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Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum had 22 resident speakers disconnected during Monday night’s council public hearing, 12 of whom called for his resignation.

Ironically, Surrey city council endorsed a Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit later in the evening, but Councillor Linda Annis says the City of Surrey definitely has its work cut out for it as its current approach “isn’t connecting” with taxpayers.

“A staff report on engagement and consultation means nothing if the leadership isn’t there to get serious when it comes to talking to our residents or involving them in big decisions,” Annis said Monday.

She cited a couple major projects that are wanting in the public consultation department, namely the transition from the Surrey RCMP to Surrey Police Service, and council’s decision to connect 84th Avenue between King George Boulevard and 140th Street at the southern end of Bear Creek Park.

“The result is a growing disconnect between our taxpayers and mayor and council,” Annis said.

“Right now our citizens really only get to talk at a council meeting if it’s a land-use issue, and even then you’re limited to five minutes. We make no real provision to hear from people, and that’s just not good enough. I didn’t get elected just so I could talk to city staff, I want to hear from the people who put us here.”

READ ALSO: Protesters hold ‘yellow-ribbon’ event at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

The corporate report before council Monday night states that as Surrey continues to grow, “reaching out and hearing from diverse voices will help foster civic participation and inclusion while creating a city that residents identify with.”

The strategy “provides the foundation for community engagement in Surrey,” it reads – one that “fosters a respectful, responsive, transparent, and accountable approach to engagement.”

The aim, the report states, is to see “everyone” in Surrey feel “welcome and motivated to take part in shaping the city and lands where they live, work, learn, and play.”

The 81-page report goes into great detail as to how that might be accomplished, providing staff with instructions on how to best listen to people, for example.

“The Strategy and Toolkit present a new approach to engagement that will help set direction for Surrey residents to feel welcome and motivated to take part in shaping the city in which they live.”

Councillor Laurie Guerra said the “top priority was to have public engagement that was not only the best in the world but at the same time unique to Surrey.”

“We are always trying to reach those voices that are seldom heard,” she said.

Council also approved another corporate report Monday night entitled “Surrey Transportation Plan – Big Vision, Bold Moves’ Public Engagement,” with staff recommending the politicians approve strategic goals related to this as well. Scott Neuman, Surrey’s general manager of engineering, said this “significant phase of engagement will inform” the development of a 10-year action plan.

The third phase of this plan, launched Tuesday, seeks public feedback in a survey being conducted between June 15 and July 30. The survey can be found at Participants have a chance to win a $100 gift card.

McCallum said the plan is “down to earth, it’s what’s happening today.

“This plan opens your eyes to the possibility of what we can do in Surrey,” he said.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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