SCROLL TO BOTTOM OF STORY FOR A FULL TRANSCRIPT OF SURREY MAYOR’S SPEECH
SURREY — Tech and innovation were the focus of Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s second State of the City Address on Thursday.
She used the event to announce that a Skydance movie studio is soon setting up shop in Surrey, helicopter tours may soon start in the city, a Clean Tech Research Centre at KPU in Cloverdale is in the works and the city plans to build a “Safety Village” to teach children about public safety.
— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) May 19, 2016
Referencing William Shakespeare throughout her speech, Hepner told the business crowd at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel about city achievements in the past year and forthcoming projects.
She said Surrey knows “a thing or two about leveraging partnerships to achieve big audacious goals” pointing to Innovation Boulevard’s health tech development.
“I’m excited to announce we’re doing it again, in a big way, this time expanding our network in clean technology by creating a Cloverdale node,” she said, dubbed KPU-Foresite Cleantech Global Innovation Zone, expected to break ground as soon as next spring.
It will be a “centre of excellence for clean technology research and full on advanced manufacturing.”
Hepner pointed to the recently opened Newton Bio Pod initiative, at recovery centre John Volken Academy, as an example of innovation in agriculture.
“Agriculture technologies will be tried and tested and young lives will be turned around with training and good jobs in a growing international industry,” she remarked.
For the second year in a row Surrey has been named one of the top seven finalists by the Intelligent Communities Forum based in New York and Hepner pointed to a number of things that contributed to the achievement.
“I want our city to take its place at the table with the best and brightest from around the world. Not because of our civic ego, but because more and more that’s where this city belongs,” she said.
Thanks to the city’s Rethink Waste program Surrey has one of the highest diversion rates in the world, she noted, and was the first municipality to use a 100 per cent compressed natural gas fleet of collection trucks. The move saves the city about $4.5 million annually, she revealed.
Right now, Surrey is in the midst of constructing its biofuel facility, expected to be completed next spring, which will be North America’s first fully integrated organic waste management system. The gas will be sold to Fortis BC, in the first agreement of its kind in the province.
Tech initiatives contributed to the “smart” award, too, she said, pointing to the “MySurreyApp,” expanding free Wi-Fi- from 18 to 48 locations, and the city’s move to covert all its streetlights to LED.
Hepner spent a lot of time talking about the city’s growth.
“We’re a city with a population that’s now more than 530,000 – double what it was just 24 years ago. That growth comes with big city issues but also big city opportunities,” she said. “That kind of growth also makes big demands on today’s Surrey as we work to provide families and their kids with the parks pools, rinks and rec centres that make for a great childhood. And that certainly includes our aggressive advocacy for schools.”
But it also brings possibilities, she said.
“It’s what you actually do with your land that determines your economic and social future.”
She noted the city is spending $334 million this year on capital projects of “every shape and size” including a $10 Surrey Museum expansion, a North Surrey Arena replacement and a $35-million Cloverdale ice arena.
“There’s no question we’ve got a lot going on,” said the mayor. “But the one thing all of these things have in common – whether it’s new technology for jobs and innovation, new community centres and ice rinks or adding a thousand new people every month, no matter the project, everybody wants to keep moving.”
That’s why transportation is “critical” and she noted there have been “speed bumps” along the way.
She is of course referring to the city’s LRT project. Though Hepner promised to have residents riding light rail in 2018 during the 2014 election campaign she now says “I believe we’ll be in construction mode in 2018.”
As for crime, Hepner said she wants every conversation about public safety to be based on “serious thought” and “facts.”
She said while recent recent crime statistics show property crime and violent crime are trending down, “more work still needs to be done to put an end to the violence associated with illegal drugs.”
“Unfortunately, as good as the latest statistics and trends might be, we all know that a single shot fired by a gang member shatters our image of public safety and pushes any otherwise positive trends to the back pages of our newspapers.”
The mayor said the 100 new officers she spoke of last year have arrived. She added that the city has hired a director of public safety and plans to deliver a new Integrated Public Safety Strategy this fall.
Hepner also pointed to various crime-fighting projects including the Safe City Initiative that has just concluded, with more than 500 unregistered guns being turned over to the police and taken off our streets, and the SMART team provides emergency intervention for people with an “elevated risk of potentially harming themselves or others” within 24 to 48 hours.
The city has also expanded its anti-gang WRAP program that reaches out to at-risk youth and the RCMP’s youth unit has been expanded.
“If we do it right and we’re smart amount it, our story, Surrey’s story, will never really be finished,” said Hepner in closing. “And who better to inspire how we write than story than Shakespeare himself. Because the truth is, he was right: What is a city, but the people?’”
Transcript of Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner’s 2016 State of the City Address
Good afternoon and thank you for joining me for this annual state of the city presentation.
For me, this opportunity is a great way to report back to our shareholders – namely the thousands of men, women and families – who call our city home.
It’s also a chance to highlight some of our city’s biggest issues, opportunities and achievements.
And it’s also a chance to emphasize the fact that we do things differently here, and that’s deliberate.
For instance, whether it’s city hall or our business community, more and more we’re thinking globally and acting locally.
We’re also putting even more importance on being a smart city.
A city that looks for solutions to issues or challenges that might be slightly out of the box, or even out of our comfort zone.
A city that loves big ideas and all the work and challenges that go with them.
And we’re a city that’s looking to put technology – in all of its forms – to work, both at city hall, and throughout our community.
Each of these points underpin the Surrey you see today and perhaps even more important they’re the foundations of the Surrey you’re going to see more of in the years ahead.
So, today is a chance for us all to get caught up: To talk about what still needs to be done as we continue to work together to shape our city and its future.
And, with the world marking the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s legacy last month, I thought he might be a good place to start today.
Because, even 400 years ago Shakespeare understood what was at the heart of any city – big or small – when he said: What is a city but the people?
And, four centuries later, when it comes to cities, and ours in particular, I think he hit the nail on the head.
I want to say more about our people a little later, but before I do, I’d like to take a moment to recognize my hard working colleagues on city council.
I’ve been in municipal politics for 12 years now, and I can tell you, when it comes to getting things done, a great team is absolutely the single biggest driver to delivering for the people of this city.
When it comes to municipal government, we’ve got one of the best teams I’ve seen anywhere in the country.
I’d like to ask them to stand as I introduce them, and have you join me in recognizing and thanking them for their ongoing contribution to our city’s story.
Councillor Tom Gill, Councillor Bruce Hayne, Councillor Vera LeFranc, Councillor Mary Martin, Councillor Mike Starchuck, Councillor Barbara Steele, Councillor Judy Villeneuve and Councillor Dave Wood.
I also want to recognize the representatives of our local MPs and MLAs who are unable to join us because both houses are sitting as we speak: MP John Aldag, MP Dianne Watts, Minister Peter Fassbender, Minister Amrik Virk, Minister Stephanie Cadieux and MLA Marvin Hunt.
Finally, I want to thank our senior management team who are here today under the leadership of our city manager, Vince Lalonde.
Vince, would you and your team please stand and be recognized.
Day in and day out, this team of dedicated men and women makes our city work effectively and efficiently.
And, when you’ve got the kind of bench strength we’ve got on council, and in the ranks of our city staff, it’s easy to see why I have the best team in the province.
When I thought of how to capture the essence of this year’s presentation, I admit I struggled a little.
You see, when you look at the complexity of a major city like ours it’s impossible to compress everything into a short luncheon presentation.
For instance, we’re a very different city than we were just a generation ago.
In those days, we were really a bedroom community – a place where people slept, but not necessarily a place where people worked.
In the space of 20 short years, that important demographic has changed dramatically.
And now, we’re a city where one third of our citizens are under 19, which has the advantage of future proofing our workforce.
We’re also a city with a population that’s now more than 530,000 – double what it was just 25 years ago.
That growth comes with big city issues but also big city opportunities.
That kind of growth also makes big demands on today’s Surrey as we work to provide families and their kids with the parks pools, rinks and rec centres that make for a great childhood. And that certainly includes our aggressive advocacy for schools.
We’re a city that stretches out over 300 square kilometers – bigger than Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby combined.
But, there’s something even more important about our size.
You see, next to the talent of our citizens, our land is our most valuable asset because it gives us options.
Options to decide our future.
The kind of options any city, anywhere in the world, would love to have.
Let me put it another way. In an international context.
Surrey is physically five times larger than Manhattan.
We’re six times larger than Tel Aviv.
We’re almost three times larger than San Francisco and nearly four times the size of Zurich.
We’re about three times the size of Dublin or Paris.
And, we’re twice as large as Miami and Minneapolis.
We’re also 100 times larger than the one square mile that makes up what the world’s financial markets call “the city” – London’s financial district – which is now ranked as the most important in the world.
So, in a world where land is scarce and more valuable than ever deciding what to do with it, and making decisions about how to leverage it to our advantage, is absolutely critical.
But, as you can see from these comparisons, size isn’t everything.
Quite simply, it’s what you actually do with your land that determines your economic and social future.
And, with that much geography comes the obvious need for the kinds of roads, bridges and transit that’s essential to keeping people connected over such a big area.
We’re also a city that will be home to more than 100,000 seniors by 2021.
And these are no ordinary seniors. They are definitely not the seniors of days gone by. They have no intention of being relegated to their rocking chairs.
Instead, they are vibrant, active and an important part of our future.
We’re also a city that speaks over 100 different languages.
This diversity emphasizes our uniqueness as a multicultural community.
But, that same multiculturalism also demands that we find ways to talk to one another, to understand each other, and ensure the kind of integration that’s inclusive and helps build a better Surrey.
So, with all that as a backdrop, it’s important to note that even Shakespeare, more than 400 years ago, understood that cities are much more than their bricks and mortar.
Like any city with greatness on its mind, we’re a city full of possibility.
Fundamentally, this is Surrey at its core and that sense of the possible is the foundation for our future.
It’s also the reason why our new Economic Diversification Strategy has a laser-like focus on five key sectors that offer tremendous potential for job growth.
And when you look at these five sectors, it should come as no surprise that they all have a couple of things in common — namely technology and innovation.
The bottom line is that we want Surrey to be recognized at home and abroad for disruptive technology that builds global connections.
I already see that when I look at so many of our businesses and their connections to the rest of the world.
For example, what could someone living in Iowa who’s online checking to see if their local roads have been plowed after a snowstorm have to do with Surrey?
Well, it turns out that the Iowa Department of Transportation uses software created by a Surrey company, Safe Software, that provides real-time awareness of local driving conditions.
And what does a financial analyst evaluating multi-currency and multi-asset derivative portfolios in London have to do with us?
Well, Fincad, which is headquartered right here in Surrey, produces software for valuation and risk analytics. It’s used around the world in more than 1,000 organizations.
It’s something they sell to the world from their sales offices in New York, London, Dublin and Beijing.
Another example, when scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, are conducting experiments at the world’s largest particle accelerator located in Switzerland, what could that possibly have to do with Surrey?
Particularly when you think about CERN’s unique role in pure science research and how their work is helping scientists better understand how the universe is put together
Well, Micromatter Technologies, which got its start at the TRIUMF facility at UBC, is now based right here in Surrey.
They actually produce the world’s only supply of diamond-like carbon foils which are integral to particle accelerators around the globe.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, in the dining rooms of cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean, what could guests possibly be enjoying that had anything to do with Surrey?
Their meals feature products from Evergreen Herbs, here in Surrey.
Evergreen, is a family-owned farm that operates 120 greenhouses, and has more than a hundred employees.
Quite simply, they supply the best of the best.
Just look at their products on the wall behind me. It’s like an edible stage.
And, their approach to excellence and innovation has won them the very coveted Global Farm of the Year Award.
And one last example.
What does a wind turbine powering a farm in the United Kingdom have to do with our city?
Well, Endurance Wind Power, which produces small-scale wind turbines, has its 40,000 square foot global headquarters in Campbell Heights.
And, with offices in the UK, USA, Canada, Denmark and Italy, Endurance won this year’s Fast Track Company of the year at Britain’s prestigious Green Business Awards.
These companies, and many more like them, are just the tip of the creative and innovative iceberg that Surrey has become.
This handful of innovative firms, companies that are already reaching out to markets well beyond our city limits, tells me something very important about our city and its future.
We have no end of great ideas.
We have unlimited potential.
We have the land to grow and build unique opportunities.
And, we have the day-in-day-out proof that when our people put their combined talent and expertise to work on any issue, we can do absolutely anything we set our mind to.
Frankly, I expect us to continue punching above our weight.
And I expect us to be featured more and more on the world stage.
And that reputation and exposure is already paying off.
For the second year in a row Surrey has been named one of the top seven finalists by the Intelligent Communities Forum based in New York.
Over 400 global cities vied for this distinction with judging that’s strict, detailed and rigorous.
Montreal and Winnipeg are also on the list, along with cities in Germany, New Zealand and Taipei.
You see, I want our city to take its place at the table with the best and brightest from around the world. Not because of our civic ego, but because more and more that’s where this city belongs.
In fact, no matter what we’re doing at city hall or anywhere in the city for that matter – the people Shakespeare talked about – creative, innovative and committed people are always at the core of great and successful ideas.
As an example and looking through the environmental lense take our city’s leading edge Rethink Waste program.
Surrey now has one of the highest diversion rates in the entire world as we divert our waste from outdated landfills.
And, we were the first municipality to use a 100 per cent compressed natural gas fleet of collection trucks
It’s saving the city and our taxpayers about $4.5 million dollars annually.
And today, I’m happy to tell you that we’ve expanded the collection of organics to the growing number of apartments in our city which means we’ll build on the program’s already impressive results.
And right now, we’re in the construction phase of the biofuel facility I talked about last year.
It will be North America’s first fully integrated organic waste management system set to open on target by spring of next year.
This state-of-the-art facility will convert Surrey’s organic waste into renewable natural gas as well as compost products suitable for landscaping and for agricultural use, bringing us back full circle to the display behind me.
Now that’s really closed loop.
Not only will it be the largest facility of its kind in the country, but it will have the capacity to process 100 per cent of our organic waste over the next 25 years.
I’m pleased to announce today that the gas will be sold into the Fortis BC grid which is the very first agreement of its kind in BC. We expect to use a lot of this renewable energy for our own city operations, and any that we don’t will be purchased by Fortis.
Perhaps even more impressive, we’ll be one of the first cities to reach true carbon neutrality through innovation rather than simply purchasing offsets, which cities typically do today.
Speaking of firsts, Surrey is the first city in the world to integrate IBM Watson technology into our easy-to-use “My Surrey Ap” which residents can use to access and maximize city services, all with a single click.
It’s fast, it’s efficient and it provides residents with a better customer service experience.
That commitment to innovation also extends to the kind of partnerships we’re building, partnerships that are helping to make us even smarter and more unique.
When you think about it, here in Surrey, we know a thing or two about leveraging partnerships to achieve big audacious goals.
We’ve done it with Innovation Boulevard’s health technology development and I’m excited to announce we’re doing it again, in a big way, this time expanding our network in clean technology by creating a Cloverdale node.
Together with partners KPU, SFU and Newton’s Foresight Accelerator Centre, we’ve created a plan to transform lands at the KPU Tech site in Cloverdale into a centre of excellence for clean technology research and full on advanced manufacturing.
It will be called the KPU- Foresight Cleantech Global Innovation Zone.
So let me paint a picture: A campus-like environment that brings together education, high intensity training, world class research, influential government partners, cutting edge manufacturing, the brightest cleantech start-ups, and marries that with international industry partners, all in a single location.
By any measure, it’s a potent formula for ensuring cleantech innovation and manufacturing takes place right here in Surrey – right here in Canada!
Especially in a country that has dwindling manufacturing.
We’re looking to break ground as soon as spring, next year 2017 on this Canadian Centre of Excellence.
Another partnership example recognizes that by 2050 the world will have two billion more mouths to feed.
And quite frankly, only two things will make that possible:
Agricultural innovation and technology.
With the help of each level of government and the private sector, the BioPod agriculture training and research demonstration greenhouse that I mentioned last year has just opened in Newton at the John Volken Academy.
The Bio Pod initiative is meant to bolster and grow our community’s already innovative agricultural industry. It establishes a regional hub of agri-tech advancements and research.
It’s also providing valuable skills and certification for students at the John Volken Academy.
Agricultural technologies will be tried and tested and young lives will be turned around with training and good jobs in a growing international industry.
Again and again, time after time, we’re showing that partnerships, creativity, and technology are the new construction materials of this smart city of ours.
In fact, those are also the attributes we’re seeing in our strategy to attract and grow creative industries, and why two of this year’s business announcements happen to be about Hollywood – or more specifically, Hollywood North.
Firstly, we’re only five months into the year, but when it comes to issuing filming permits, we’re 70 per cent ahead of this time last year and last year was record breaking.
But, even bigger news is the arrival of a film studio to Surrey.
Skydance Studio is a California-based media company with interests in movies and television.
They’re the people who brought us the most recent versions of Mission Impossible, Star Trek and the Emmy-nominated sitcom, Grace and Frankie.
Now, they’re here in Surrey.
They’re moving into what was the former Pacific Press building in Newton.
They’re putting in five sound stages to accommodate a production staff of up to 400 as they produce programming for Netflix on a multi-year feature production about a city of the future, called Altered Carbon.
That better place to tell a story about a city of the future, than right here in Surrey – a real city of the future.
So, from the glitter and glamour of Hollywood to the most ordinary of city services, we’ve made an underlying commitment to doing things differently, smarter and better.
For instance, we’ve already started converting all of our street lights to LED.
It’s a five year process with eventual savings of almost $2 million dollars a year back to our city and its citizens.
We’re expanding free WI-FI service from 18 to 48 city locations.
We’re using our state-of-the-art traffic management centre to ease the flow of traffic and congestion across our busiest routes.
As well as putting those same closed circuit cameras to work to help the RCMP gather information about traffic collisions or crime.
And speaking of crime, I want to reinforce how important public safety is to all of us.
But, like most of you here today, I want every discussion about public safety to be based on serious thought.
A robust discussion based on the facts.
And a discussion that moves us beyond the colourful, but unhelpful rhetoric of the shock jocks.
It certainly doesn’t mean the issue should be ignored.
On the contrary.
While the recent statistics released by our police force show that property crime and violent crime are trending downwards, more work still needs to be done to put an end to the violence associated with illegal drugs.
Unfortunately, as good as the latest statistics and trends might be, we all know that a single shot fired by a gang member shatters our image of public safety and pushes any otherwise positive trends to the back pages of our newspapers.
It means we need to come down hard on those who show such a complete disregard for our neighborhoods and any city anywhere in B.C. or Canada.
Our police officers are working hand-in-hand with police forces across the region, because this issue is bigger than any one city or one neighborhood.
But here’s just a sample of some measures and strategies that we’ve taken and deployed.
First, we have the 100 new police officers that I announced last year.
We have an additional 16 more officers coming this year.
We’ve hired our first director of public safety and we will deliver our new Integrated Public Safety Strategy this fall.
The Safe City Initiative has just concluded, with more than 500 unregistered guns being turned over to the police and taken off our streets.
And with more and more police work looking more and more like social work, we’ve introduced the SMART Team.
This integrated approach includes law enforcement, corrections, housing, social services, income assistance and education staff who meet every week.
Together, they identify individuals at an elevated risk of potentially harming themselves or others.
And typically, within 24 to 48 hours, they intervene with services that turn things around, before they get out of hand or escalate into something that requires a more costly police call.
We’re also providing 24 hour access to our Traffic Control Centre cameras for evidentiary purposes.
We’ve expanded our WRAP Program that reaches out to at-risk youth.
And, we’ve expanded our RCMP youth unit for school liaison work.
At the same time, when it comes to community outreach we’ve introduced everything from 20-plus public forums … to the very popular one-on-one “Coffee with a Cop” meetings.
Recognizing that safer streets require the active involvement of every one of us, and particularly parents, we’ve grown the grassroots block watch program to almost 800 groups in neighbourhoods right across the city, more than 200 of them just this last year.
And the RCMP have created their first diversity unit to help reinforce positive relationships with all our communities.
Meanwhile, the former Surrey City Hall has received a nearly $25 million lift from the province.
We’re expanding to create more courtrooms and Integrated Services Network to help address the root causes of crime and provide timely support services for cases involving mental health, youth and family matters, all in the same location.
This is very much Surrey’s version of the downtown community court that’s been operating in Vancouver.
And still in the arena of public safety, I’m pleased to announce today the creation of a Children’s Safety Village here in Surrey.
We’ve looked at similar villages in other parts of the country and we think it will be a timely fit for our city and our kids.
These kid-size buildings, with their programs and classes about road and traffic safety, avoiding drugs and gangs, making good life choices, internet and cyber safety, emergency preparedness, and building positive, long-lasting relationships between kids and police officers is being designed for a Newton location.
And like so much of what I’ve already said, our public safety focus does rely on good people to make all the difference – police officers, social workers, health professionals, role models, mentors, and perhaps more than any other group: parents.
That same focus is needed when it comes to helping our most vulnerable to fostering arts and culture to providing the infrastructure families expect when they move into Surrey neighbourhoods.
It’s the reason we provided support funding for the Sarah McLachlan School of Music for at-risk youth.
It’s the reason our homelessness and housing society continues to invest in social housing projects.
By looking at social issues with a fresh set of eyes, and using ideas that are leading edge, we can implement unique, real time solutions to social problems that exist in every community.
It’s also the reason we defined a cultural corridor along the length of King George Boulevard, and why we’re now going to work with BC Artscape, known for their ability to access and leverage millions of dollars, to better establish a community cultural hub that I spoke of last year.
It’s also why we’re investing $334 million this year on capital projects of every shape and size – widening King George Boulevard in South Surrey, making flood control improvements in our lowland areas.
Surrey Museum with a $10 million dollar expansion with even more interactivity for children.
Newton Athletic Park continue to build out as a soccer centre of excellence.
It’s also why we invested more than $100 million to build the new Guildford and Grandview swimming pools.
And it’s why, later this year, we’ll start construction on the North Surrey Arena replacement project – and why the Clayton multi-purpose facility will be designed this year, with construction starting at year end.
We are also building a new $35 million Cloverdale ice arena which will be opened in 2018.
And we’re working with the YMCA to identify and develop a second Y site in Surrey.
There’s no question we’ve got a lot going on.
More than I can list in the time available.
But, the one thing all of these things have in common – whether it’s new technology for jobs and innovation, new community centres and ice rinks or adding a thousand new people every month – no matter the project, everybody wants to keep moving.
And when it comes to getting from here to there as quickly and smoothly as possible, transportation is key, particularly here in Surrey where the bulk of the Lower Mainland’s growth is.
In fact, good transportation options are more than just key – they are absolutely critical.
There’s no question, we’ve had our share of speed bumps along the way.
But, there’s also good news and plenty of reason for optimism.
Both the federal and provincial governments are on board in significant and creative ways that help make the financial numbers work.
In addition, while we’ve been waiting for the final go ahead, we haven’t been idle.
Design, planning and costing have all been going on behind the scenes.
That means we can hit the ground running.
There’s no question that I’d like things to move along quicker.
But, that said, I believe we’ll be in construction mode in 2018.
And if I can be a little tongue-in-cheek about transit … as Winston Churchill famously said …
“This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
And, as we continue to develop our transit opportunities here on the ground, I’m pleased to announce that we’re also looking up, literally, Surrey is currently in discussions with a consortium of private helicopter companies to create a network of helipads across our city.
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise.
We’re attracting 2,000 new companies a year including regional headquarters as well as national and multinational companies looking to set up shop.
We’ve got the lowest municipal taxes per capita in the region and the second lowest business taxes.
Combine all that with Surrey’s growth as our province’s second metropolitan core and you can see we’ve created a demand for helicopter service between Surrey and other centres such as Vancouver, Victoria or Kelowna.
Together with the private helicopter companies, we’re exploring potential sites in both north and south Surrey.
So ladies and gentlemen, last year I wrapped up by emphasizing that every great city is a work in progress and that all of us have the opportunity to write the next chapter in the life of this city together.
Well, that work continues.
In fact, if we do it right and we’re smart about it, our story, Surrey’s story, will never really be finished.
And who better to inspire how we write that story than Shakespeare himself.
Because the truth is, he was right.
What is a city, but the people?