SURREY – Surrey Town Hall series organized by the City of Surrey as the part of the commitment to establish better communication and cooperation with citizens visited Fleetwood as the last stage on the road. Mid sized group, 40-50 people, gathered at Surrey Sports and Leisure complex had rare but well deserved opportunity to meet and discuss current state of the community with Mayor Dianne Watts, Councillors Barinder Rasode and Marvin Hunt who were joined by Planning and Engineering GM’s, Jean Lamontagne and Vince Lalonde. It’s important to say up front that security, bylaw enforcement and clean Fleetwood were the most interesting areas of discussion on Tuesday evening. Once again this meeting as well as those before confirmed constant that our communities are totally unique micro organizations inside the City confirming differences in prioritization of problems and needs.
BYLAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS
Municipal government is introducing bylaws not just to have them but to prevent future illegal actives in Surrey facing itself with significant obstruction due to lack of legal strength to fight with those who broke the law. This double faced enigma is one of the most interesting elements of governmental functioning and yet after years of discussions still presents one of the biggest problems for local authorities. Unable to enforce bylaws in full extent local government is either forced to deal with offenders in a way which will be based on common sense and expectation that offenders will start obeying law or to go in lengthy court processes which will drain local budget and probably finished in favor of offenders.
Speaking on behalf of council and herself Mayor Watts clearly expressed her wish to see new branch of judicial authority – bylaw courts. These will open the space for accelerated proceeding, faster decisions followed by increased implementation of former and bylaws in Surrey. On the other hand downloading more powers from the provincial level to the municipal governments would increase abilities to fight against those who don’t follow the letter of the law. According to Mayor Watts introduction of Bylaw courts could shorten legal battles against offenders for several years, because at this moment one of the simplest processes duration could be between 3 or 4 years including numerous possible appeals.
Although this is not only issue where local government is toothless and basically stuck in the place due to intergovernmental relations and authority divides. Group of citizens from Newton asked Mayor and Cllr’s how they can permit transformation of community Bingo hall into some sort of casino facility in their community. Answer is simple, city doesn’t have any authority over bingo/casino halls and all regulations are in hands of provincial government to be exact BCLC. Community halls are valuable resource of revenue for the province of British Columbia through gambling – bingo/slot machines. Funds gathered through these activities are mainly used to support amateur sports, arts and community organizations all over the province, but there’s significant fear among Surrey citizens regarding the one in Newton. Fear is that inclusion of slot machines would face community with rising addiction even possibility that the most vulnerable generations will sink deeper into poverty or financial problems. They don’t want to see it in the community but it seems they’re knocking on the wrong doors, Mayor and Council could send just a letter to the provincial government, but in my opinion Newton citizens should write to the local MLA and ask for help in resolving this issue. In my opinion our citizens should and could learn more about differences and divide of responsibilities of each branch of government in Canada, that would help them to better understand why sometimes City or the province are unable to act or to perform their duties due to conflict between rights and duties of each of them.
CLYTON – SECURITY, COMFORT AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Group of Clayton area citizens come with really strong and warning informations to this Town Hall wishing to hear more from the elected officials regarding future plans for their community. Coach houses mostly build at the far back sides of the properties, some of the probably illegal, are brining even bigger number of newcomers than it was planned by the City when the area was in development. Those who call Clayton home said main concern is security because larger number of citizens is generating lack of parking space, currently cars are parked on the both sides of some streets preventing emergency responders and other providers of essential services to arrive at the scene in proper time. Rising fear is that one day big tragedy with strike Clayton just because those who’re saving lives would not be able to arrive at the destination. From City officials come strong promise that these and similar issues will be looked and needed action will follow as soon as possible.
Same group of people asked Mayor and Council to invest more in infrastructure projects, more schools due to rising population and to do new round of planning for this vibrant and very proud community. I’m not sure when these wishes will be fulfilled, I’m pretty sure that City add them to all other city areas in need for more infrastructure, schools or better planning.
DRUGS, RCMP AND BLOCK WATCH
Problems with drug sellers, and those who’re buying drugs in parks, around the community buildings all over the city are not new news. Recently we heard some complaints from people living in Newton area. This time they come out asking almost similar questions: what to do, how to contact police and what they need to be able to act. Well they learned from RCMP representative at the meeting the best solutions are simple phone call enlisting location and suspicious activities, if it’s possible (but only without endangering lives and security) to report car plate numbers. To ensure that security is on the first place the best tool for these actions could be simple household binoculars. Every single piece of information will help RCMP to stop future drug sellers actions but also to be able to fight against other sort of criminal activities.
Both sides, the City and RCMP, give thumbs up to the block watch activities as one of the best parts in fight against crime at the micro levels. Interesting story come from Councillor Marvin Hunt regarding watch blocks. Recently he was searching for the best option for home insurance when of banks told him he could save $200/year on the insurance, only requirement was that his neighbourhood has a block watch. So they didn’t had one but with great marketing presentation by the Cllr. Hunt they formed one and he become first leader. So it seems having a block watch is really good thing because you’re preventing crime, and you can get nice incentive of $200/year less on your home insurance.
TOLLING, FUNDS AND PROPERTY TAXES
Mayor Dianne Watts who was absent from previous meetings due to trip to Geneva, Switzerland and sudden problems here in Surrey was very open and talkative with attendees, trying to answer all questions and even to go little bit further explaining some facts related to tolling, funds for infrastructure and property taxes rise for those. Watts explained that hers and Council’s initiative and vision is to have fair tolling on all bridges, fair share of funds collected, and also fair distribution of same. Her stand is same on possible increase of property taxes for any needs because The City of Surrey doesn’t want burden on its citizens if they will not get fair share of projects and investment four our communities.