Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)

Surrey city councillors complain not enough public input in committees

City has gone ‘exactly the opposite direction,’ Councillor Brenda Locke charges

The Safe Surrey Coalition on city council has approved the terms of reference for five city committees and with its five votes against the four cast by dissenting councillors who argue public input will suffer under the new scheme.

READ ALSO: Surrey mayor ‘nullifying’ public’s voice by rejigging city committees, councillor charges

On Jan. 11 council tackled reports dealing with revised terms of reference for the city’s Investment and Innovation Impact Committee, as well as the terms of reference for the Community Services Committee, Development Advisory Committee, the Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee and the Agriculture, Environment and Investment Advisory Committee.

The Investment and Innovation Impact committee will have four council members appointed by the mayor, the Community Services Committee will have three members of council designated by the mayor and three Surrey residents. Same goes for the Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee, with a school trustee serving as an advisor.

The Development Advisory Committee will be comprised of four voting members – that’s two councillors appointed by the mayor and two volunteers, and will also have two observers from the development industry, one from the Urban Development Institute and another from the Homebuilders Association of Vancouver.

Finally, the Agriculture, Environment and Investment Advisory Committee will have six voting members – three councillors and three volunteers – as well as up to one observer each from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agriculture Land Reserve, with these observers having no voting rights.

Councillor Brenda Locke said she thinks the city is “missing the boat when we don’t get subject matter experts” and Councillor Jack Hundial echoed that.

“For me the sticking point is just the lack of public subject matter,” Hundial said.

Locke noted council had made a commitment to engage the public “and we have gone exactly the opposite direction,” she charged.

Councillor Linda Annis noted Surrey has so many “very talented and innovative folks” with “huge innovation and business experience.”

“I think having a think tank of these very talented people is absolutely critical,” she said.

Councillor Allison Patton replied that delegations coming before the committees are the subject matter experts. “I haven’t ever found the public members to be particularly subject matter experts, I find them to be more participants just like ourselves,” Patton said.

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose slammed the SSC for its move to “collapse” select committees and replace them with standing committees as an “absolute outrage” and “the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”

It not only diminishes public input, he said, it “almost eliminates it, and furthermore it places all of the control of these committees in the hands of the mayor.”

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