The biggest issue Surrey is facing is public safety, says mayoral candidate Barinder Rasode.
The city is short on police officers, there’s no policing model in place and Surrey is not engaging residents in the public safety process, she charges.
“I think it’s resulting in a higher level of crime… increases in violent crime, but also what’s really important is what’s happening in our neighbourhoods,” Rasode says.
The three-year resident of Cloverdale says there’s a large amount of crime not being reported, “whether that’s nuisance crime or theft. It’s definitely something I’m hearing a lot about.”
The 45-year-old incumbent councillor said she would immediately create an office of public safety, a plan which has been endorsed by retiring Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford.
“It’s an evidence-based plan that allows us to implement community safety officers, but also takes the politics out of policing,” she says, adding most increases in police resources occur at election time.
She wants an end to that practice and have them brought on when needed, not just when politically expedient.
She promises to have 200 community safety officers in place by the end of next year, or mayor and council will take a 10-per-cent pay cut.
“We need to be accountable,” she says. “It’s very easy to be at this point in the campaign making commitments, but that aren’t delivered after.”
Rasode says her 200 community safety officers will cost $8 million, however, that’s at starting salary only. Once the team is up to a full rate of $28 an hour, the total salaries will be $12 million. Add benefits and other costs, the cost will be more than $14 million.
Rasode says the money for the officers will come from within the existing budget.
She could not say exactly where within the budget it would be coming from, or which services might not be delivered due their funding being eliminated.
Rasode also wants to advocate harder for people with mental illness and substance abuse problems. Many of those people are a huge tax on police resources, she notes.
She wants a “certified clinical model” for drug and alcohol recovery houses in Surrey.
Public safety meetings would be held in the evenings when people could attend and appear as delegations, she says. It would also be live-streamed on the city’s website.
The next biggest issue for Rasode is a lack of viable transportation.
“Surrey has been trying to get more resources from TransLink, but definitely we’re going to have to look at a new way of doing things,” Rasode says.
She referred to the City of Portland, which contributed financially to the creation of its light rapid transit system.
“That’s something that we’re going to definitely get the community think tank to explore,” she says, referring to a community-based group of experts she’s planning to create.
“But while we do that, we can’t ignore the fact we need more buses now,” Rasode says.
Surrey, she says, needs to sculpt its neighbourhood planning around transit that it knows will be there.
“I think it’s putting forward thoughtful planning and development where we can stay closely aligned to the vision of both TransLink and the city,” Rasode said. “It’s about taking a balanced approach.”
The third issue she is most concerned about is accountability and transparency.
She wants to give residents and community associations more of a say in some key processes.
One of the main sticking points she has is the process of neighbourhood concept plans (NCPs) and how they are modified.
The public is deeply engaged in the creation of NCPs, but they are often quietly changed over time, Rasode says. While public hearings are required for those changes, she says public opinion could be sought more rigorously.
“The integrity of the NCPs, residents are telling me, is something that needs to be maintained.”
She recommends a “vision-setting” committee, including residents, that would oversee any changes to NCPs.