SURREY – The worst kept secret in Surrey is finally out in the open.
After months of speculation and expectation, Coun. Barinder Rasode has announced her intention to run for Surrey mayor.
Having taken the summer to engage with the community before making her announcement official, Rasode said she wanted to arrive on the political stage with a clear vision of what the community wants.
“What I’ve heard clearly is that if you’re not safe in your own home, nothing else matters,” she said. “By far, small businesses, residents and community associations have grappled with the challenges on how they’re trying to work to make their communities safer.”
Speaking to a crowd of about 300 at Surrey’s SFU campus on Saturday (Sept. 20), the current Surrey councillor outlined what she feels are the most pressing issues for Surrey, first and foremost being crime.
“Being nice isn’t working and the status quo definitely isn’t working,” she said. “We need to be tough on crime, and we don’t have enough officers to deal with crime in the community. Our RCMP officers have twice the caseload as Vancouver’s police department, cases are going unsolved and neighbourhoods are suffering. The community deserves better and complacency has led to a culture of neglect. The dollars that should go into fighting crime have gone elsewhere and fundamental change is what we need.
“Delta has a policy of ‘no call too small.’ Why can they achieve this? Because they listen to residents and make safety a number one priority.”
Rasode’s announcement comes days after police declared the murder investigation of 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch as a random attack in the Newton area. The same day, homicide teams investigated another murder in Surrey.
On the issue of community safety, Rasode is proposing to add community officers to the mix, which would place police-trained individuals in well-defined areas.
“This includes foot patrols, bike patrols, school liaison,” she explained. “They’re locally trained within seven weeks and we can get them up-and-running within 90 days.”
As for cost, she said “they can be housed in RCMP parts of the city’s coffers or in the city.”
Rasode continued by saying she’d also like to see emergency response times reduced by 50 per cent, to double the number of officers on the road and hire 250 more safety personnel, which would include community safety and bylaw officers.
But it’s not just community safety that’s top of mind for Rasode.
If elected, she also wants to see the city focus more on spreading resources, care and attention throughout Surrey equally rather than focusing on select neighbourhoods.
“The other thing we have heard is that connecting our six town centres and treating each with equal value is very important to everybody,” she said. “I think sometimes we think that people talk about the issues being different in South Surrey vs. North Surrey or Fleetwood vs. Newton, but these are the issues that tie us together and make us stronger.”
And while many have been expecting Rasode’s announcement for months leading up to it, she did not unveil a slate as some expected.
“One thing I’ve definitely heard from residents is that they don’t believe anything will change until there’s a significant change at council,” she said. “One of the things we’ve learned is we need to do things differently, each person elected to council needs to have equal voice. Dialogue and debate is very important. So when you’re branded as a slate ,you have some challenges.”
In response to her announcement, fellow mayoral candidate Doug McCallum of the Safe Surrey Coalition tweeted to Rasode welcoming her to the race. Rasode’s former
party, Surrey First, also sent out a news release shortly after her announcement saying she was “rich on opportunism, short on experience.”
In the release, Surrey First’s mayoral candidate and fellow council member Linda Hepner said, “Barinder left the Surrey Civic Coalition when she couldn’t win there, then joined Surrey First to get elected. When it was clear our team didn’t think she was capable of being an effective leader for Surrey, she left behind our collaborative, successful team to put herself first.”
Rasode said she broke away from the team at the beginning of the year after disagreeing with council’s strategy for the Newton area.
“A coalition of independents is about where individual voices are respected and dialogue and debate is encouraged…it means when you don’t agree on things and speak out publicly, you shouldn’t be shut out for that and I was,” she said. “My experience was a challenging one and I attempted to speak within the team environment on the issue of public safety and when I found I could no longer serve the residents of Surrey (with Surrey First), I left.”
Finally, asked what she feels sets her apart from fellow mayoral candidate frontrunners Hepner and McCallum, Rasode said residents want responsiveness from their representatives.
“People are waiting for some hope and somebody to provide some leadership that will take us forward into the future,” she said. “A decade in office and out of office, what did that look like? And some of the more mystical options that have been proposed are being questioned a little bit, so I think people are looking for real leadership that’s not only representative of what they need but also representative of who they are… whether that be engaging on social media or answering a phone call or email.
“My opponents have had 20 years in or around the mayor’s office. Residents should not get used to a culture of insiders passing the torch to the next. We, the people, need to take city hall back.”