Sur­rey Achieve­ments 2015- II

Asian Journal - - News - Ray Hud­son

Last week the Asian Jour­nal spoke with Sur­rey Mayor Linda Hep­ner about the chal­lenges and high­lights of 2015, and while we re­viewed some of the ma­jor items of the year, space did not al­low for many other achieve­ments en­joyed by the city. In this edi­tion, we re­view busi­ness growth, fis­cal devel­op­ments, achieve­ments, in­no­va­tion, and a look at cul­tural and so­cial events of the year.

Busi­ness & Fi­nance:

Ray Hud­son: How was the past year for growth in the busi­ness com­mu­nity?

Mayor Hep­ner: We’ve had $1.5 bil­lion in new con­struc­tion this year alone. Over the last ten years, we’ve done $12 bil­lion so the busi­ness com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to grow. The gen­eral pop­u­la­tion is still run­ning be­tween 800 and 1,000 a month, and I hear peo­ple say­ing that we’re run­ning out of hous­ing and we can’t keep up. It’s not slow­ing down at all, and tied in with busi­ness growth and de­vel­op­ment, I am de­lighted to re­port that Sur­rey was voted one of Canada’s top em­ploy­ers of young peo­ple. In 2015, Sur­rey re­ceived the high­est grade of any city in the coun­try for fi­nan­cial trans­parency. Even though we had to raise taxes to cover some of our cap­i­tal pro­grams and some of the op­er­a­tional dol­lars for the in­creased polic­ing, we are still one of the low­est-taxed cities in the re­gion. Also, I’m now call­ing City Cen­tre the Fi­nan­cial hub since we’ve got the new Coast Cap­i­tal cen­tre and West­min­ster Sav­ings lo­cated there.

Ray Hud­son: You said you’d seek a city char­ter like the City of Van­cou­ver has, which would give coun­cil greater con­trol over our own af­fairs. Have you made any progress on that?

Mayor Hep­ner: The min­is­ters re­spon­si­ble for Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment have changed since we had that first dis­cus­sion. Pre­vi­ously un­der Co­ralee Oakes, it is now the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Peter Fass­ben­der (who is a Sur­rey MLA). I have had early dis­cus­sions with him on that, but it hasn’t been a higher pri­or­ity be­cause of some more press­ing is­sues. But we have agreed to set up a task force once the city has iden­ti­fied those ar­eas where we think we can be best ad­van­taged. The City Man­ager is cur­rently work­ing on com­pil­ing that list to take to Vic­to­ria be­fore we can have our joint task force. That will un­fold in 2016, but we did make lim­ited progress on that.

In­no­va­tion

Ray Hud­son: You saw progress with in­no­va­tion over the year.

Mayor Hep­ner: I was hop­ing Sur­rey would be num­ber one, but be­ing ac­knowl­edged as one of the top seven in­tel­li­gent com­mu­ni­ties in the world is ac­knowl­edge­ment of the ad­vance­ments we’ve made in our in­no­va­tion. We’ll see where we are in 2016.” We were the first city in the world to in­te­grate IBM Watson, which is a tech­nol­ogy plat­form that uses nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing and ma­chine learn­ing to re­veal in­sights from large amounts of un­struc­tured data,” The Mayor said. “It was in­te­grated with the “MySur­rey App” and al­lows City cus­tomers to in­put plain lan­guage ques­tions into the ap­pli­ca­tion and re­ceive direct an­swers. We didn’t get a fan­fare or a lot of at­ten­tion around that but from a techie’s point of view it was an as­ton­ish­ing ac­com­plish­ment. In pub­lic safety in­no­va­tion we pur­chased five spe­cial­ized fire tanker trucks. We’re the very first city in Canada to have ve­hi­cles with built-in wa­ter pu­rifi­ca­tion sys­tems. If we have an ac­tual emer­gency th­ese tanker trucks are ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing potable drink­ing wa­ter.

Health, So­cial and Cul­tural Achieve­ments:

Ray Hud­son: One of your elec­tion prom­ises was the con­ven­ing of a Se­niors Sum­mit and ap­point­ment of a Se­niors ad­vo­cate. What has hap­pened there?

Mayor Hep­ner: We have dis­cussed how we’re go­ing to do that but we haven’t named a per­son yet, but I think we’re go­ing to put it un­der our Healthy Com­mu­ni­ties of­fice. This will hap­pen in the com­ing year, but we haven’t made a lot of progress on that yet be­cause we’re still talk­ing about our Se­niors Sum­mit. With re­spect to ad­dic­tions and men­tal health, we cre­ated a part­ner­ship with John Volken, (of the John Volken Acad­emy treat­ment cen­tre) and that means a Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tions chair has been cre­ated at SFU, the job de­scrip­tion is done and the re­cruit­ment un­der­way, so in the com­ing year I ex­pect to have a lead­er­ship role hap­pen­ing there, which I think will help us.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Sur­rey Mayor Linda Hep­ner.

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