SURREY â€” At least 50 of Surrey’s most involved citizens have formed an ad-hoc group in the lead up to the civic election to encourage residents to learn about all the candidates and vote for change.
"We’re the people that are the feet on the street, the people that work in the community that see the direct impact of city policies, enforcement, crime, etc., in our communities. We’re the people who don’t have any axe to grind – we’re simply trying to make our city a better place," said longtime community advocate Bob Campbell who is leading the initiative, dubbed Surrey Citizen Leaders. "We have to be the most altruistic voices of our communities. Not just community groups, but environmental groups, a variety of volunteer and charity organizations, that are all just trying to make peoples’ lives better."
The Panorama Ridge resident said about 50 people are involved so far, and it’s growing every day.
So what message are the community-minded folks trying to get across?
"There’s lots of room for improvement," Campbell said of the current state of the city. "To state that things are fine right now, most of these people would not agreeâ€¦ Maybe the focus needs to be taken from rapid-fire development to making our communities more livable and safe and pleasant. That would be a change in focus."
The group is concerned about a variety of issues that affect all communities, including crime, of course, as well as bylaw enforcement (or lack thereof), infrastructure not keeping up with development, loss of green space and the pace of development.
The group is trying to encourage people to get out and vote, but are not endorsing any political slate or candidate.
"Get out and look for candidates. Maybe independent candidates, maybe from slates, that are truly out there to address these issues and aren’t going to stick with status quo," he said.
The group’s formation has "everything to do with the election," Campbell noted. "It’s really been brought together to try to get this message out to Surrey residents that all is not completely well and who would know better than people who work with government."
Campbell said many of the community leaders involved regularly interact with the city, adding there’s a fear of speaking out.
"There’s a perception that if you stand up and say I’m not happy with the way things are going, it will impact your ability to work with the city," he said. "There’s a sense that if you get too vocal there’s going to be some retribution, or at a minimum, a lack of response."
The group’s intent is short-term.
Campbell noted at the CBC debate held Tuesday at SFU Surrey, some said things are fine, referring to Surrey First mayoral candidate Linda Hepner saying "there is nothing the matter with Surrey."
"Simply put, what this group is saying is we don’t agree with that. We don’t think things are fine."
Campbell noted how unique the initiative was.
"We think this is pretty unique. When has there been groups concerned citizens gotten together in a non-partisan way to say we’re not happy with the way things are going? It’s not happening in Vancouver or any other city, but it’s happening here."