Recently The City of Surrey started series of Town Hall meeting especially designed to improve communication and open new channels of cooperation between city administration and citizens. Six part series comes as part of broader commitment to deliver proactive public engagement and ensuring local government is open, relevant, equitable, partnership-based, ethical, responsive, accessible, available, and balanced through education and communications. Citizens of Cloverdale, Newton, City Centre, North Surrey, South Surrey and Fleetwood will be in chance to meet elected officials and administrative representatives joined by RCMP members who’ll be able to answer all important questions and record new ideas, concerns and problems specific to each of communities.
On Thursday night large group of Newton citizens had a chance to sit down and express their fears, hopes and concerns to Councilors Judy Villeneuve and Brander Raised who were joined by The City Planning General Manager, public servants and RCMP members. Newton Seniors Center Hall was almost small to welcome all those who want to hear and say what was important for one of the largest city communities, also one of the earliest developed, but today almost neglected parts. Newton is not different from other city parts at all. For those who live there, some of them for more than 30 years, want to know what are administration plans on crime reduction, social housing, transit expansion, youth activities and rebranding Newton for the future.
Councillor Barinder Rasode on who’s initiative this series of Town Hall is started posted recently on her Facebook profile following statement:
“Leading and shaping a future of one of the fastest developing municipal areas in Canada requires from us as local government to achieve new results standards in all areas of life including: Two-Way Communication, Respectful Partnerships, Inclusive Public Process, Balanced community perspective, Responsiveness, Transparency. Achieving these results and ensuring you’re active part of our decisions making process myself and City administration will be in much better position and situation to ensure our motto: “Future lives here!” will become reality as soon as possible. I’m sure that tonights and upcoming Town Halls will gave us rich, powerful and sincere picture of your wishes and ideas regarding future of our City and communities.”
Opening Newton Town Hall Councilor Rasode said that part of the current issues and problems in this area could be resolved with help of business community, but difficulty is hidden behind a fact that Newton doesn’t posses BIA as other town part. For some important initiatives and project were realized with initiative from very active individuals who were seen by the City as role models.
Mayor Dianne Watts who’s attending Mayor’s Conference in Geneva, Switzerland addressed to Newton residents via video message declaring her support to this project, wishing to be with them and promising active work with other officials on fulfilling community wishes and need in soon future.
Crime reduction and fight against all kinds of criminal activism in Newton area is one of the biggest issues to the citizens, who expressed strong opinion that Newton’s destiny is to become Surrey’s East Side. Present RCMP officer tried to calm them down saying force is currently working on development of new projects and plans to contain crime rates at present and to prevent increase which will lead to Newton’s transformation to East Side Surrey. Social housing and its users are also seen as the part of Newton’s degradation, routers towards the worst, and forces working against everything what attracted current citizens to come to live there. Councillor Villeneuve promised that the City will take strong action to prevent that, promising new better planning strategy and broader cooperation with other government levels to keep Newton safe and pleasant place for living.
Among other troubling issues citizens addressed visible presence of pimps, condoms, drug paraphernalia at local parks. Mothers with young children directly asked RCMP to put more effort in visible presence at parks, not needed action, but just presence which will dread offenders and force them to change business location.
Third part of crime problem is related to graffiti “art” on numerous public surfaces and locations. Question to the Councilors was: Why city doesn’t takes proper action and force BC Hydro to remove same and prevent future “paintings”? In her response Councilor Rasode express City’s dissatisfaction with current BC Hydro effort on this issue, adding that administration will take strong action and force to ensure BC Hydro removes all graffiti and prevent future.
Arts and sports
Ellie King, founder of Canadian Royal Theatre Company, which is based in Newton express her wish to see more community and art orientated facilities in Surrey. Currently they’re forced to go out of the Surrey area to perform and entertain BC citizens, but their wish is to stay here at home and perform for locals attracting region and province wide public to come and enjoy performances in Newton. Lack of space is not only seen in area of performing arts but also when it comes to sport activities. Several parents stood up and express their outrage with the fact that many surrounding areas ice hockey teams are using their facilities and locals are forced to use them either in early morning or very late at night. One mother expressed her fear for her son security due to late hours practices and returns home well after 11PM, and everybody knows security situation at the streets in Newton at that time. City promised it will make deep analysis into this issue, optioning to secure funds for more facilities and better planning for their use in soon future.
Citizens, especially representatives of ReNewton Organization, come out with strong urge to the City to help them to revitalize and create a vibrant public market / community hub at the corner of 64th Avenue and King George Blvd. At the moment this property is sold to private investor who’ll be responsible to build new facilities at that location. What we heard from the City is that they’ll work with investor and learn how the can help to fulfill these ideas in the future. On direct question why the City didn’t pursue opportunity and purchased this object and converted to community hub Councillor Rasode said that was option but later was dropped because that investment wouldn’t pay back enough for taxpayers money invested in it.
As we all know transportation is one of the biggest issues in Surrey which is the fastest developing area in British Columbia while attracts largest numbers of newcomers transforming the city in second the most populated area in the province. One of attendees at this Town Hall, Transonic bus driver, said that in current situation 1 bus comes on every 1900 citizens, while in other areas of BC 1 bus comes on every 1200 citizens. The City of Surrey clearly acknowledge transportation problems, hoping that cooperation with provincial government will lead to increase of services to Surrey as soon as possible. But as we heard same morning on CBC Radio One The Early Edition program, Councillor Marvin Hunt, said that Translink expansion is tightly related to increase in funding which is always biggest problem. At almost same moment province wide public learned that transportation company is canceling promised expansions in Surrey, B-Line, due to lack of funding, and followed with Mayors Council decision to refuse to increase property taxes as funding source.
Upcoming Town Hall Meetings:
South Surrey Town Hall
Mon. April 16, 7:00 pm
Guildford Town Hall
Wed. April 18, 7:00 pm
RCMP District #2
North Surrey Town Hall
Mon. April 30, 7:00 pm
City Centre Library
Fleetwood Town Hall
Tue. May 1, 7:00 pm
Surrey Sport & Leisure Complex