EDITORIAL: Best wishes for 2017

Surrey's greatest challenges fall under the umbrellas of bigger governments, but the city has the brains and brawn to succeed.

Beyond the usual resolutions of losing weight, exercising more, or getting finances in order, we have some suggestions for the coming year for those in charge of making decisions in Surrey.

Firstly, that a made-in-Surrey solution be created for the ongoing problem of overcrowded schools.

With the city destined to remain attractive to young families – thanks to its central location in the region and relative affordability when it comes to housing – the issue of crammed classrooms will not be going away.

This decades-old challenge needs fresh thinking and a new approach. The old-school formula of building new structures “when we see the whites of their eyes,” that is securing funding for new schools only after more students have already arrived, is just not going to cut it anymore.

As city hall saw earlier this year, when a Panorama residential development ran into opposition from fed-up parents, Surrey’s economic vibrancy and its education excellence have reached a crossroads.

Enough is enough. A better funding formula must be tabled, ideally before the provincial election in May. If not, this simmering situation will likely come to a full roiling boil at the polls – putting the B.C. Liberals in the hot seat.

Secondly, that Surrey quickly implement a proactive strategy to deal with the heartbreaking problems of mental illness and substance abuse.

The ongoing fentanyl overdose crisis has pitched into sharp relief the despair that plays out daily on the city’s streets, particularly along “The Strip” in City Centre.

RCMP can’t continue to act as health care providers or social workers to troubled citizens.

And surely there’s more that can be done long before law enforcement is required. Addressing the appalling rate of child poverty, especially in Guildford, Newton and Whalley, and ensuring affordable rental units are considered in development proposals will be key to better preventative measures.

Thirdly, residents and business people need a way to get where they’re going – not gridlock.

Surrey leaders must continue to lobby for better transportation options south of the Fraser, including its long-awaited rapid transit system, improved bus service and a more equitable tolling system for our bridges.

To be sure, the city’s greatest challenges technically fall under the umbrellas of bigger governments, but we think scrappy Surrey has both the brains and brawn to successfully do battle with both the feds and the province.

Don’t lose heart, citizens of Surrey. We have hopes for a productive and prosperous 2017.

Happy New Year.

 

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