be done over a longer period of time allowing for an easier financial transition and there should be more transparency on the project.

The issue is trust.

We have lost trust in our some of our elected officials because we feel our voices are not being heard or considered. Some would say we have lost faith in some of our police forces, both city and RCMP because of things we see on social media. And yes, many posts about how good the police are, and heart-warming stories also exist out there, but the majority of people are watching the world, the protests and the issues and extrapolating them into life here in Surrey.

However it must be pointed out that the RCMP have received 80% plus support in the polls. The petition to keep the RCMP is over 45,000 names and counting which is more than the number of votes that put the Mayor in power.

It is true that this was their platform but it could be argued that it was a symbolic vote without all the necessary information. I think most agree that the process has been flawed – there has never been a corporate report nor has there been a feasibility study, even though Wally Oppal recommended one. Those studies are important in determining the best steps for moving forward.

So, we have many issues and a lot of shouting voices, but the question is this…

Are taxpayers being muzzled? Some have said that taxpayers are trying to “redo the election” and that it is refreshing to see politicians “keeping their word” when it comes to campaign promises. Others are saying that decisions made regarding taxpayers’ dollars should include the voices of all the taxpayers and not just those who voted for your party.

They are demanding a “fair system” where their voices aren’t targeted and shut down at council meetings. They want the Mayor and his four councillors to play by Robert’s Rules of Order and not run roughshod over legitimate motions put out by those elected councillors not on his personal cheering team.

Taxpayers want a say in how their tax dollars are spent.

And so, the “Keep the RCMP” movement grows, and more and more signs are going up. Some have erected signs simply to demonstrate their right to free expression and without a real heart in the fight. They believe that if taxpayers voices are being ignored then they should join the fight for the right to put up a sign and demonstrate in a real way that they will not be silenced. Others firmly believe that the RCMP belong in Surrey and they will continue to put up signs, regardless of how many are taken down.

Some hang the signs from their chimney and dare city employees to step on their property. One woman has her sign right on the easement line and a pressurized water hose at the ready, for anyone that dares to touch it. She claims it is to water her roses with, but the water pressure will take the paint of sidewalk, so I am not so sure.

The question is one of fairness. City workers have been caught on camera removing only the “Keep the RCMP” signs but ignoring all the other signs in the neighbourhood that also contravene the sign bylaw, so it is obvious that this is the only group being targeted.

Again, this is an issue of fairness. The fact is that many signs contravene the city bylaws and for the most part they are ignored. Even one city of Surrey councillor has signs which appear to contravene the city bylaw, on city easement and city property advertising his business. This is walking distance from where taxpayer’s Keep the RCMP signs were removed. Why aren’t his signs taken down?

Regardless of where you stand on the argument, people want equitable treatment with regards to signs. And taxpayers will find a way to be heard. Especially as they are getting their property tax bills in the mail and currently seeing an increase in property taxes with a noticeable decrease in services.

With swimming pools and civic centres all closed, funding for the arts dried up, and parks closed, even non-political people are questioning the need to spend so much money on a police transition when there are so many other needs in the city. I believe that taxpayers have a right to put up their signs and express their opinion. They should have been able to be heard by their elected officials, but they were shut down.

They should have gotten responses to their letters to their elected municipal officials but only a few responded. They should have been heard by the provincial officials but their silence on this issue has been deafening. While some have responded and some have made public statements, most have tiptoed whistling, away from the issue.

Taxpayers have legitimate questions about cost and the direct effect it will have on their family finances and those questions deserve an answer. Taxpayers want to be part of a process that will affect how crime in their neighbourhood is handled and what kind of model policing will take.

They want to know where the new police will come from and who will train them. They want the ability to speak into the process and participate in discussions about how things are done. They want the transition, if done, to be done in a way that doesn’t put the public at risk.

Taxpayers want their voices to be heard. On both sides of this fence, taxpayers need to be part of the process and not have one decision shoved down their throats while the other side laughs. Nor should the voices of those who want city police be shouted down by those against. Proper, respectful, informed discussion needs to take place with both sides listening with listening ears to what the other has to say.

Until this happens, we will continue to see chaos and dysfunction at the council level. We will continue to have taxpayers flooding the mailrooms of elected officials, municipally, federally and provincially and we will continue to see signs going up all over Surrey that say, “Keep the RCMP”.

It would be wise for the Mayor to allow taxpayers their signs. This isn’t going to go away. Their voices are becoming louder and stronger and it would be wise for every elected official, on all levels to figure out which side of the fence they are on and quickly because the time for accountability has come.

Let your voice be heard. Write a short, informed, respectful letter to your elected officials and give them your reasons for what you think. This is your money and your city. It doesn’t belong to outsiders, special interest groups or politicians. It belongs to you.

Shara Nixon loves to hear and repeat the stories of people’s lives and cultural viewpoints. She enjoys deep conversations and people who hold strong viewpoints. In her day job she is a social worker for business owners, helping them meet their goals. As an insomniac, she writes at night to clear her head. She is punctuationally challenged and uses too many !!!. She also believes in creative spelling as an art form. Her super-power is in connecting like-minded people and communicating with an intent to learn instead of respond. She writes about relationships, business savvy, online dating, finance and general things that piss her off. Shara believes that key to peace is education and connection!!!

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5 Restaurants and a New Year in Surrey!

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Afghan Kitchen, Surrey BC.

Another new year approaches: Surrey 2022 here we go! But with the new Covid restrictions, where are you going to enjoy this Friday night, whether you intend to celebrate New Years Eve or just celebrate because it’s Friday? 

We have a list, albeit a short one, of restaurants that are open on New Year’s Eve.

Dominion Bar & Kitchen, Surrey BC | Instagram post.

Open until midnight. Reservations are recommended but not a must. This Surrey restaurant is well known for their Canadian dishes, complemented by an exciting list of cocktails, BC wines, and local craft beer, in an open concept restaurant with high top tables and chairs. Bones: they will be offering an all day happy hour on Friday.

The Clayton, Surrey BC | Instagram posts.

Open until 2am. The Clayton is a unique choice. Although there will not be a party they do have a DJ, along with classic tasty Canadian dishes and appetizers, plus 3 incredible fire tables available in their fully covered & heated patio spaces. Also, they have a ton of drink specials, just in case you might be drinking responsibly during your visit.

The Cabin, Crescent Beach – Surrey BC | Pan-seared halibut, Instagram Post

Open until 10pm. Featuring a $60 New Year’s Eve menu, The Cabin is a solid choice for a Pacific Northwest experience featuring seafood, “AAA” steaks, gourmet pasta, local craft beers, and a healthy selection of wine. It should be noted, as of right now, 7:30pm onwards is fully booked, however we’ve been told there might be some cancellations. You can and should put your name on the waitlist.

Afghan Kitchen, Surrey BC

Open until 10pm. Featuring traditional Afghan cuisine. If you live in Surrey, you know this place is amazing. If you don’t, that’s ok, just watch this episode about them on CBC Vancouver’s YouTube. Mom’s cooking never tasted better. Now, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “Nothing special here, where’s the party!?” however, since many restaurants are closing early this year, and especially living in one of the most diverse cities in BC, what better way to enjoy your end of year than with a local culinary “staycation” at one of Canada’s top 100 restaurants!

With that said, last but not least by any means:

Kathmandu Bar & Grill, Surrey BC | Instagram post.

Open until 1130pm. Serving a delicious blend of Nepalese, Indo-Chinese, and Western Cuisine. Like we said, while in Surrey, try something new. Allow your tastebuds to create a mini celebration for you, safely at your table.

Have we helped? We certainly hope so! 

No matter how you plan to enjoy this Friday December 31, stay safe, stay warm and we wish, as always, the very best for you and your family.

 

See you next year!

Desire Kokuvi Amouzou

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The best trails to explore in Surrey this fall

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Image via @waferboard / Flickr

There is something beautiful about walking or biking along a trail full of trees with changing leaves and this is the perfect time of year to experience it. Surrey Centre has some amazing trails to explore in the Green Timbers and Holland Park areas that are perfect for a leisurely stroll, a jog, a bike ride or a family affair that the pets and kids can join. Here is a list of the best trails to check out.

Holland Park Loop

Holland Park is a popular park in Surrey, one that hosts plenty of outdoor events, music festivals and gatherings. On top of that, the park also includes a trail loop perfect for a leisurely stroll. The Holland Park Loop is 0.8 kilometres long and is good for all skill levels. The trail is popular for walking, running, and road biking. There are often dogs seen on the trail when it’s nice out, and it’s a great place to take the family and kids. This loop is best used from April to November.

Birch and Willow Trail

Part of Green Timbers forest, the Birch and Willow Trail is a 1.8-km loop. This trail offers scenic views as it features a lake that is often full of ducks. It’s a great walk for kids as well, and has plenty of signs to follow. The trail is popular for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips. The gravel makes it a nice trail even on a rainy day.

Birch Salal and Douglas Loop

Another loop in Green Timbers is the Birch, Salal and Douglas Loop. This is a bit longer at 2.9 km. This loop also features the lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is flat with lots of shade. It’s a great place to go for a walk, jog, or bike ride. There is an area for picnics by the lake where you can take a rest after your exercise. This trail is often used for hiking, walking, running, and biking. There is limited parking in the area, so be prepared to walk to the trail.

Salmonberry, Yellow Arum, Douglas Fir and Hemlock Loop

If you are looking for a longer trail in Green Timbers, you will find the Salmonberry, Yellow Arum, Douglas Fir and Hemlock Loop. This is a 5.6-km loop. As the name implies there are beautiful trees along this hike. The trail is acceptable for all levels, though it is a bit longer so it’s best to prepare ahead. The trail is popular for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips. In certain spots the trail comes close to the road, and some areas can be waterlogged at times, but it’s an enjoyable walk all the same. 

Hawthorne Park Loop

Hawthorne Park Loop is a 1.9-km trail in beautiful Hawthorne Park. There is a lot of nature to take in here including plenty of beautiful wildflowers making this loop a favourite among birdwatchers. Good for all skill levels, this trail is popular for walking, running, and nature trips. Dogs are welcome on this trail but must be on a leash. This area is very popular amongst hikers and runners, for good reason.

Willow, Cedar and Pine Trail

There is one more Green Timbers trail worth mentioning. The Willow, Cedar and Pine Trail is a 2.6-km back trail. The lake is accessible from this trail as well and it is suitable for beginner hikers. This loop is great for a walk or run.

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5 ways Affordable Housing will Benefit the City of Surrey

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Lack of affordable housing has quickly become one of the largest barriers in preventing homelessness in British Columbia. Having served the Lower Mainland for the past 50 years, Options Community Services and Habitat Housing Society are working to provide safe, affordable rental units for the local community

Options provides essential social services in Surrey, Delta, White Rock/South Surrey and Langley. Recently, the organization has partnered with 50 local women to help raise $1.5 million in funding for a new affordable housing building in Surrey, BC. The money raised in this partnership will go towards the 100-unit complex at 81st and King George Boulevard. Of these 100 units, 30 will be market rentals, while the remaining 70 will be well below market rates —designated as affordable housing, with rent starting as low as $375 per month. This building and the resources connected to it will make a monumental impact on the community. Here are 5 ways that this building will directly impact Surrey:

1. Additional Resources:

Not only will the affordable housing build feature 100 new rental units, but it will also feature several community services provided by Options. These services include Early Years, special needs services for children and mental health outreach. Having these programs available for tenants in the building will be a bonus for all.

2. Build Relationships:

Whether it’s a social worker or an elementary school teacher, having and maintaining long-lasting relationships is crucial to establishing roots in a community. These networks of support will help at-risk individuals and vulnerable people build stability in their lives and increase their sense of community. Knowing there are people in your neighbourhood that can help support you can be a relief for individuals who do not have friends, family, or any other source of support.

3. Accessibility:

Currently, the housing market is very hot and the number of buyers is outnumbering the available stock. This applies to both home buyers and renters who are looking for affordable places to stay. This building offers 100 brand-new units that are affordable for low-income families. These families otherwise might not have any other options to turn to and be forced to consider unsafe housing conditions. Priced at $375 monthly for a one-bedroom, these homes can change the lives of those who are in need.  

4. Increased Safety:

By having a door to lock and a place to call home, the safety and security of the community is enhanced. Far too often, vulnerable peoples are subjected to unsafe conditions or forced to make tough choices. Many of these individuals are women fleeing violence, refugees, displaced seniors, at-risk youth or persons living on a disability income. . Housing such as this will better protect these groups and ensure that they have access to safe, secure and affordable places to live.

5. Job Growth:

The success of our vulnerable community members is a success for us all. In communities with affordable housing, there is often a growth in job opportunities.  A study by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing found that affordable housing projects created nearly 330,000 jobs in New York between 2011 and 2015, with many of them being permanent or long-lasting contracts (source). From engineers to health care workers, the growth of a community can directly contribute to an increased demand for workers. 

The Women of Options campaign was created to support the build at King George and 81st. More information and a profile on each of the 50 Women of Options can be found at womenofoptions.ca. Community support is vital to ensure its success. To learn more about ways to help or donate, please visit womenofoptions.ca.

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Plastic Bag and Foam Takeout Container Ban Planned To Come Into In Effect November 2021

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The City of Surrey moves a step closer in eliminating the negative environmental impacts of plastic bags and other single-use Items.

At last night’s Regular Council Meeting, Council approved the Communication and Education Plan to prepare businesses for the ban on plastic bags and foam takeout container and cups, planned to begin in November 2021.

“I’m proud that Surrey is anticipated to be the first city in the Metro Vancouver region to implement a ban on plastic checkout bags,” says Mayor McCallum.

“Council has been leading the way on green initiatives and this step is proof of the measures we are prepared to take to protect and better our environment. This move affirms Surrey’s commitment to reducing landfill waste and pollution created by these types of materials.

In the coming months, we will be working closely with our business community to support them on this very important initiative that is good for our citizens, our communities and our City.”

The City will lead a comprehensive communication and education plan to help businesses phase out and eliminate the use and distribution of plastic checkout bags, foam cups and take-out containers.

The plan outlines key tools, resources and awareness activities which will prepare businesses and the public for the upcoming ban.

The plan will include:

  • A business toolkit;
  • Virtual information sessions;
  • Brochures; and
  • Additional engagement activities and resources.

Other municipalities, provinces, and the federal government are making similar commitments to reducing unnecessary waste and pollution caused by short-lived plastics that are designed for limited use with limited recyclability.

For more information on Surrey’s please visit our site.

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Surrey Libraries Offers Access to O’Reilly eBooks and Videos

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Surrey Libraries is excited to announce the addition of O’Reilly eBooks to its list of online resources. This platform offers over 35,000 eBooks and 30,000 hours of video courses on technology, business, design, science, engineering, travel, hobbies, health and more, all free with a Surrey Libraries card!

O’Reilly has books and videos for makers, gamers and tinkerers. There are more than 100 hobbyist titles including a STEAM Lab for Kids and The Lego Build-It Book, Volumes 1 & 2. More than 900 books from the “For Dummies” series are included, as well as over 150 titles on job-seeking and career development.

The resource also has technology learning paths like SQL Fundamentals – SQL for Data Analysis and Database Design, case studies like “Pinterest’s Journey to the Cloud,” and countless hours of video instruction on topics like Microsoft Azure Fundamentals, Linux Fundamentals, or Amazon Web Services.

O’Reilly is one of many online resources Surrey Libraries offers its members. No library card? No problem! Sign up for a card online or visit any one of ten branch locations.

We’re excited to welcome you back to our branches! Check our website for information on hours and available services and what we’re doing to keep everyone safe.

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